If you’re familiar with Council Bluffs history you’re no doubt familiar with the photograph above. For those of you who aren’t, this is Broadway looking west from the corner of 4th Street and West Broadway. Broadway turns into prairie at about 7th Street. Initially there was a notation on the picture saying it was taken in 1858, but a later note puts the date at 1864. So how do we know that 1864 is a more accurate date? Well, let’s take a look.
I zoomed into the picture trying to look for clues and noticed some poles running along the south side of Broadway:
Telegraph poles! Turns out that the first telegraph office opened in Council Bluffs in January of 1862.
This was such good news for the Weekly Nonpareil that they decided to start publishing a daily newspaper and thus raising their rates. So we know now this photograph was taken after 1862.
The next clue came in the form of an elephant.
The elephant was painted on the side of a building on the Empire Block, a block of buildings between Main and Pearl. Built in 1855 they were the first block of brick buildings in the area. Merchants would tell shoppers to look for the “sign of the elephant”. The Empire Block was destroyed by fire on June 25, 1867. There wasn’t any equipment available in the city to fight such a large fire, so it was a total loss. The Daily Nonpareil was one of the businesses that lost everything; paper, presses and their account books. The newspaper had no idea who their subscribers were or when subscriptions were due to renew. “If any of our patrons have any doubt as to the state of their accounts at the time of the fire, we hope they will give us the “benefit of the doubt” and send in a greenback with their name.” (Daily Nonpariel July 10, 1867.)
Another unfortunate tenant was the bank of Officer & Pusey, who moved into the Empire Block a week before the fire.
Now we know the picture was taken after 1862 and before 1867, so 1864 is probably as close as we’re going to get.
Of course we can’t stop there. What else can we find?
Kynett & Co. was located at 4th and Broadway and was run by Xenophon W. Kynett. Mr. Kynett was from Ohio and came to Council Bluffs in 1851. After 8 years in the dry goods business he sold his interest and turned to the manufacture of patent medicines. He was also a law and real estate partner of Dexter Bloomer for several years. In 1878 X. W. Kynett moved to St. Joseph, Missouri and he traveled around Kansas, Missouri and Iowa selling his patent medicines. He returned to Council Bluffs in 1888. Xenophon W. Kynett passed away in 1904 at the age of 77 and is buried in Fairview cemetery.
Solomon Bloom was born in Alsace France and was left motherless at birth. In 1849 at the age of 13 he immigrated to the United States with his Sister and Brother-in-law. He spent time in Maryland and Indiana before eventually making his way to Council Bluffs in 1856. Mr. Bloom formed a fast and lifelong friendship with John T. Stewart who worked in an adjoining office. The two traveled to Pike’s Peak in 1859. While there the two were offered 160 acres for a white horse in their possession. They turned down the offer and that land is now the present site of Denver, Colorado. In 1860 Solomon Bloom bought out the business of May and Weil and continued in business till 1877. He worked his way west opening stores in South Dakota and Wyoming until he eventually retired in California. When he died in 1919 his body was brought back to Council Bluffs and per his wishes, he was buried next to his friend John T. Stewart in Fairview Cemetery.
And lastly a different perspective. The photograph above was taken in 1868 and shows the south side of Broadway between Main and Scott streets, the building on the right shows us that after some new construction, Officer & Pusey are back in business. You also get a view of the Pacific House which is hidden in our 1864 picture. Bloom’s Outfitting is just to the right of the Pacific House. My favorite thing in the photograph is the ‘Golden Mortar’ which in 1862 stood outside of McClelland & Atkins, wholesale and retail druggists.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this “deeper dive” into one of our iconic photographs of Council Bluffs.