The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


August 30, 2013

Clinton at the turn of century

Clinton in 1900 was a typical river town, seven miles long and seven blocks wide.

The Jan. 6, 1908 Clinton Herald was replete with the Stanford White murder by Harry Thaw — the rich jealous husband of Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, the girl on the “Red Velvet Swing.” The front page had many stories of grave-robbers, gruesome accidents, murders, plagues, storms, robberies, and hydrophobia…in which 35 dogs had to be put down because they were “mad” with rabies.

The papers were filled with cures for diseases such as catarrh, tuberculosis, small pox, affinity, and rheumatism; vaccinations and antibiotics were not yet prevalent. Just one marriage in five ended in divorce, and shoppers at Kamp’s Grocers could get old chickens for 10 cents a pound or spring chickens for 12 cents. Top beef was 6 cents per pound, and people made a dollar a day.

The YMCA had a pool and a gym, and basketball was just taking off. Clinton Country Club was contemplating a new golf course, thanks to lawn mowers now able to cut a lot of grass. The game swept the country at that time. Upwardly-mobile men took up the sport first, but everyone soon joined the fun. Originally, there was just a field west of Franklin School; later, it was moved and became Kiwanis Golf Course on North 13th Street. The CCC moved to Harrison Drive in 1920, near the factory of O.D. Collis, an avid golfer.

City pioneer Reuben Ball died on Jan. 6, 1908. After being born in Kaskaskia, Ill. (in November of 1827), moving to Lyons (in 1850), and marrying Polly (in 1853). He built their home on Second Street in 1860 and, after his death, it passed to his wife, then to Barber/Banker “Pickles” Dreesen, and then to Richard Pollard (Camelot Restaurant).

As we know, Clinton’s first stage of growth was from 1855 until the turn of the century. The community grew rapidly to 20,000-plus and, as people moved up the economic ladder, they desired finer homes. The “courts” were probably the first new addition to Clinton, in about 1910.

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