Travel by Stagecoach: Read Beyond the Beaten Path

With the arrival of the first stagecoach in 1837, the state of Iowa welcomed its second kind of public transportation after steamboats, which first began cruising the Upper Mississippi River in 1827. They carried mail, passengers, and their baggage.

The first routes centered around Burlington, Iowa, which was the largest village in southeastern Iowa and became the 2nd capital of the Territory of Wisconsin in 1836. The Federal government made contracts for delivering mail through designated post roads when demand called for it. Getting mail and news to and from the territorial government was the priority.

Stagecoach routes usually followed the same trails used by Native Americans, bypassing creeks and wet or swampy land and marshes. Early settlers used the same routes with their ox carts or wagons, cutting deep ruts into the soil with their wheels. These dirt roads eventually became highways.

Drivers made stops at 10-mile stations, exchanging their tired horses for a fresh set of horses ready to go on the next leg of the journey. The change could be made in a minute or two. There were stations at the post office in Center Grove, the post office in Lackton west of Durant, a hotel in Round Grove west of Plainview, a tavern in Maysville (or Amity as it was called then), and one east of Blue Grass on Highway 61 South, north of the Jamestown Road.

Morton M. McCarver won the contract for the mail route from Burlington to Davenport – 81 miles in 37 hours – which began running in January 1838, with stops at post offices in Jacksonville (Yellow Springs), Florence, Black Hawk (Toolsborough), Wapello, Harrison, Grand View, “Mouth of Pine”, Muscatine (Bloomington), Geneva, Wyoming, Iowa (Montpelier), and Clark’s Ferry (Glendale/West Buffalo). This route connected at Stephenson (Rock Island) with a stage line to Galena, Illinois, which linked with the Chicago stages at Dixon’s Ferry.

According to Rudy Bluedorn, Walcott rural mail carrier who researched and traced stagecoach lines in Scott County in 1962, there were 7 stagecoach lines in Davenport between 1837 and 1856:

  • Davenport to Muscatine through West Liberty to Iowa City
  • Davenport to Iowa City through Center Grove near Durant via Petersburg Road
  • Davenport through Maysville, Bennett, and Tipton to Marion, operated by Frink & Walker
  • Davenport through Allen’s Grove, Dixon, Big Rock to Anamosa
  • Davenport to Blue Grass, to the river, to Muscatine, operated by Western Stage Lines
  • Davenport to Dubuque through Vandenburg and Andrew
  • One that followed the Mississippi River upstream from Davenport

It took 10 hours to travel from Davenport to Iowa City. The average speed was between 5 and 8 miles per hour. Fares cost anywhere between 5 and 10 cents per mile, depending on the season and if there was competition from other lines.

Colton, Kenneth E. “The Stagecoach Comes to Iowa,” Annals of Iowa Vol. 35 No. 3 Winter, 1960

Mail Contracts

  • 1838 Burlington to Davenport – Morton M. McCarver
  • 1839 Davenport to Rochester – Ansel Briggs
  • 1840 Dubuque to Davenport – Parker & Donaldson
  • 1842 Stephenson (Rock Island) to Davenport – John Wilson
  • 1842 Dubuque to Davenport to Stephenson – Ansel Briggs – $1.50
  • 1844 Davenport to Dubuque – Beers & St. John – $4
  • 1845 Davenport to Iowa City – Joe Albin
  • 1849 Davenport to Iowa City – M.P. Donahey
  • 1849 Davenport to Oskaloosa – W.W. Kendall
  • 1854 Iowa City to Muscatine to Davenport – Western Stage Co.
  • 1850s Ft. Des Moines to Davenport – Western Stage Co.
  • 1850s Davenport to Des Moines to Council Bluffs – Western Stage Co.
  • 1855 Keokuk to Davenport – Western Stage Co.

The Concord Coach

The 2,500 pound Concord stagecoach cost between $1,200 and $1,500. They were made of oak, with iron bands, and brass, and were mounted on oxhide leather strips. They were painted in bright colors, either olive green or vermillion red, and the inside had panels with landscapes or historical characters. The windows had shutters or blinds instead of glass. They were oval-shaped with a flat top for baggage and had a triangular leather-covered space in the back called the “boot” that held more baggage. Inside were 3 seats large enough to seat 3 passengers each, the front seat facing the rear. The driver sat in front, high above the horses, holding the reins with his left hand and using his right hand to control the slack and wield the whip. They were drawn by 4 horses.

Hacks or Jerkies

Smaller, less comfortable, lighter spring mud wagons with white muslin cloth tops and no doors. Up to 4 Passengers entered through an opening above the lower paneling and sat on benches with no backs. They had broad, high wheels held by wooden pins, designed to drive through mudholes. If the pins broke off or slipped out passengers were expected to help dig them out of the mud using a fence rail.

Iowa Sun, March 5, 1842

Western Stage Co.

On May 26, 1854, the Western Stage Company bought Frink & Co. They ceased operations in Iowa on June 30, 1870.

3 factors helped the success of stagecoach travel in Iowa: The Gold Rush and influx of emigrants passing through the state in the 1850s, the need to transport passengers to and from the railroad, and the disruption of railroad construction caused by the Civil War.

The stagecoach was an uncomfortable and inconvenient mode of transportation. It was more expensive than traveling on a steamboat. They were very slow and needed to leave very early in the morning to get as much daylight as possible. It was bumpy, muddy, and freezing cold. Once the railroads expanded their service, there was no looking back.

