A Club for Singing and Fellowship: the Northwest Davenport Liedertafel Ladies

On March 24, 1885, a small group of German immigrants organized to form the Northwest Davenport Liedertafel with ten active members, one of which was P.N. Jacobsen, and six passive members with Henry Restorf as music director (“Liedertafel has Big Celebration” 1910). Liedertafel is a name for a society or club which meets to practice male parts of songs.

The Northwest Davenport Liedertafel held its meetings and activities at Jacobsen’s Hall, also known as Jacobsen’s Tavern or the Farmer’s Hall, located at 1663 West Locust Street, Davenport, Iowa now known as Five Points. Peter Nicolai Jacobsen became synonymous with the singing group. He was born in Eckernfoerde, Schleswig on March 24 1833 the first of thirteen children of Claus and Dorothea (Moeller) Jacobsen. He married Anna Gerdts, who was born in 1829 in Eckernfoerde, the daughter of Johann and Dorothea (Hinrichsen) Gerdts. In 1856, the young couple made their way to Scott County, Iowa. He owned and managed a hotel and was a cigar manufacturer. (Roskom, Kathie 2015)

The Liedertafel society participated and supported a variety music festivals and celebrations including the 1903 Saengerfest held in Schuetzen Park. This organization bolstered a sense of community for the German immigrants who settled in Davenport and Scott County through the expression of song and gathering for social events.

In September 1901, the Damen Zirkel of Northwest Davenport Liedertafel Ladies Organization was formed by Peter N. Jacobsen, a member of the men’s Liedertafel. Beginning with 24 members, the group has had as many as 350 in the 1960s. Monthly meetings were held at the Northwest Turner Hall located at 1602 Washington Street in Davenport.

“Liedertafel has Big Celebration.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Mar. 27, 1910.

After 25 years in 1910, the male Liedertafel society grew to reach 126 members with 19 active singers. The women’s auxiliary comprised of 60 women. They celebrated their silver jubilee with a large celebration with a program that brought together all the Saengerbunds of the tri-cities including “the Davenport Maennerchor, the singing section of the Davenport Turngemeinde, the Germania Saengerchor, Rock Island Maennerchor, and the Concordia-Germania society of Moline” (“Liedertafel has Big Celebration” 1910). The men’s Liedertafel disbanded around the time of World War I because of anti-German sentiment and restrictions on speaking the German language.

However, the Northwest Davenport Liedertafel Ladies continued to flourish. The object of the society was both social and beneficial. The membership reflect dual purpose by offering full or benefit and social membership. Dues were collected and benefit members received a $50.00 death benefit which was started by the men’s group in 1891. Activities included singing, playing cards and picnics. (“Liedertafel Means Singing” 1966)

“Liedertafel Ladies’ Club to Note 50th Anniversary.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa), September 12, 1951.

In 1951, the year of their 50th Anniversary, the group was still active and posted notices in the local newspapers such as the one above announcing their anniversary luncheon and the newspaper clippings below noting luncheons, card parties, and a Christmas party.

Proctor, Sharon. “Liedertafel Means Singing.” Times-Democrat (Davenport, IA), Dec. 16, 1966.

The Northwest Davenport Liedertafel Ladies [Damen Zirkel] Records dating from 1921-2008 are housed at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. This collection consists of materials recording the activities and actions of the ladies through organizational minutes, membership records, financial records, and realia (objects and material from everyday life).
The collection is organized into series and then chronologically. The documents hold information about the decisions the society made at their meetings as well as an extensive record of their membership.

In the “Liedertafel Ladies’ Club to Note 50th Anniversary” article, two charter members are mentioned. With the aid of the Liedertafel Ladies Records, we will look at the records of Maria (Marie or Mary) Schreck.

Maria Schreck was born on August 10, 1865 in Kellinghusen, Kreis Steinburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany to Claus and Anna Suhl. According to Anna Suhl’s obituary published in The Daily Times on May 16, 1931, Maria and her family emigrated from Germany in 1880 and came directly to Davenport. She was between the ages of 15 and 17. She married Juergen F. Schreck on June 2, 1883 according to the Iowa Marriage Index. She passed away at age 88 on June 12, 1954 and she was buried at Fairmount Cemetery. Her obituary published in the Democrat-Times on June 13, 1954 states prominently that she was a charter member of the Liedertafel Ladies, a member of the Northwest Davenport Turners auxiliary, and the Old Settlers club member.

From the Liedertafel Ladies Records, she was listed as a full member and her join date was in September 1901. The membership records also document those who drop their membership or pass away.

Over the years she was a member of the society, Maria was mentioned in various newspaper articles about her activities with the group. The 1938 article below notes that she “received the flower fun prize”.

“Meeting Is Held by Turner Group.” The Daily Times (Davenport, IA), May 13, 1938.

The Liedertafel Ladies Records we reviewed only touch on the activities Maria Schreck participated in as a member of this groups. A more thorough examination of the minutes and the membership records would probably reveal a plethora way she and the other members created a wonderful society for fellowship and singing.

The images below showcase materials from the collection include copies of the Constitution and By-Laws from 1956 to 2002, membership booklets in English and German, and the minutes beginning in 1940s. We are happy to share their stories with the Davenport and Scott County communities.

Bibliography:

“Liedertafel has Big Celebration.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, IA), Mar. 27, 1910.

“Liedertafel Ladies’ Club to Note 50th Anniversary.” The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa), Sept. 12, 1951.

Northwest Davenport Liedertafel Ladies [Damen Zirkel] Records, 2015-18, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library, Davenport, Iowa.

Northwest Davenport Liedertafel Ladies [Damen Zirkel] Records, 2015-18, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library, Davenport, Iowa. https://archives.davenportlibrary.com/repositories/4/resources/2 Accessed May 22, 2021.

Proctor, Sharon. “Liedertafel Means Singing.” Times-Democrat (Davenport, IA), Dec. 16, 1966.

Roskom, Kathie. “Peter Nicolai Jacobsen.” Jacobsen Family Tidbits, October 21, 2015. https://jacobsenfambits.wordpress.com/jacobsen/peter/.

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. S.v. “Liedertafel.” Retrieved May 22 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Liedertafel.

(posted by Kathryn)

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