We learn something new every day in Special Collections. This week’s fun discovery was the City of Davenport had a ship named after it in World War II and that ship inspired a local Pin-Up Girl contest here on the home front.
According to newspaper reports in July 1943, Davenport Mayor Ed Frick announced that a new navy ship would be named after our city. According to Frick, several local civic organizations, with the support of City Council, had written the Secretary of Navy asking a ship be named after Davenport.
The Navy listened and on December 8, 1943 the Mayor’s wife, Marea Frick, christened the ship the U.S.S. Davenport in the shipyard of the Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Mayor Frick and a delegation from Davenport also attended the event. The city presented the ship with a gift of a combination radio and record player in the hopes it could be played over the ships’s communication system for all to enjoy.
The 303-foot frigate was expected to be used as an anti-submarine vessel assisting during ship convoys. It was finally ready for use by the Navy on June 1, 1944.
In August 1944, local newspapers announced the Retail Merchants Bureau of the Davenport Chamber of Commerce would be holding a Pin-Up Girl contest for Davenport ladies to be the official Pin-Up Girl of the U.S.S. Davenport.
Not only would the winner be the ship’s Pin-Up Girl, but she would also win the title of Miss Davenport and receive a $100 war bond.
The contest rules were very simple as listed below:
The photos would not be judged locally, but sent to the U.S.S. Davenport and judged by crewmen on the ship.
Throughout the contest, local newspapers would post the photos of women who were entering the competition.
By the deadline of September 14th, 43 unmarried women had entered the contest. The photos were sent on to be judged by the crewmen of the ship.
The Pin-Up Girl contest winner was announced on October 20, 1944. The crewmen selected Miss Dorothy Adams as their official U.S.S. Davenport Pin-Up Girl.
Miss Adams was a 21-year-old former Marycrest College student who lived with her parents at 1816 Middle Road. She was employed in the actuarial department of Modern Woodmen of American located across the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL. Her brother, Allyn, was serving in the Navy overseas.
The crewmen on ship wrote to the Retail Merchants Bureau that they had appreciated the contest and asked for a large color photograph of Miss Adams to be sent to the them so it could be hung for the crewmen to see.
What ever happened to the U.S.S. Davenport or Dorothy Adams?
The frigate U.S.S. Davenport finished war time duties in 1945 and was quickly altered into a weather ship. By June 6, 1946 its service for the government was done and the ship was sold for scrap.
According to newspaper accounts, Dorothy Adams married Major George William Orr, a former Davenport resident, on July 27, 1946. After a candlelight wedding in the First Presbyterian Church in Davenport. The couple celebrated with friends and family in the Empire Room of the Hotel Blackhawk.
The couple planned to live near Selfridge Field, Michigan after the wedding where Major Orr was the Commander of a squadron connected to the 56th Fighter group with the Air Force.
We were excited to come across this wonderful piece of World War II home front history. And we hope Dorothy Adams Orr remained proud of being part of our local Davenport history.
(posted by Amy D.)
- Wikipedia contributors. “USS Davenport (PF-69).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Oct. 2017. Web. 27 Sep. 2019.
- The Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 8, 1943. Pg. 12
- The Daily Times, December 10, 1943. Pg. 19, 20
- The Davenport Democrat and Leader, August 29, 1944. Pg. 14
- The Daily Times, September 12, 1944. Pg. 20.
- The Daily Times, September 14, 1944. Pg. 9
- The Daily Times, October 20, 1944. Pg. 12