(posted by Cristina)


Arpy, Jim, “Stagecoach Routes,” Times-Democrat. July 8, 1962

Briggs, John Ely, “Exploring the History of Iowa,” Davenport Democrat. January 7, 1935

Briggs, John Ely, Iowa Old and New. [The University Publishing Co. : 1939]

Burrows, John McDowell, Fifty Years in Iowa. [Davenport, Iowa : 1888]

Colton, Kenneth E., “Stagecoach Travel in Iowa,” Annals of Iowa vol. 22, no. 3. January 1940

Colton, Kenneth E., “The Stagecoach Comes to Iowa,” Annals of Iowa vol. 35, no. 3. Winter 1960

Corbin, Bernie, “Joseph Albin Carried Mail in 1850,” Iowa City Press-Citizen. July 10, 1951

Grahame, Orville Francis, “Stagecoach Days,” The Palimpsest vol. 5, no. 5. May 1924

Hoffman, Mildred Albin, “Stagecoach and Pioneer Mail Carrier,” The Cedar County Historical Review. July 1965

Iowa Sun. August 11, 1838; December 25, 1839; March 5, 1842; June 25, 1842

Pratt, LeRoy, “Ten Cents a Mile and a Fence Rail,” Annals of Iowa vol. 39, no. 8. Spring 1969

Scovel, Donald, Tips for Stagecoach Travelers: Explorations in Iowa History Project. [1970-?]

Tanner, Halpin, & Co., Davenport, Rock Island, & Moline Directory, 1858-9.

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Beautiful Place: A Letter about Davenport of July 1842

This newsy July 1842 letter addressed to “Aunt” Elizabeth B. Langdon from Ellen Harris describes her ten-day journey along the Ohio River, then to the mighty Mississippi River as Ellen, husband William, her mother, and perhaps other family made their way from Cincinnati, Ohio to their new Davenport, Iowa home.

“When we left the Ohio river it was night but we all got up to see the meeting of two mighty rivers the effect was quite sublime seen by the light of moon just rising – it is as a place where three ways meet__ On entering the Mississippi the scene changed to bold and rocky shores on Sunday we passed some magnificent rocks (at least to my unpracticed eye) some that appeared to rise perpendicular to the height of 150 to 200 feet some with snug cottages perched upon the utmost summit and the majestic river washed the base-others with tall shot towers on their top looking as if the wind might prove too powerful although built of solid rock-on the same day we passed an Island composed of rock rearing its head high in the midst of the waters we also passed his Satanic majesty’s tea-table and bake-oven and several other curiosities equally as well named.”

Quote from the Letter of Ellen Harris.

 “Satanic majesty’s tea table and bake oven” were unfamiliar landmarks to me. No luck with the tea table, but a bit of digging revealed that below St. Louis on the Mississippi there is a spot called Devil’s Bake Oven, and nearby is an island that may be the one she describes as “composed of rock rearing its head high”. It is called Tower Rock.

Tower Rock is a small, rocky limestone island on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. Growing from the top of the rock is a small forest of beech, pine, oak, and hickory. The rock has long been feared by riverboat captains because of the rapid current that swirls at its base, but when water levels drop, the island is easily accessed by walking over the dry limestone riverbed. Tower Rock was used as a navigational point for early explorers. It was visited by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, with Lewis writing about this location in his journal over 200 years ago.

Well, Ellen Harris wrote about it 180 years ago, just 20 years later. We have proof!

Tower Rock, View on the Mississippi – Karl Bodmer (1839)

Mrs. Harris then moves on to her present life in Davenport sharing descriptions of the burgeoning city, its surroundings, neighbors, and daily affairs.  The family was living in a house with nine rooms at Third and Main Streets.

Mrs. Harris goes on to mention the healthy environment, Methodist religious affairs and describes a picnic held on the island providing an extraordinary historic primary source description of Davenport, Iowa in 1842. The letter is folded carefully and sealed with a spot of wax that has long since peeled off, leaving only a red stain. Perhaps another of the city’s proprietors, Antoine LeClaire, (Davenport’s postmaster) carried the letter for Ellen Harris to be mailed.

The couple seems to have left Scott County in about 1858, moving to Adair County, Iowa, then Vincennes, Indiana. Both Ellen’s parents, Joseph and Mary Woodward, and brother, Benjamin Beckwith Woodward, settled in Davenport as well.

We hope you will explore this and the many other primary source materials available to you in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center very soon.


Accession 2018-18.0067 Ellen Harris correspondence

Historical Maps Book:  A State-by-State Atlas of U.S. History, 1790-1900 by Dolan

John Caspar Wild:  painter and printmaker of nineteenth-century urban America by Reps

(posted by Karen)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saluting the Sailor Suit

With the approaching July 4th holiday, we decided to celebrate the endearing tradition of children’s sailor suits.

Introduced from England shortly before the U.S. Civil War, these small outfits were designed to resemble uniforms worn by Navy sailors. By the 1870s, the sailor suit had begun to rise in popularity for younger boys. By the early 1900s, styles included knickers or short pants. The younger the boy, the shorter the pants. The sailor suit stayed popular for boys through the 1930s.

Girls also had a style of sailor suit. The sailor dress or suit became popular for females around 1900 inspired by tailor Peter Thomson. Unlike boys who usually moved away from sailor suits around the ages of 10 – 12; the sailor dress or suit might be worn by younger women as well as girls. The popularity of the sailor dress lasted through World War II before falling out of favor.

Sailor suits were frequently made of linen fabric for summer and wool for winter. Short socks, sometimes with designs on the cuff, or wool or cotton stockings kept legs seasonably cool or warm. An undershirt or dicky was commonly worn underneath, but sometimes removed for warmer weather. While only one of our photographs shows a sailor hat, we do see them listed in advertisements for the time period to help complete the outfit.

These images are from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Hostetler Collection of glass negatives. They may be found online at on the Davenport Public Library’s website.

We hope you enjoy this look back in time!

DPLVolume 227. Image dpl17128. Alfred H. Eckman c. 1918.

