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1856 Davenport Directory

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Even though Davenport, Iowa, was only twenty years old in 1856, the little city had grown to the point of requiring a city directory to keep track of its citizens. Germans fleeing Europe after the Revolution of 1848 had swelled Davenport's population by hundreds.

The Davenport Directory for 1856-57 was practically a history book. Although its publisher, A. P. Luse & Co., was hampered by the lack of street numbering—George L. Davenport was listed as residing "on 3rd Street at the northeast corner of Brady"—the directory was rich in other information. Each person's occupation was listed: draymen, coopers, bricklayers, cigar makers, thirty-nine lawyers and one professor of music. Thirty-one doctors were listed, including practitioners of eclectic, homeopathic, and allopathic medicine. Widows got their own listing, in case there were interested parties.

There was much else. Notices of all the churches, benevolent societies, literary associations, public buildings, county, federal, and state officers. Each business was listed. The directory also contained accounts of all the improvements for the past year: Davenport had new gas lights downtown, concrete sidewalks had been laid, a new railroad bridge to Davenport had just begun operation. Even architectural styles were improving, said the directory.

There seemed, however, to be an inadvertent omission in the Davenport City Directory for 1856-57. There was not a single advertisement or notice for bars, taverns, and saloons. No saloon or barkeepers were listed among the occupations. Had the new German immigrants become teetotaling Americans this rapidly?

Hardly. It turns out that the secretary over at the A. P. Luse & Company was one, Hiram Price. Price was a Davenport alderman in 1856, a director of the new railroad, and a member of the banking house of Cook & Sergeant.

He was also, however, both the local and state president of the Sons of Temperance, editor of the Iowa Temperance Organ, and president of the Scott County Bible Society. Price must have somehow mislaid the directory copy for the grog shop section, a move that must have reduced the bulk of the 1956 Davenport City Directory by approximately one-third.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.