Meet Frank McElroy

Davenport has had its share of inventors and entrepreneurs over the years. 

Some, like Alexander F. Victor, with his 16mm film projector and eventual 80 patents, were a great success, revolutionizing their particular industry.

Some . . . were not.

The Davenport and Democrat for January 27, 1924, ran a quarter-page add that trumpeted Frank McElroy and his marvelous invention: 


An automatic shoe shine for a penny?  We simply had to investigate.

Frank McElroy (husband of Alberta) first appears in the Davenport city directories in 1924, living at 210 west 4th Street. He is listed as the vice president of the Automatic Shoe Shine Company.

The president of the company, which is listed at 901 ½ Ripley Street, is given as C. J. Ruymann.  The secretary-treasurer is Katherine McElroy* and the manager is A. W. Kuehnel.

How could it miss?

Well, we don’t know that it did, exactly, but there are certain signs that all did not go well:

In 1925, Mr. Kuehnel is gone, both from the company listings and the city.

In 1926, Frank’s wife, Alberta, has disappeared.  Frank is living at the company address.

By 1927, Miss McElroy is still secretary- treasurer, but has resumed her old job with the Moline school system.  

In 1928, Mr. Ruymann no longer lists the Automatic Shoe Shine Company in his personal directory entry, although he is still listed under the company entry.

By the next year, both the company and Frank are gone.  they say that most new businesses dn’t last five years–Automatic Shoe Shine was one shy of that goal.

Our local resources don’t indicate whether Frank McElroy and his marvelous machines moved to another city and fulfilled their potential . . . or even if Frank was reunited with Alberta .  We’d certainly like to think so–those machines were pretty cool!

Regardless, we do hope that he never gave up his dreams.


* It might be interesting to note here that Claus J. Ruymann is also listed as a lawyer, as the president of the Security Saving Company, The Security Realty Co, and as the vice-president of the Davenport Housing Corp.  in other words, he had money to invest.   Katherine McElroy, who was listed in previous years as a physical training instructor at the Moline Public Schools, lived in the same apartment building as Mr. Ruymann and his wife, Ida.  Coincidence . . .  or networking?

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