Young Alfred H. Eckman is featured in a sailor suit c. 1918. The longer pants with wide bottoms and U.S. Navy hat are meant to resemble uniforms worn by sailors. This more military style became popular during World War I. The long pants make the outfit unusual.

DPLVolume153. Image dplx720d. Bahnsen Family. c. 1910.

The children of Frank W. Bahnsen are pictured with an older adult female about 1910. Two of the three boys wear sailor suits. The boy in front appears to be wearing knicker pants with dark cotton or wool stockings. The older boy in back looks about 12 or 13. We can’t see his pants, but his shirt, collar, and tie is a replica of those worn by adult men of the time period. The younger boys have matching stripes on their collars and cuff along with the anchor detail on their shirt or dickey.

DPLVolume227. Image dplx433a. Envelope labeled M. Potter. c. 1910.

While we don’t know who these children are yet, we can see the two younger girls in front have variations of the sailor dress, or middy dress as it was also known. The shorter girl’s dress features side buttons down the front. Both have matching embroidery on the dress and the dicky or shirt underneath. Though it would have been in fashion, the tallest girl is wearing a different style dress from the shorter girls.

DPLVolume54. Image dplx522. Frederic G. Homer. c. 1910.

Frederic G. Homer was about 6 or 7 years old in 1910 when this portrait was taken. This sailor suit shows a heavier fabric than the summer linen suits, but remains traditional with a white dickey or shirt underneath with the anchor emblem. The sleeves also have tucks which make it more elaborate than the traditional straight sleeves we usually see with boys’ sailor suits. It appears there were dark buttons on the front of the outfit as well supporting the elaborate feeling.

DPLVolume269. Images dpl17457b and dpl17457. Laurence B. Morrissey c. 1918.

Laurence B. Morrissey was about 3 when these pictures were taken in 1918. With the bare legs and no dickey or undershirt it gives the feel of a warmer weather photo. The straight short pants most likely falling to his knees or slightly above. The cuffs, back of the collar (or tar flap), and portions of the sleeves and pant legs show color. The buttons around the front waist of the outfit may be ornamental or functional in nature. It is hard to tell from the image.

DPLVolume247. Image dpl17290b. Miss Erna Reistein. c. 1918.

Miss Erna Reistein was about 12 or 13 years old when this picture was taken. It appears to be for a graduation or Confirmation. This is a lovely example of the sailor suit. The suit jacket appears to have a loose belt round the middle and the collar features a bow in front. The longer length of skirt fits a young girl moving from the shorter dresses of childhood, but not yet needing the longer dresses of an adult. On a side note, we love her shoes!

DPLVolume87. Image dplx843. Charles Dunn written on envelope. c. 1912.

We thought we would end with this image taken about 1912. While this might be a husband, wife, and son. The young appearance of the man and woman lead us to feel it might possibly be a sibling portrait. We do not see a wedding ring on the woman’s hand, but we might also not be able to see it clearly. We thought this image gave a good view of styles from the time period. It provides a nice look at the knicker shorts of the boy’s sailor suit along with the length of the collar in back. His look is completed by socks and high top shoes.

(posted by Amy D.)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost but Not Forgotten: A Brief History of 1125 Pershing Avenue

The Quad Cities have a number of structures imbued with an aura of their time, the residence located at 1125 Pershing Avenue was one of those. The setting for this historic home was the late 19th century when the City of Davenport was showing the benefits of industrialization and western migration. The home was nestled in LeClaire’s 8th Addition to the city which is now a part of the Cork Hill Historical District. Constructed between 1888-1890 based on evidence from local city directories, county assessors office, research found in the Architectural/Historical Survey research compiled by Wehner, Nowysz, Pottschull, and Pfiffner of Iowa City. In the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center collections, we were unable to find an abstract of title for the property, thus we are unable to confirm the veracity of precise dates.

The residence was designed in overarching themes of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles. In the Architectural/Historical Survey, it states,

“This well-preserved house is a good example of late-Victorian eclecticism, […] The typical irregular plan and roofscape, complete with corner tower, is embellished with shallow oriels, a full-height gabled pavilion with bowed facade, little roof dormers, and a porch supported by pairs of slender columns on high pedestals”


The home was built for the Moritz family. It was on the corner of East 12th Street and Rock Island Ave. The precise location of the home was in the LeClaire’s 8th subdivision, block 095, parcel 008 and the W 30′ Lot 7 & all of 51-118-03. The residence was built with a wood frame, brick, and stone.

Moritz Family (1888-1899)

According to his obituary published in the Davenport Morning Star on February 5, 1891, Abraham Moritz was born near Frankford, Hessen, Germany on December 19, 1846. He arrived in the United States through New York when he was 18 years old.

He was first noted in Davenport city directories in 1868-1869 boarding near 4th Street. He worked at 14 West Second Street as a Clerk at the stores of L. Lowenstein. He and his brother Solomon Moritz became proprietors of A. Moritz & Bros Clothier store located at 121 West Second Street. The were known as a clothing and gents furnishing store.

In the 1888 City Directory, Abraham Moritz resided at 303 East 12th Street. Today, the 300 block of East 12th is on the north side of 1125 Pershing Avenue residence. He lived there until his death on February 4, 1891 according an obituary published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on that date. His wife, Caroline (Hamburger) whom he married on April 11, 1869 in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa, and their five children (Edwin, Sidney, Harry, Jesse, and Manny) lived in the home after Abraham’s death. Abraham is buried in Mount Nebo Hebrew Cemetery. He has a brief history of his life and accomplishments written in Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa in our collections.

