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The Editor's Tramp

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

When the Illinois Press Association chose Rock Island and Moline as the site for their 1871 annual meeting, the Twin Cities were overjoyed. They were beginning to imagine that they could become a great industrial center—the Lowell of the Mississippi, as one newspaper put it—and free newspaper publicity around the state was too good to pass up.

The Association meeting was schedules for June 27th and 28th. City officials put every important citizen on a dozen committees to plan every minute of the two days. Names like Charles Deere and Dr. Patrick Gregg. And Sweeney, Wheelock, Dart. The Mayor, Arsenal officers, Argus Editor Danforth. Members of the bar and boards of trustees. There was a reception committee to meet the newspapermen as they arrived, a committee to host dinner, another to collect the finest carriages in town and plan a scenic tour, and even a committee to escort the visitors down to the levee as they departed for Quincy.

Even the weather cooperated. The morning of June 27th was warm and sunny as the carriages picked up the guests at the Harper House for a tour of the area. They toured the beauties of Moline from river and from bluff. They took the ferry across to Arsenal Island, to Wildwood Drive and its magnificent scenery, and then to Black Hawk's Watch Tower in Rock Island. Moving on to Big Island, they were given a sumptuous repast by Milan citizens. At the waterfront, as the visitors departed on the afternoon of June 28th, they were serenaded by bands and a military salute.

The Argus was more than satisfied: “We have left nothing to chance in impressing our visitors with our potential.” Now, all Rock Island and Moline had to do was sit back and await the favorable results.

And they weren't long in coming. So favorably impressed were the newsmen and women that they responded with something more heartfelt than columns about business and industry. They responded with a poetic rendition of the whole event, published on page one of the July 3rd Argus: "Twas the month of June, / In the year seventy-one, / The knights of the quill, / When their days work was done, / Set out on a journey… / To hold a Convention / On the Rock Island shore..." and so forth, for 128 lines.

Divided by the total budget spent to impress the visitors, it came to about $12.32 per line.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, 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.