Our Work

Books and Documentaries

The Trader at Rock Island: George Davenport and the Founding of the Quad Cities by Regena Trant Schantz

Well-known in his lifetime as an honest trader in a cut-throat business, George Davenport was engaged in the Indian Trade with the Sauk and Mesquakie in the Upper Mississippi Valley for over twenty years. He established trading posts from the lead mines in Northwest Illinois to the Lower Rapids of the Mississippi near Keokuk, Iowa. But, there is much more to know about this man for whom Davenport, Iowa, is named. After the Black Hawk War in 1832 Davenport transitioned to trade with newly-arrived settlers and engaged in founding towns in the area we now know as the Quad Cities. He invested in land and started businesses to attract settlement in the fledgling communities
surrounding his home on the island of Rock Island. The Trader at Rock Island is a compelling true-life story that takes us back to our frontier community roots, a time when men with vision strove to build the towns surrounding the infamous Rock Island Rapids. The book is deeply researched using family stories, public records from local land records, federal records at the National Archives, and church records in Louth, Lincolnshire, England.


The Rock Island Civil War Prison: Andersonville of the North?

In December of 1863 a Civil War prison camp was established on Rock Island, an island in the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa. Over the following twenty months the camp would house a total of over 12,000 prisoners-of-war from the South of whom almost 2,000 would perish there. This video documentary draws on prisoners' letters, photographs, and other documents to tell the story of the prison. It focuses especially on how Rock Island gained the undeserved reputation as the "Andersonville of the North." View a trailer for the documentary here.


Moline History Echoes From Riverside Cemetery

By Kathleen Seusy, Diann Moore, Curtis C. Roseman, and Regena Schantz. This book draws upon carefully-documented stories of the lives of 109 people buried at Riverside Cemetery in Moline, Illinois, accompanied by a history of the cemetery itself. Included are people from diverse classes and backgrounds who were featured at twelve annual Echoes from Riverside cemetery walk events. This book is currently out of print.


When Farmers Were Heroes: The Era of National Corn Husking Contests

From the late 1920s until the early 1940s, annual national corn husking contests drew over 100,000 spectators and were prominent on the national scene. The rise in popularity of corn husking contests and their role in buoying spirits during the Depression are unique in American history. Using film from the era, this video documentary portrays the rich farm heritage of corn husking contests.

This documentary has been shown numerous times on Iowa Public Television and Nebraska Educational Television and our Rock Island prison documentary has aired on IPTV. We are prepared to offer our video documentaries to other television stations or networks that are interested. Please contact us.


Building the American Dream

By Curtis C. Roseman. Swedish immigrants Gustaf Adoph Johnson and Selma Anna Sofia Carlson built a family and a career in a Midwestern town during the early twentieth century. Drawing on detailed records left by Gust, This book tells the story of his carpentry and contracting activities, most especially the eighty houses he built. It also tells the story of Gust and Selma's family, their activities, travels, and tragedies, using family letters, diaries, and other family records. Read a Newspaper feature on the book.


A Century of Players, Performers, and Pageants: Wharton Field House and Browning Field, Moline, Illinois

By Curtis C. Roseman and Diann Moore. Since Wharton Field House opened in 1928 and Browning Field in 1912, these two adjacent facilities have hosted thousands of events and activities. Utilizing over 450 illustrations, this book describes the rich history of sports, entertainment, and other gatherings at Wharton and Browning. The book includes numerous colorful stories of people and events there, and also chronicles the origins and development of these two historic places. Read a newspaper feature on the book.


East Meets West: The First Railroad Bridge to Cross the Mississippi

In 1854 the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad arrived in Rock Island, Illinois, to become the first to connect the eastern rail network to the Mississippi River. Two years later the first bridge was completed to Davenport, Iowa. The bridge was an early stepping stone for the transcontinental railroad, and a crucial element in the evolving competition between river and rail transportation. After the steamboat Effie Afton damaged the bridge, steamboat interests launched legal challenges to the bridge. In the first court case, Abraham Lincoln defended the railroad’s right to span the river as long as reasonable accommodation was given to water transportation. Lincoln’s view was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1862, allowing railroads to build bridges in other locations. We received initial funding for this video docunetary in November, 2014.


Historic Bridges of the Quad Cities Area

This book tells the stories of a diverse set of bridges, past and present, within the study area that extends from Muscatine, Iowa, through the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, to Savanna, Illinois, on the Upper Mississippi River. Included are bridges on the Mississippi at Muscatine and Clinton, Iowa, and Savanna, Illinois. Photographs or other images of each bridge are included. The origin of each bridge is described, along with the geographical and historical context within which each was built. Bridges date from the 1850s and include the first railroad bridge on the Mississippi, which connected Rock Island, Illinois, with Davenport, Iowa. A number of bridge types are represented including truss, cantilever, suspension, arch, and girder.


Web Projects

Route 6: The Longest Transcontinental Highway


Forthcoming Projects

Video Documentary: Zebulon Montgomery Pike: Explorer of the Upper Mississippi River

Pike's exploration of the Upper Mississippi River in 1805 was overshadowed by the Lewis and Clarke expedition up the Missouri. Pike compiled extensive records, including a detailed map of the river, negotiated with Native Americans, and sited locations for American forts. His name is one of the most recognizable in the United States because of the peak in Colorado named for him. This video documentary tells the story of the little known, but important Pike Mississippi River expedition.



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This book tells the stories of a diverse set of bridges, past and present, within the study area that extends from Muscatine, Iowa, through the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, to Savanna, Illinois, on the Upper Mississippi River.