According to Caroline’s obituary published in The Daily Times on December 16, 1901, she lived at “the old home on Twelfth and Rock Island Streets, rebuilding in a few years and erecting the elegant home which now stands there” (Moritz 2). According to Land Records-Grantor/Grantee Index, Caroline lived in the home until 1899 when she moved to be closer to two of her children in Denver, Colorado. In her obituary it states, Caroline was born in 1849 to Abraham Hamburger in Frankford, Germany. She died on December 13, 1901, and she is buried at Mount Nebo Hebrew Cemetery near Pine Hill Cemetery.

Biographical history and portrait gallery of Scott County, Iowa. Chicago and New York, American biographical publishing company, 1895, portrait insert between pages 248-249.

Shuler (Schuler) Family (1899-1906)

Charles Shuler purchased 1125 Rock Island Street in 1899. He is listed as living there from 1900-1906 in the Davenport city directories. According to his obituary published in The Davenport Democrat and Leader on May 28, 1948, he was born in Rock Island, Illinois on April 5, 1856 to David and Mary (Hauck) Schaechter. They moved to Rapids City, Illinois when he was an infant. On October 25, 1877, he married Jane Renton Gilchrist who born on June 10, 1859 in Wanlockhead, Scotland to Hugh M. and Mary (Weir) Gilchrist. They were the parents of six children: Hugh M., Dr. Anne Mary Rendleman, Jane Elspeth, Sophia Caroline, Charles Jr., and John.

Charles was known for his work in the coal industry until his retirement in 1926. In addition to that work, he was president of the Iowa National Bank of Davenport for 15 years.

They lived in the home until they moved to 1516 East River Drive according to the 1906-1907 city directories. Charles Shuler (Schuler) had Davenport architect Frederick G. Clausen design and built “Hillside” house located at 1 Prospect Drive.

Bendixen Family (1908-1918)

Peter Alfred Bendixen purchased the home in 1908. Dr. P. A. Bendixen was born in Davenport on October 8, 1881 to Peter and Catherine (Beenk) Bendixen. On October 8, 1907, Peter married Jane Elspeth Shuler at the Outin Club according to local newspapers. Miss Shuler was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Shuler who lived in the home before Mr. Bendixen.

P. A. Bendixen was a well known physician in the area and member of the community.

In 1919, the Davenport City Council voted and approved the name change of Rock Island Street to Pershing Avenue in honor of General John J. Pershing, the commander of American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.

“Take Pershing Along a Street Named for Him.” The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), December 23, 1919, page 8.

After the Bendixen family moved to 204 Prospect Terrace, George W. Duvall moved into 1125 Pershing Avenue. He lived there with his wife, Pearl, from 1919 until the 1940s. George Duvall was the vice-president of Modern Broom Machinery Company and Superintendent of the Lee Broom Company at the time when he moved in to the home according to the 1919 City Directory.

Around 1944, Edward E. and Helen K Nicholson purchased the home. They lived in the home until 1949. The home was then sold to John and Isabel Bloom in 1949. They converted it to six apartments. Many people called this building their home from 1949-2022.

The life of this over 100 year old home came to an end this past week due to a fire accident. One may read more about the event here from the Quad City Times: “Watch Now: Fire destroys apartment building on Pershing Avenue“.

(posted by Kathryn)


Moritz. The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) 1901, 2.

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Davenporters of Note: Leonidas W. Ramsey

Davenport residents have long been passionate about gardening. In June of 1913, nearly 400 people were hard at work preparing their properties for the first of the Rotary Club of Davenport’s “City Beautiful” contests. This dedication to beautification attracted young landscape architect Leonidas Willing Ramsey to Davenport. He and his partner, H. T. Reeves, after investigating twenty U.S. cities, “…decided that opportunities in their line were better here than elsewhere.” The pair opened their practice in the Putnam Building the following year. [The Daily Times, July 6, 1914, page 7]

Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 16, 1916

Ramsey had recently graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he studied under the first-ever Professor for Civic Design, the noted urban planner Charles Mulford Robinson. Born May 22, 1891, in Hazelhurst, Mississippi to Jacob Leonidas and Carrie Willing Ramsey, his early education included the Marion Institute and Millsaps College.

Interrupted briefly by his service (Navy ensign, late 1918-1919) in the First World War, “Buck” Ramsey’s career as a landscape architect was an active one. In 1914, the Reeves & Ramsey firm designed the waterfront park between Main and Scott Streets for the Levee Commission; Ramsey then wrote up the project for American City magazine with the title “The Improvement of the Davenport River-Front.”

His design for the grounds of the Mississippi Valley Fair and Exposition garnered praise from landscape experts, whose “universal verdict,” according to the Democrat and Leader of August 1920, was that it was “the best planned and best laid out fairgrounds in the entire West.” American City magazine again published Ramsey’s article about this project, “A New Era for the District and County Fair” in May of 1920.

Ramsey was a regular contributor to House Beautiful, House and Garden, Garden Magazine, The American Home, The Ladies Home Journal, and other popular periodicals of the time; he also served as the Landscape Editor for the Democrat and Leader newspaper, 1915- 1916.

Ramsey spoke frequently on the City Beautiful Movement, landscape gardening, and city planning topics to popular and university audiences all over the Midwest, as well as to local organizations and clubs. The Davenport and Rock Island Rotary Clubs, the Woman’s Clubs in both cities, and the Tri-City Garden Club invited him often.

Some of Ramsey’s other clients included Augustana College, the City of Ottumwa, and many private residences in Illinois and Iowa. In 1923, Ramsey and his associate Charles Lawrence did gratis work for the Lend-A-Hand Club.

In early 1921, Ramsey founded the Garden Press in Davenport “for the purpose of printing and distributing literature pertaining to gardening and landscape architecture.” [Democrat 7 Jan 1921] The RSSC Center has recently acquired The Landscape Garden Series, a boxed set of ten illustrated booklets issued by the Garden Press that same year. Ramsey authored four of these: “Planning the Home Grounds,” “Architectural Features,” “Beauty in the Vegetable Garden,” and “The Home and the City.”

