Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Northwestern States
Iowa Davenport

Davenport, Iowa

Davenport was chartered as a city in 1839.

Discussions of a water works had taken place as early as 1855, but it was not until 1869 that a water works franchise was awarded, which proved unsuccessful.  Another attempt in 1871 was also futile, but in 1873 Michael Donohue received a 25-year franchise, formed the Dubuque Water Company, and built a system that began operating on February 2, 1874. 

Davenport Water Works, from Map of Scott County, by A. T. Andreas. (1875) Davenport Water Company advertisement from Owen's Davenport Directory for 1878, page 80

The company had a fairly uneventful life and was sold in June 1927 to the American Water Works and Electric Company.  They reincorporated the company in Delaware in 1930 and became the American Water Works Company, Inc., in 1947.  In 1985 the Davenport Water Company was reorganized and merged with the Clinton Water Works and renamed Iowa American Water Company.

Water is supplied by Iowa American Water.

1855 "Water Works," The Morning Democrat (Davenport, Iowa), January 20, 1855, Page 2.
A company has been organized in Dubuque for the purpose of supplying the denizens of that city with water.   It is time that water works were established here.  Mr. LeClaire has reserved the most elevated site in all this region of country for that very purpose and no doubt would become a heavy stockholder were such a company to be formed in this city.  What has become of fellow citizen, Sylvester Marsh, Esq., who whilome took so much interest in this matter. 

1855 "City Water Works," The Morning Democrat (Davenport, Iowa), May 10, 1855, Page 3.

1869 "Notice of Incorporation," Daily Davenport Democrat, December 3, 1869, Page 1.
The Davenport Water Company, December 1, 1869.  John E. Henry, President; John L. Swits, Secretary.

1870 "Water Works," Daily Davenport Democrat, February 5, 1870, Page 1. | part 2 |
And proposed ordinance to Davenport Water Company.

1870 "Water Works Ordinance," The Morning Democrat, March 10, 1870, Page 4. | Part 2 |
Exclusive 25-year ordinance, city to furnish hydrants and pay for cost of installation, company to provide water for free.

1871 "Water Works," Daily Davenport Democrat, March 1, 1871, Page 1.
Council to be asked for a charter.  S. Clinton Hastings, Esq. of New York.

1872 Scott v. the City of Davenport, 34 Iowa 208, June 5, 1875, Supreme Court of Iowa.

1872 Anamosa Eureka, June 27, 1872, Page 1.
The Superior Court of Iowa has decided that Davenport may not issue bonds for the erections of water works, on the grounds that it would exceed the constitutional limit of the city's indebtedness.

1872 An ordinance to M. Donohue and his associates to provide for the supply of water for the citizens of Davenport, Iowa, for domestic use and fire protection.  December 4, 1872.

1872 "Water Works," Daily Davenport Democrat, December 5, 1872, Page 1.
Charter adopted in favor of M. Donahue and his associates.

1873 "Water Works," Daily Davenport Democrat, January 13, 1873, Page 1.
Davenport Water Works Company incorporated to-day.

1873 "Notice of Incorporation," Daily Davenport Democrat, January 14, 1873, Page 1.
Davenport Water Company.

1873 "The Water Works Injunction," Daily Davenport Democrat, January 17, 1873, Page 1.
Restraining the city from collecting a tax for the use of hydrants.

1873 "The Water Works," Daily Davenport Democrat, January 27, 1873, Page 1.
Engineer Greene's Plan of Operation.

1873 "Water Works," Daily Davenport Democrat, March 7, 1873, Page 1.
The Davenport Water Company has adopted the cement pipe for its works in this city.

1873 Grant v. The City of Davenport et al., 38 Iowa 396, April 28, 1873, Iowa supreme court

1873 "Settled at Last," Daily Davenport Democrat, April 29, 1873, Page 1.
The decision of Judge Brannan in refusing to grant an injunction against the City of Davenport and Davenport Water Company sustained b the Supreme Court.

1873 "In Davenport," Chicago Tribune, September 20, 1873, Page 8.
A portion of the funds of the Davenport Water Works Company, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars, had been deposited with Jay Cook & Co., of New York.  Luckily the last draft of $50,000 was paid last week.

