Tuesday, September 19, 2 p.m.
Rock Island Public Library Downtown Branch, 401 19th Street, Rock Island IL
One of the most significant events in the history of American travel will, on September 19, be explored at the Rock Island Public Library's downtown branch when the venue hosts a special free screening of the documentary East Meets West: The First Railroad Bridge to Cross the Mississippi, an event in the library's Rock Island History series exploring the construction and legacy of the first bridge to connect the city with Davenport, Iowa in 1856.
Produced by the local non-profit Heritage Documentaries, director Julie Wine Johnston's 51-minute documentary tells the story behind the bridge that first connected Rock Island to Davenport in 1856, with details including: how Henry Farnam led the effort to build the railroad and the bridge; the dramatic collision with the steamboat Effie Afton just two weeks after the bridge was completed; and Abraham Lincoln's successful defense of the railroad's right to cross the river in the controversial trial that followed. The bridge was not only a symbol of conflict but a crucial link to the transcontinental railroad and settlement of the West, and on both local and national levels, its historic importance cannot be overstated.
East Meets West features interviews with Lincoln historian Douglas Wilson and historian/author Douglas Brinley, as well as bridge engineer Bill Ashton, Rock Island Arsenal historians George Eaton and Paul-Thomas Ferguson, and local residents with family connections to this significant site of the United States' westward settlement that came almost 20 years before the bridge in St. Louis. Davenport's River Action, one of the documentary's chief supporters, also granted the use of footage from a video promoting their first bridge reconstruction project. As Brinkley has stated: “If I were to pick the symbol, to put my thumb on a map of where that connection between East and West began, it was not at the arch in St. Louis (that's for Lewis and Clark history). The real beginning of connection east and west was the bridge that connected Rock Island, Illinois, with Davenport, Iowa."
East Meets West: The First Railroad Bridge to Cross the Mississippi will be screened in the Rock Island library's downtown branch on September 19, admission to the 2 p.m. event is free, and more information is available by calling (309)732-7323 and visiting RockIslandLibrary.org.