The Garden Press soon grew into the L. W. Ramsey Co., a tremendously successful advertising agency with offices in Chicago and Hollywood, CA. Ramsey remained devoted to Davenport, however; the main office stayed here in the Union Bank building.

The busy advertising executive did not abandon his love for landscape architecture, either. He continued to write on the subject, publishing first Landscaping the Home Grounds (SC 712 Ram 1930) in 1930.

This was a re-working of many of the ideas first explored in the the Landscape Series of 1921. A photograph of J.J. Reimer’s Oak Knoll garden, and that of another McClellan Heights property are included.

The Outdoor Living Room (SC 712 Ram 1932), also published by MacMillan, was co-authored by Ramsey and fellow Davenport landscape architect Charles H. Lawrence.

Missing from the library’s collection of Ramsey’s works is Garden Pools, Large & Small (MacMillan, 1931), another collaboration with Lawrence. We hope to acquire a copy of it soon!

Ramsey’s most popular book was an account of his travels to Mexico with pal and illustrator J. Anthony Kelly, Time Out for Adventure: Let’s Go to Mexico (Doubleday, 1934)

Ramsey was very civic-minded. In addition to the Rotary Club and other business groups in Davenport, he was a Trustee of the Library and the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery. He also served on the Park Board.

Buck Ramsey lived at 834 Marquette Street in Davenport with his wife Norma (Klindt) and children Leonidas Willing Jr., George Klindt, and Julianne. He passed away in 1947 and was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

(posted by Katie)

“L.W. Ramsey, Head of National Advertising Agency, is Dead at 55.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 2, 1947.

Posted in Local History | 2 Comments

The Quad Cities Museum Alliance

In honor of Quad Cities Museum Week, we’re looking back at previous collaborations by area museums, galleries, and other historical & cultural institutions.

12 major area museums and art galleries got together in 1986 to form the Quad Cities Museum Alliance. Mike Smith, director of the Putnam Museum, saw a “strong need” for cultural attractions to work together, publicize what they offer, and bring more public awareness and tourism.

The alliance organized a Museum Weekend on October 4-5, 1986. Participants could clip their “Adventure Passport” from the newspaper and get it stamped by visiting each location. They also celebrated Quad City Museum Day “Spring Into Summer” on May 30, 1987.

These images are from the informational booklet published by the alliance.


The Bettendorf Museum was established in 1974 at the former Washington School, 533 16th Street, as a city history museum. They added interactive children’s exhibits in 1985 and changed its name to The Children’s Museum in 1985. They later merged with the Lincoln Center for the Cultural Arts and changed the name to the Family Museum of Arts & Sciences. The Family Museum opened its current facility at the Learning Campus on March 2, 1997.

The Putnam Museum began as the Davenport Academy of Sciences in 1867. Read more about its history here.

Art Galleries

The Davenport Municipal Art Gallery opened in 1924 and became the Figge Art Museum in 2005. Read more about its history here.

The Catich Gallery at the Galvin Fine Arts Center at St. Ambrose College opened in 1985. They continue to host contemporary art exhibits featuring the work of regional and national artists as well as faculty and seniors graduating with honors. You can learn more about its history here.

Augustana College

Centennial Hall Gallery is part of the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art.

The Fryxell Geology Museum is currently closed for summer break. You can learn more about its history here.

Arsenal Island

The Rock Island Arsenal Museum is currently closed for renovation. You can read more about its history here.

The Mississippi River Visitor Center, maintained & operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is located at Lock & Dam 15. Find out more information here.

The Colonel Davenport Home is one of the sites featured in this year’s Quad Cities Museum Week. You can read more about its history here.

Parks & Zoos

Read more about the history of Vander Veer Greenhouse & Conservatory at Vander Veer Botanical Park here.

Read more about the history of Fejervary Park & Zoo here.

Read more about the history of Niabi Zoo here.

Thirty-six years later and our local museums, galleries, and similar institutions are still working together. Today, you can check out Community Experience Passes for the Putnam Museum, the Figge Art Museum, Niabi Zoo, the German-American Heritage Center, the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Quad City Botanical Center, The River Music Experience, and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra from any Davenport Public Library location.

(posted by Cristina)


  • Arpy, Jim. “Take a passport to Q-C adventure,” Quad-City Times, October 2, 1986 p. Go! 2
  • Arpy, Jim. “Everything from mummies to Dada,” Quad-City Times, March 29, 1987 p. 4J
Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FAQs about the DPL FAL (FamilySearch Affiliate Library)

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center has exciting news to share about access to genealogical research materials: The Davenport Public Library has been designated as a FamilySearch Affiliate Library!

“But I already use FamilySearch online from home for my genealogical research,” you might be saying to yourself, “It’s free, easy to use, and includes millions of historical records. How will the fact that my library is an Affiliate make a difference?”

FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries like the Davenport Public Library provide patrons with on-site access to name indexes and historical genealogical record sets available only at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, or at one of its satellite Family History Centers.

Disappointed to see this message when you try to click through to a record image?

Does your heart sink when you see that icon of a camera with a key next to a record you wish to view?

Now those “restricted” or “priviledged” record images can be “unlocked” when you visit any of the DPL’s three branches and sign into your personal account on a library computer or your own device!

Just type “” into a browser search bar or enter the site under “Research Tools” then “Online Resources” on the DPL website.

