The Free and Independent State of Scott

As has been said before here, Davenport was the home to many breweries and saloons in the mid-1800s.  This wasn’t a problem during the Civil War, when those of a teetotal inclination had other things to worry about.  But once the War was over and Iowa soldiers returned, the Temperance-minded turned their attentions once again to the evils of alcohol and passing state prohibition amendments—it took them  a while, but they finally passed such an amendment in 1882.

Davenport, and by extension, Scott County, was having none of it.  In fact, the Koehler and Lange brewery, one of Davenport’s finest, filed suit and had the amendment overturned on a technicality. 

Unfortunately, the prohibition crowd wasn’t having any of that.  Instead of passing another amendment, they gave the existing laws more weight in 1884.

Mayor Ernst Claussen refused to acquiesce to this violation of personal liberties and threatened to declare a “Free and Independent State of Scott.”  Less dramatically, he passed a local ordinance that allowed the legal sale of “new” beverages.  These “Improved” drinks were still made from fermented grain and hops, but were sold under names like “Hop Nectar” and “Kentucky Blue Grass.”* 

About sixty years and a World War later, the Davenport Chamber of Commerce decided to promote the city to both residents and tourists. Someone unearthed the “State of Scott” idea, and decided to make it the central theme of a series of community celebrations.  Held in 1946, 1947, and 1948, the festivities included parades, fireworks, beauty contests, and even the election of a “Governor” and the appointment of “Senators” from Scott County towns.  The seal of the State of Scott featured a drawing of General Winfield Scott, and included the motto that Mayor Claussen had once wielded so effectively.

Within our library collections is a short film of one of these celebrations, and if you’re interested in seeing a little Davenport history—and its sense of humor—we’ll be showing the footage several times between 9:30 and 1:30 during our Fairmount Fall Festival on October 3.  

There’s no charge—that would be the free part—and there’s a lot more going on as well, in case you’d like to bring family and friends—that’s the independent part.

Won’t you join us?


* This determination held up until 1919, when the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed.  Not willing to actually secede from the Union, Davenport’s brewers  and taverns knuckled under—and in some cases, went underground—until 1933, when the 21st Amendment made it okay to order a beer and a bump as loudly as you liked.

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