1874 "Success of the Davenport Water Works," Muscatine Weekly Journal, February 6, 1874, Page 2.
Davenport, Feb. 3. The official test of the new water works yesterday showed that they are a success.  Streams of water were thrown 200 to 250 feet high.  The works have cost about $300,000.

1882 Davenport, from Engineering News 9:419 (December 9,  1882)

1882 Davenport from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1884 Davenport Water co. v. City of Davenport, June 7, 1884, 64 Iowa 55, Supreme Court of Iowa.
An ordinance, which was a part of the contract between the parties hereto, provided that, “during the first five years of this charter,” the defendant should pay plaintiff, as an annual rental for each hydrant constructed as provided therein, a certain sum, and for each succeeding five years a certain reduced annual rental. The hydrants were not constructed until some months alter the ordinance was adopted and the contract made:-—HeId that the first five years began with the date of the ordinance, and not with the date when the city subsequently began to pay rent for the hydrants.

1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. March 1886

1887 First album of the city of Davenport, Iowa
Pages 5-6: The Davenport Water Company.
Before entering into a description of the works of the Davenport Water Company, it is no idle boast to say that, without exception, Davenport has the most complete system of water-works, both for fire protection and sanitary purposes, of any city in the west.
The Davenport Water Company is a private corporation, which was organized through the efforts of the late ex-Mayor Michael Donahue. What a monument to the public spirit and enterprise of the Hon. Michael Donahue are the Davenport Water-Works! He was the originator and founder of them. His capital, and that of his brother, Col. Peter Donahue, whom he enlisted in the cause, built them. Both the brothers are dead, but the good they did in this community will be a memory here to the last generation. Their sons, James P. Donahue, of Davenport, and James M. Donahue, of San Francisco, have inherited their energy and enterprise. The constant improvement of the water-works is evidence of it.
It was on December 4th, 1872, that the City Council chartered the Davenport Water Company, and on February 2d, 1874, the works were tested as to their efficiency with fire streams, and all was done, and more too, than the Company guaranteed.
The plant of this Company comprises a reservoir, low and high-service pumping-stations, known as Pumping-Station No. 1 and Pumping-Station No. 2.
The reservoir is located at the highest elevation in the city, and has a capacity of 5,000,000 gallons. No money was spared in its construction; the best of material and labor that could be had was used. It was built in 1883, and cost $100,000.
Pumping-Station No. 1. — Pumping capacity, 11,000,000 gallons every twenty-four hours. This pumping-station comprises the original works, and is situated on the Mississippi river, about a mile above the Government bridge. The pumping-house is a large, two-story building, 68x93 feet, including the boiler-room.
There are two sets of pumps and engines in this station. Pumping-engine No. i is a condensing set of duplex engines of 5,000,000 gallons capacity per twenty-four hours, built by the Clapp & Jones Manufacturing Company. Pumping-engine No. 2, which has been recently placed upon foundations, is a high-duty Worthington duplex compound condensing engine, and capable of delivering 6,000,000 gallons per twenty-four hours against a head of 345 feet.
Pumping-Station No. 2. — Pumping capacity, 5,000,000 gallons per twenty-four hours. The bluff, or high service, or all that portion lying above Sixth street, is supplied by reservoir water delivered by the pumps at this station, which are situated at the reservoir. These engines are vertical, of the duplex compound condensing type. In precisely thirty seconds, the pumps of station No. 2, which are continually running for the high service, can be changed so as to pump into the gravity service, and pump down hill in case the reservoir pressure is not sufficient for fire purposes.
Then, too, there is another resource in case of fire, and that is pumping-station No. 1 can be set in motion and give all the additional pressure necessary. This means that the piping system is so designed that the pumps at station No. i and station No. 2 can pump at the same time at their respective ends of the distribution mains, thereby insuring increased pressure — an almost unlimited supply of water and pressure in time of fire.
For the fire and sanitary supply of the city, there are 253 public and 9 private, or a total of 262, fire hydrants. There are 27 miles of main pipe, from four to sixteen inches in diameter, and about 1,200 water consumers.
The Water Company, aside from its enormous expenditure in establishing the works, is at a heavy constant outlay to sustain them. The operating expenses of the two pumping-stations being no small expenditure. Still, the rates charged for water furnished consumers, in many instances, are lower than those charged in other western cities, and is in but few cases more, and the citizens in other places are by no means so perfectly served.
The Davenport Water Company is entitled to the thanks, not only of the citizens generally, but particularly of every owner of a home or business block. It guarantees them against loss by fire, as has been shown by the records of the fire losses. It is doubted if any single individual has done more to make Davenport known abroad, or contributed more to its enduring prosperity, than the enterprising late lamented Hon Michael Donahue.
The present officers of the Company are: Nicholas Kuhnen. President; James P. Donahue, Vice-President and Secretary; Thos. N. Hooper, Inspector and Chief Engineer.
The above named officers, with: Col. James M. Donahue, San Francisco, California, and J. H. Murphy and F. H. Griggs, Davenport, constitute the Board of Directors.

