Prelude to “Thordarson and Rock Island”


There is only one biography written about Thordarson, and it was authored by Icelander Steingrimur Jonsson. It was not translated into English. What appears in these pages that follow isn’t a biography (although parts may resemble a biography) but rather excerpts from Thordarson’s life placed in an understandable sequence, depicted through correspondence, documents and photos.

I am convinced his unedited letters provide an excellent insight – perhaps the only insight – into Thordarson’s mind. While many are straight-forward business letters, often filled with seemingly ordinary exchanges, even these help create a more accurate picture of who this remarkable man was and what drove his actions. At times his words surprise us with their frankness and insensitivity, as well as the expected wisdom and breadth of knowledge.

This business of back-and-forth letter writing between Thordarson and his friends, relatives and associates was a primary means of communication, at least in the early 1900s. This opportunity to peer into a bygone era is a secondary reason I elected to include whole letters, not just excerpts. Each letter helps capture the times and circumstances of its author.

Because Thordarson wrote so often and saved so many documents – even those letters we might consider unflattering – we can track his thought process and personality traits. The documents carefully selected for this book represent only a fraction of those that exist.

His documents were often lengthy, sometimes several typed pages, and because each writer used his own particular style and organization, I’ve chosen to present them in a standardized form. This standardization helps to conserve page space. Words that are italicized come from these documents; words in regular typeface are my own.

Along with his saved documents, there were also numerous photos of varying quality. Many of these appear to have been taken by Thordarson himself, or they reveal his direction. The images in these pages will help to further describe his business and social associations, and in particular his association with Rock Island.

It is my objective to show how Thordarson’s life and Rock Island intersected.

May you find Thordarson and Rock Island as fascinating a subject as I have.

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