Let’s search for the marriage of Herman Hentze in Scott County, Iowa, as an example. Sign in (if you don’t yet have an account, click on “Create Account”), click on “Search” in the upper left corner and select “Records.” When the search box appears, click on “Options” and enter information in the field boxes like so:

TIP: Keep the information you first enter minimal and general (e.g. no year, Scott County instead of Davenport) to catch all possibilities in the results; you can narrow the search further. There may be clues in the list of results itself.

Herman Hentze is found in the FamilySearch record set “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934:”

The abstracted information to the right, including the names of his parents, spouse, the marriage date, etc. can be checked against the actual page from the Scott County marriage license book (a digitized image of the microfilm copy) for any discrepancies by clicking through on the left. There may even be additional information in the original record that has not been abstracted.

Without the ability to see the actual record images via the FS Affiliate, you would not know that one of the repeat entries for the same marriage record set in the results (above) leads you to the Hentze’s marriage return as well:

Furthermore, neither of these two types of marriage records are available on AncestryLibrary, our popular in-house genealogy database. In fact, Ancestry contains an altogether different type of marriage record with similar information:

TIP: Make the most of your time in the library and search both databases!

FamilySearch also allows you to search by resource, including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, and other publications. Click on “Catalog” under the “Search” menu on the home page. You can find the record set “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934” (to continue with our same example), with a title search. You can also search by author, subject, and keyword. If you do a surname search with “Hentze,” however, the individual marriage record entries we found earlier will not be returned.

You can search by place to find the full range of record types available for a particular location. Here are the (partial) results for Scott County, Iowa:

So, Hentze and his family members might also be found in census records, church records, court records, land and property records, (and there’s more!) in Scott County, Iowa. Again, you will have much fewer categories to search if you are not in a FamilySearch Affiliate Library like DPL.

The beginning of two long pages of available marriage records are shown here under the “Vital records” category — and there is no key above the camera icon to stop you from accessing the record images!

TIP: For best results, enter the location information in the format shown above: Country, State/Province, County, City/Town…

If you are just getting starting with your family history research, we recommend the FamilySearch “Research Wiki” (also under the “Search” menu).

Search by topic, such as “Marriage records,”

…or search by place, such as “Iowa.”

You can also choose the more thorough “Guided Research” option for step-by-step instructions on finding records for a particular place:

And please do not hesitate to contact the staff here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center for additional help understanding and accessing the research resources now available with the DPL’s new status as a FamilySearch Affiliate Library!

(posted by Katie)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From Decoration Day to Memorial Day

We think of Memorial Day Weekend as the unofficial kickoff to summer, but in 1868 “Decoration Day” was established by a G.A.R. organization to decorate the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the War of the Rebellion. The date of May 30th was chosen as no significant battle occurred that day.

The holiday evolved as more unfortunate wars occurred and soon it commemorated all military personnel who had given their all and became widely known as Memorial Day. Flags and flowers brightened cemeteries, parades and picnics were held.  In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Grover C. von der Heyde photographs. The photographer was Grover C. von der Heyde. The images date from around the 1950s. They are views of parks and cemeteries, taken at different seasons.

Currently, flag etiquette states the American flag is to fly at half staff until noon on Memorial Day, then be briskly raised to fly high until sunset. 

A 3:00 p.m. Moment of Remembrance was started when a group of children touring Washington, D.C. in the 1990s were asked what Memorial Day meant. They responded, “That’s the day the pools open!”.

Special Collections has a number of resources that can aid you and your family in reflecting on the sacrifice of the men and women that have served our country valiantly over the years, honoring them for their service to our Nation.

Listen to or read transcripts of nearly eighty oral histories recorded by Korean War and World War II military personnel and those who participated in home front activities. We visited with men and women who served in military and civilian capacities and heard of the hardships and pride they felt during those tumultuous years. We accepted artifacts from participants and have uniforms, caps, ribbons, pins, ration points, currency, and other interesting collectibles that supplement the interviews.

You may wish watch a War Bond Rally from our video collection. Our photograph collection includes individual,  group and unit photos from different eras and our book collection has unit histories. We have scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of all the comings and goings of locals and microfilm from the WWII Iowa Press Clipping Project done by State Historical Society of Iowa.

Military records like draft registration records can provide personal data for any individuals in your family that registered. Bonus files can tell you where your loved one served.

This Memorial Day, consider visiting the Rock Island Arsenal Cemetery for their Monday 10:45 a.m. service. Place flowers on an ancestor’s gravesite at City Cemetery after their Saturday event at 1:30 when they commemorate new stones for previously unmarked veteran graves. Learn more about someone in your family that served by exploring on our website or using some of our online databases.

Whatever you and yours choose to do, stay safe and try to take a moment to appreciate the true meaning of Memorial Day before you jump into a pool!

Kampfgenossen Verein 1870-71. Photographer was J.M. Lenz. The photograph was taken circa 1907. It depicts members of the association of German veterans, the Kampfgenossen Verein, posed in front of a memorial to the soldiers of the Franco-Prussian War in Washington Square Park.

(posted by Karen)

Posted in Local History | Leave a comment

Living Memory History: The Levee Inn

At the foot of Main Street and the Mississippi River in Davenport is a little boarded-up building that stands next to the old ferry landing. This building has been known by many names since it was built 93 years ago. The Municipal Inn, the Levee Confectionary, the Levee Inn, and Archie’s to name a few.

If you were part of its heyday, this building might bring back memories of sweet treats on warm summer nights or quick lunches along the river during a busy work week. Those who missed those moments, they might know the building as the local flood marker. Standing on the edge of the Mississippi River, it has seen its fair share of floods and a previous owner recorded these historic flood crests on its sides up to 1993.

The land the building sits on belongs to the City of Davenport and the Davenport Levee Improvement Commission. In 1927, Raymond (or Ray) D. Ackley was given a 10-year lease on the property and allowed to build a snack shop. On January 12, 1928, The Daily Times ran a notice that Ray D. Ackley had secured a building permit for a new refreshment stand with an estimated cost of $2,500.