1888 "Davenport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1889 Ordinances of the City of Davenport: Passed Since the Adoption of the Revised Ordinances of 1884
Pages 113-119:  AN ORDINANCE to provide for the supply of water for domestic use and fire protection, and to amend an ordinance entitled “An Ordinance to provide for the supply of water for the citizens of Davenport, Iowa, for domestic use and for fire protection,” passed and approved December 4th, 1872, and to extend the grant to the Davenport Water Company. June 5, 1889.

1890 "Largest Filters in the World," Chicago Herald, November 27, 1890, Page 5.
A Chicago Company Fitting out the Dayenport (Iowa) Water Works

1890 "Davenport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Davenport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa.

1892 A description of the plant of the Davenport Water Company, by James P. Donahue

1897 "Davenport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1902 "Improvements at Davenport," Fire and Water 31:193 (June 10, 1902)

1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. Central Business District

1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. Volume 1 | Volume 2 |

1910 History of Davenport and Scott County, by Harry E. Downer.
Pages 706-707:  Davenport Water Company
One of the public utilities of which the citizens of Davenport are justly proud is their waterworks system and filter plant, operated by the Davenport Water Company.  In the early '70s, the citizens of Davenport began to plan a waterworks system, but the city being in debt to the constitutional limit, it was impossible to undertake the work.  Hon. Michael Donahue, a former mayor of the city, stepped to the front and offered to install a water system provided the city would give him a resonable franchise under which to work.  The conditions of the franchise were agreed upon, passed and approved on December 4, 1872, and accepted by Mr. Donahue December 5, 1872.
In the early spring of 1873 ground was broken for the erection of a suitable pump house and system of pipes.  The system laid at that time consisted of twenty miles of main pipes and 245 fire hydrants, and provided fire protection not only for the business section but for the bluffs and residence portions.  While this plan was successful in providing fire protection, to do this work endangered both the pumps and the main pipe system.  For that reason a reservoir, with a capacity of 5,000,000 gallons, was built, and a pumping station erected on Ripley street between Fourteenth and Fifteenth streets.  The system of mains was then divided into high and low pressure service, the reservoir supplying the bluff district and the river station supplying the downtown district of the city.  By this system fire service is given under lower pressure with better results and the danger of the pumps and mains is minimized.
For the first few years after the installation of this system the company did not receive the patronage expected on account of the trubidity of the water and it was to provide pure, clean water that eighteen years ago, investigations were made by Colonel James P. Donahue, son of the late Michael Donahue, with the view of filtering the water for the entire city.  Careful search was made for a source of supply other than the river, but quality and quantity were not to be found.  Colonel Donahue then visited a number of cities where mechanical filtration had been installed but not successfully operated.  Notwithstanding the defects in other companies, the Davenport Water Company had the courage to invest a large amount of money in installing the filtering plant which has proven so very satisfactory.
In February, 1908, they again started to enlarge their plant, adding more filters and remodeling the old ones.  They also put in a new independent system for washing the filters and erected a large air compressor for aerating the sand beds.  This is done every night, to keep the sand beds in sanitary condition.  In fact, the filters are the most spectacular pressure filters in the United States, and are daily delivering millions of gallons of pure, sparkling water to the citizens of Davenport.
No description can give an adequate account of the magnitude of the plant at Station No. 1, and only by a visit to this institution can a full idea be obtained.  The company is always willing and pleased to show visitors about its plant.

