A Holiday Gift for Mr. LeClaire

So what do you buy yourself for the holidays when you own nearly the whole town? While that is a question few of us will ever have to ponder, it was probably a yearly dilemma for Antoine LeClaire by the mid-nineteenth century.

Mr. LeClaire and his wife, Marguerite, had settled in this area around 1833. By 1835, Antoine had begun to plat out the City of Davenport. His venture, as one can guess, was a success.

In 1855, Antoine and Marguerite built an Italiante mansion at 630 East Seventh Street, high on the bluffs above the Mississippi River.  Their view was not only of their flourishing town, but also of the river and the house of their late friend, Colonel George Davenport, facing them from the banks of what is now the Rock Island Arsenal.

But Mr. LeClaire  decided he wanted one more thing in 1855, and, right before Christmas, he went to Chicago to find the finest pair of carriage horses Davenport had ever seen.

The horses arrived one week after purchase. As the Davenport Daily Gazette reported on December 9, 1855, the team cost a whopping $1,000. A rough inflation translation (using www.westegg.com) gives the cost of the horses as over $23,000 in 2011 dollars, making them worth quite a lot of holiday cheer!

The Gazette said there was nothing finer to see about a prospering town then quality horses, except of course, beautiful women. I’m sure the ladies of the day were happy to know they outranked horses (at least to a degree).

But the small article left us with two unanswered questions. What sort of carriage  was worthy of a $1,000 team?

And what did Mrs. LeClaire receive for the holidays that year?

(posted by Amy D.)

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