The Daily Times, January 12, 1928. Pg. 5

Ackley hired local architects Claussen, Kruse & Klein to design the small Art Moderne structure that stands today. He named it the Municipal Inn.

Blueprint of the Municipal Inn dated October 28, 1927. City Map Collection, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Department.

The building featured orange and blue tiles, an urn on each corner of the roof, and a large sign proclaiming Municipal Inn running across the top and held in place by flag poles on each end of the sign.

Enlarged section of Municipal Inn blueprint featuring the banner. Dated October 28, 1927. City Map Collection, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Department.

We find the business operating by the summer of 1928. On June 8, 1928, there was a small advertisement under Business Opportunities in The Daily Times. Raymond Ackley was selling his popcorn stand at the corner of 3rd and Main Streets in Davenport. To inquire about purchasing, please ask at the Municipal Inn.

The Daily Times, June 8, 1928. Pg. 36

Ackley had a booming business originally. Located at the foot of the ferry boat landing and near the Natatorium pool and LeClaire Park, he sold soda pops, sandwiches, gum, candy, peanuts, and cigars. Downtown Davenport at the time was bustling with residents who lived nearby in apartments, those coming to visit for entertainment, and workers from the small businesses that filled the nearby streets.

Prosperous times took a turn quickly though. By 1933, the Great Depression was in full force. Raymond Ackley wrote to the Levee Commission warning them that he was struggling to make the monthly payments on his lease. Customers could no longer afford candy and soda pop and he was overwhelmed by his ailing wife’s medical bills.

The Daily Times, May 12, 1933. Pg. 28

On May 12, 1933, Raymond Ackley lost the lease to the Municipal Inn when all his assets were placed up for sale by the Sheriff of Scott County, Iowa. Former Davenport Alderman John M. Strelow purchased the property at the Sheriff’s Sale and sold the building to the City of Davenport for $1.00.

The Daily Times, June 21, 1933. Pg. 10

The Levee Commission rented the property off and on in the 1930s and early 1940s with no long-term leaseholders – the Great Depression and rationing during the war years making the concession stand business hard to survive on.

It wasn’t until the post-World War II era that the Municipal Inn, now called the Levee Concession Stand, boomed once again with business. Run by Roy C. and Ruth Young from 1948 – 1964. Then by Lee Roy and Arlene Hennings as the Levee Confectionary from 1965 – 1975.

Copy of lease signed by Lee Roy and Arlene Hennings to operate the concession stand. Collection 1998-18 Davenport Levee Improvement Commission Records, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Charlotte Ebbing ran the stand for one year in 1975. Modern upgrades were needed and the building was closed until Paul Martinez took over the lease in 1980. He ran the stand until 1984. Jeff Weindruch took over the stand in 1985 and renamed it Archie’s, after his father.

Quad-City Times, June 27, 1985. Pg. 57. Featuring Leslie Weaver, Mitch Newman, and Brian Newman.

Archie’s closed in September 1990, when the lease went to the Connelly Group with the opening of the President Riverboat Casino in 1991. It was renamed the Iowa Pork Stop. In 1994 and 1995, Shonnie Holmes operated the stand as the Levee Inn.

Quad-City Times, September 3, 1994. Pg. 26

In, 1999 the President Casino briefly operated the building again before closing the stand and the boat in March 2001.

In 2002, there was talk briefly about moving the structure to higher ground away from the river and the floods. The building has not operated since then.

The Municipal/Levee Inn. Image taken May 19, 2022. Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

The last recorded flood on the building is the flood of 1993 which crested at an all-time record of 22.63 feet. Since then, floods in 2001, 2008, 2011, 2014, and three in 2019 have all moved into the top ten record floods at Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island, with the May 2, 2019 flood beating the record of the July 9, 1993 flood by .07 inches.

The Municipal/Levee Inn. Image taken May 3, 2019, from the Davenport Skybridge. Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.
The Municipal/Levee Inn on the left side. Davenport Skybridge in right background. Image taken May 19, 2022. Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Standing along the shoreline next to the building today, one can imagine a couple sharing a bag of peanuts just purchased from the concession stand as they walk along the levee catching the evening breeze. Or children excitedly dancing in line next to their parents while waiting for a sweet treat as teenagers stand nearby pooling their money to split a pack of gum or a soda pop on their way home from the Natatorium next door.

So many memories over the past 93 years lingering in and around this small structure.

(posted by Amy D.)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The History of the Petersen House at 722 Brown Street

Some of the most frequent types of questions we receive relate to researching the history of residences and other structures built in Davenport and Scott County such as churches and businesses. The specific questions we are asked include: when was my house or building built, who built my house, who lived in my house, are there photographs of my house (or this building), were there any additions to the building, is this building in a historic district or on a historical registry, and what was this building used for. With the materials we have in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center, we are able to help people discover details about their home or other buildings they are curious about.

We have these same questions about a property we have encountered a number of times through our work assisting patrons and researching Davenport history. The home which prompted our questions is found in the archival collection: 1994-05: Ingward Petersen Papers. There is an item that intricately illustrates a detailed and accurate looking hand-drawn map of two properties: 718 and 722 Brown Street. From the map, we have a written description of both yards and a drawing of the layouts of each home and landscaping. 718 Brown Street belonged to the Hussmann’s (also spelled Husman, Husmann) and 722 Brown Street belonged to the Petersen Family. With some investigation, we learned more about the 722 Brown Street home and the Petersen family.

