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Posted on: September 14, 2023

Rock Island Library Documentaries Bring History to Light

Four local history images: Railroad bridge, Civil War prison, Lock & Dam 15, Local architecture

As part of its 150th anniversary year, the Rock Island Public Library has been bringing local history to the forefront. One of those projects is a new fall video series coming up at the Downtown Library.

As part of the library’s continuing focus on local history, the Rock Island Public Library is presenting four video documentary screenings on Rock Island history. From the first railroad bridge to span the Mississippi to legacy architecture, the September to December series highlights major events in the City over the past 150 years.  

The series is part of the Library's 150th anniversary year, which extends from November 2022 to November 2023. All four programs in the documentary series are presented at 2 pm, at the Rock Island Downtown Library, 401 19th Street. Upcoming programs are as follows: 

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

Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 2pm, Downtown Library 

This documentary tells the story of the 1856 Rock Island to Davenport bridge that first spanned the Mississippi, connecting East Coast rails to the West. The bridge was a crucial link in the transcontinental railroad, leading to increased settlement of the West. The video covers the roles of Henry Farnam, who championed the railroad, and of then-lawyer Abraham Lincoln, who defended the railroad’s right to bridge the river. 

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

Tuesday, October 17 at 2pm, Downtown Library 

The documentary tells the story of the Rock Island Civil War prison camp on Arsenal Island, and how it acquired the un-deserved reputation as the “Andersonville of the North.” Rare photographs and quotes from prisoner diaries reveal what conditions were like for thousands of Confederate soldiers. Other topics include the Copperhead movement in the North, and how the “battle for history” continued long after the Civil War ended. 

East Meets West (copyright 2017) and the Rock Island Civil War Prison (copyright 2012) are both productions of Heritage Documentaries of Moline. 

The Mississippi – River of Life

Tuesday, November 14 at 2pm, Downtown Library 

The video is an overview of the construction of Lock and Dam 15 in the 1930s, the first project completed on the Upper Mississippi River as part of an overall project to create a nine-foot navigation channel. The video offers information about Upper Mississippi River history, river navigation, locks and dams, and the locking process. It was produced jointly by Friends of the Quad Cities and the US Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, as part of the Mississippi River Project. 

Historic Architecture: Old Friends Are Worth Keeping

Tuesday, December 12 at 2pm, Downtown Library

Rock Island is blessed with interesting historic architecture, and this video addresses the importance of preserving historic homes, buildings, and neighborhoods in Rock Island. The video was produced by the Rock Island Preservation Commission and the City of Rock Island in 2004 and 2005. 

All of the above events are presented at no charge, and are open to the public. Registration is not required. 

For more news and events about the Rock Island Library, visit the library website, call 309-732-READ, or follow Library social media sites. 


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