Quad Cities Did It First

The Quad Cities are home to many firsts. I love hearing about the history of our beloved region. Since I think we’re the best, it seems logical we’d also be first quite often.

Favorite Quad Cities Firsts:

  1. Three firsts have to do with bridges
    The first bridge across the Mississippi River opened in 1856. It was only open for 15 days before it was struck by a steamboat and burned.

    The first four-lane bridge across the Mississippi
    , the Centennial Bridge, opened in 1940.
    The first bridge to have a 360° span
    (and I think the only, at least currently, though I had a hard time verifying this) is The Government Bridge. Affectionately called by Quad Citizens the Arsenal bridge, this one is over a century old (built in 1896) and still has lots of life left in it!
  2. The first appendectomy in the United States was on January 4, 1885 at Mercy Hospital in Davenport. Here’s a bit more about the story and the history of the first appendectomies in London and Canada.
  3. The first chiropractic college in the world was established in 1897 right here in the QC. Palmer College of Chiropractic was started by Daniel David Palmer labeled the founder of chiropractic medicine though his son B.J. Palmer is considered the one who developed the practice and expanded the school.
  4. The first sliced bread was eaten here. To be exact: the first single loaf bread-slicing machine was invented in Davenport in 1912 by Otto Frederick Rohwedder. Though his prototype was burned in a fire and a fully functioning machine wasn’t working until 1928, the QC can still claim the first machine-sliced bread. What could be better than sliced bread?
  5. The first NFL football game was played at Douglas Park in Rock Island in 1920. The Rock Island Independents beat the St. Paul Ideals 48-0. Douglas Park has been recently upgraded and future plans developed by Friends of Douglas Park include a museum in the old firehouse documenting the first game. Each year a vintage football game is played in the historic location.

    Photo courtesy of David Sebben taken at the 2016 vintage football game.
  6. The first high school in the country to cost more than $1 million was Rock Island’s fourth high school which opened in 1937. The stadium was built a decade prior but plans were put on hold for the new high school building due to the Great Depression.
    Courtesy of Curt Teich Archives
  7. Rumor has it that the first idea for the computer was written on a bar napkin at Hunter’s Club in Rock Island in 1937 or 1938. It not clear if Hunter’s was the exact location or even if the idea was put down on paper. However, the legend definitely names Rock Island. A few years ago there was a film crew in town documenting the story.

Many thanks to Jeff Adamson for inspiring this post. He presented a program at the Butterworth Center and Deere-Wiman House in Moline called Twisted Tales of the Quad Cities. It was a great presentation highlighting some of the lesser known Quad Cities historical facts and legends.

Are there more Quad Cities firsts you know about? Share them in the comments!




About the author

Meghan Cooley Meghan Cooley moved to the Quad Cities from St. Charles, IL, as an Augustana College student over 20 years ago. She left briefly after graduation and then returned to work in admissions and then marketing at Augustana College for 18 years. She now works as a consultant for admissions marketing and social media. She also does copy editing and writes for the Quad City Moms Blog. Now a true Quad Cities transplant, Meghan lives in Rock Island with her husband, Luke (R.O.W.V.A. and Augustana grad and Modern Woodmen employee) and four boys. She loves living in the Quad Cities and finds it the perfect place to raise a family, plan a date night, and go on adventures.

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