1911 "The Water System at Davenport," Fire and Water Engineering 50:404 (November 29, 1911)

[1925] Report on valuation of the property of the Davenport Water Company, by F. E. Turneaure

1927 "Buys Davenport Water Company," The New York Times, June 23, 1927, Page 38.
The acquisition of the Davenport Water Company, serving the City of Davenport, Iowa, was announced yesterday by the American Water Works and Electric Company, Inc.  There are 12,000 customers attached to the mains of the company.  It will be grouped for operation and general management with the thirty-three other water works now under the control of the parent company.

1940 "An Industrial History of Scott County," by Thomas P. Christensen, The Annals of Iowa 22(5):345-391 (Summer 1940)
Pages 376-378: In 1913 the Davenport Water Company applied to the city council for a new franchise.  As the old  franchise gave the city the option of purchase, a number of citizens proposed that the city should avail itself  of the privilege.  They pointed out that the municipal water plant, of Washington, D.C. only charged its customers half of what was charged by the local company. Still, the rates charged in Davenport were reasonable  in comparison with those charged in other Iowa cities. Moreover, the company now paid $9,000 in taxes annually.  The quality of the water furnished was excellent and the service satisfactory. Davenport boosters believed that  the local waterworks were the best in the world.  When the proposition was put to a vote of the people it was turned down by a large majority, and the city council granted the company a franchise to run for 25 years from  January  1, 1914.
Production costs increased to such an extent during the World War that the council granted the company's request for an increase in rates. A few years later the  company sold a new bond issue and made  various improvements, such as adding new filters, the old ones having been in use since 1890. 
In 1927 the American Waterworks  and  Electrical  Company, a holding company organized in the State of Delaware with a perpetual charter, acquired the Davenport  waterworks for the sum of $2,462,000 — or less.  The next year the new owners asked for an increase in the rates which was granted on the condition that the company in return give  the city an option of purchase at $2,900,000; to which amount in the event of purchase, was to be added the cost of later improvements.
The question of purchase again began to be agitated in 1935.  Those in favor of a municipal plant carried on a vigorous campaign for more than a year.  In a public statement to the people the water company referred to its policy, adopted  seven years ago, of not trying to influence public opinion on the question of municipal ownership. It was ready, however, to meet the demand for lower rates and charges. At  the special election on November 27, 1936, municipal ownership was defeated by a vote of 5,101 to 2,223.
The new franchise was to run for only fifteen years.  It provided for a reduction to every customer of 12.5 per cent  below the base rate established by ordinance through a uniform decrease in all rates, and by making permanent,  as a uniform rate reduction, the current temporary discount for prompt payment.  Furthermore, the franchise fixed the minimum bill per month at 61.25 cents.  The hydrant rental  was  reduced $6 per hydrant, making a total annual saving to the city of nearly $8,000,
In March, 1936, there were 133 miles of mains, 1,318 fire hydrants, and 13,200 water consumers. The city's population used about 5,000,000 gallons of water a day in winter, and about 7,000,000 gallons in summer.

1940 Moody's Manual of Investments, Public Utilities Securities
Pages 1131-1132:  Davenport Water Company (Controlled by American Water Works and Electric Co., Inc.)
Incorporated in Delaware February 17, 1930, with a perpetual charter and acquired the properties of a company with the same name incorporated in Iowa Jan 13, 1972. On Jan. 5, 1940 announced purchase of Betterndorf Water Co.

1950 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. Volume 1 | Volume 2 |

1956 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. Volume 1 | Volume 1a | Volume 2 |

1971 Davenport Water Co. v. Iowa State Commerce Commission, 190 N.W. 2d 583, Supreme Court of Iowa

1974 "Inauguration of Utility Regulations in Iowa:  The Davenport Water Company Case," by David H. Ciscel, Nebraska Journal of Economics and Business 13(2):51-61 (1974)

2000 "Davenport Water Company Pumping Station #1," by Marlys A. Svendsen. August, 2000.  Thanks to the State Historical Society of Iowa in Iowa City for providing this.
21-page site inventory form providing narrative history of water treatment in Davenport, 1870-1997.

Davenport Water Company, Pumping Station #2 & Ripley Street Reservoir, National Register of Historic Places | Wikipedia page |

© 2020 Morris A. Pierce