This fragile map is dated 1907. With this information, we started our search with city directories to see when the Petersen family first moved into the house. Starting with the 1907 city directory we found that a Gerhard (Gerhardt) Petersen with his wife Ella lived at 722 Brown Street. He worked at Adolph Petersen and Bro., with his brother, Adolph Petersen, known for publishing the Iowa Reform newspaper. We worked backward finding that the earliest date that Gerhard lived at this location was 1885-1886 with his brother Adolph when they both were unmarried. They are first listed in the city directories in 1880 living at 314 Gaines Street, also known as the Hiller Building or the Schick apartments. They worked for Henry Matthey and Son publishers of the Sternen Banner, a daily and weekly German Democratic paper, located at 206 West 2nd Street. They lived there until their move to 722 Brown. On October 17, 1894, Adolph married Natalia Johannsen in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. They lived together at 804 West 5th Street until settling at 526 1/2 West 2nd Street until his death on November 20, 1937. They had one son named Robert.

Gerhard remained at 722 Brown Street. He married Ella Stolle on November 15, 1894 in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. They had three sons: Ingward, Oscar, and Ernest. He passed away on September 27, 1938. At this time, the home passed into different ownership.

Adolph and Gerhard began their printing and newspaper publishing company in 1885 at 502-504 West 2nd Street. The address of the business changed around 1893-1893 to 524-526 West 2nd Street. They continued working together until around 1919 when according to the city directories Gerhard began working as a printer for the Halligan Coffee Company where he worked until his retirement.

In the early 1920s, Robert, Adolph’s son began working as a printer at his father’s publishing shop. He quickly rose to being a manager and having a separate city directory entry for Petersen Linotyping Company. He took the business over completely after his father’s death.

The brothers’ photographs are featured in the 1905 Scott County, Iowa Atlas under the “Davenport Citizens” sections. Thus hinting at their rise in notoriety in Davenport society.

Another resource one can search is the Scott County Land Records including the Grantor/Grantee Index and Description Books. We found what we believe to the land description of property they used for to publish the Iowa Reform newspaper and records of land transfers to and from Adolph and Gerhard Petersen and other individuals.

After we exhausted our city directories and land records for information, we began search our map collection for evidence of 722 Brown Street. Sanborn maps are one of our favorite resources because they allow us to gather some interesting information about buildings and the build environments. Below are images of 722 Brown in our 1910 edition of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Davenport.

We also have many maps compiled and drawn by a well-known and local civil engineer and surveyor named, M. Huebinger. This map in particular was published in 1890 and is a “Map of the City of Davenport, IA.” It shows the past of different additions to the original town of Davenport. We learn from this map that 722 Brown is located in the Forrest and Dillon Addition.

In the Combined Atlases for Scott County, Iowa from 1882, 1894, 1905, 1919, we find fascinating maps of Scott County and the City of Davenport. There are not names of landowners for plots of land in the city, but they allow us to see the growth and development of the city as well as get a sense of where the land is located within the city.

The three volume set of 1956 Sanborn Insurance Maps of Davenport, Iowa have corrections and revisions dating to September 1978, making it possible to track changes to the city’s appearance over the three decades after the 1940’s updates to our copy of the 1910 edition. It helps us with the current research project to see the structure at 722 Brown Street. On this map, one notices that 718 Brown Street is no longer extant.

In our collections, we have two plat maps of the City of Davenport. The first is compiled under the direction of M. Huebinger and the other was completed by the Municipal Plat Map Service in Moline, Illinois. They show 722 Brown in the Forrest and Dillon Addition, section 3, plot 6.

After we looked at the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, the plat maps of the city of Davenport, atlases of Scott County, we wanted to confirm our suspicions of whether 722 Brown Street’s structure was extant or not, because according to the Davenport city directories, it was not list after 1981.

In a write-up of the Davenport City Council proceedings published in the Quad City Times on September 17, 1979, the minutes state the following, “Awarding contract for demolition of structures at 722 Brown Street and 1038 West Fifth Street in the amount of $6,000 to Scipio Thomas (79-891)”. (21)

We found more evidence in the historic building permits we have on microfilm that are searchable by address. We found entries for 722 and 718 Brown Street. The record for 722 Brown Street was owned by Raymond Wilcox and demolished by Scipio Thomas. The permit was issued on December 11, 1979. It lists the structure as a 2 story, 1 family frame residence that was condemned. The work had to be completed by January 16, 1980. According to the city directories Ray Wilcox owned the home starting in 1957. We guess that he used it as a rental until its destruction.

As for 718 Brown, it had a similar fate as the structure at 722. The building permit for its razing was issued June 4, 1971 and was to be completed by July 20, 1971. The owners were Home Owners, Inc, with c/o Hynes & Howes, and Scipio Thomas was awarded the bid to demolish the 2 story, 1 family, frame residence. The Hussmanns’ moved in the home around 1892.

Our research would not have to stop here. Questions cropped up while we scoured our materials. What happened between the Petersen brothers that lead to the split in ownership of the Iowa Reform? Did they continue to speak to one another? What happened to the Iowa Reform newspaper and the Petersen Linotype & Printing Company? What happened to the Petersen’s neighbors the Hussmanns, the Stroh’s, Sharfenbergs, Deusers, and the Boehls?

Someday, we hope that we can answer these questions. If this blog stirred questions about your home or another building, please post them below.

If you would like to learn about the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Centers resources relating to building research, we have an upcoming program called, “How to Research Your Home.” The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections staff will discuss how you can research the history of your home or building with resources from its collections. We will also present examples of home research projects. It is on Wednesday, May 18th at 6:30 PM at Main Library in the Large Meeting Room.

We hope it inspires you to research a building you are interested in and preserve our built environment by becoming active in local historic preservation groups and recording the current history of your home and built environment through maps, like the one from the Ingward Petersen Papers, and photographs.

(posted by Kathryn)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment