Primary tabs


Art. VI. — Commercial and Industrial Cities of the United States.




THE flourishing city of Dubuque is the oldest settlement in the State of Iowa. The history of its site dates from 1774, when Julien Dubuque, whose name it perpetuates, arrived in its vicinity and settled among the Sac and Fox Indians, first locating near Prairie du Chien. It is not certain to what extent he was acquainted with the real science of mineralogy, but it has been represented by some that he was quite well informed respecting it; this, however, is not material. In 1788, he received from the Indians a grant of the lead mine discovered by the wife of Peosta, an Indian chief. In 1796, he petitioned Don Carondelet, the governor of Louisiana, for a full grant of a tract of mining land on the western bank of the Mississippi, embracing the present city of Dubuque, which he said he had bought of the Indians. His petition was granted, and he retained the possession of the tract until his death in 1809, during which time lie was engaged in working and proving his mines. After his decease, the Indians possessed the tract and entire vicinity until they removed under the treaty of September 21st, 1832, when his legal representatives took possession of the land, and commenced large improvements. The United States government, however, claimed the same land by virtue of a subsequent purchase from the Indians; and, in 1833, forcibly ejected the settlers. Immediately after the government purchased the Province of Louisiana, which was in 1803, Congress passed a law reserving the mines from sale. By the act of 1807, provision was made for the leasing of the mines around Galena, though no leases were granted until 1822. From that time mining operations increased around Galena every year, but were not commenced in Iowa. In 1835, the leasing system broke down; in 1841, it was revived; in 1845, the President of the United States recommended that the lands should be sold; in July, 1846, an act was passed for that purpose; and in the spring of 1847, they were sold according to law, resulting in giving immediate quiet to the region, and greater stability to the mining operations.


Only about one-tenth of the "lead region" of the Upper Mississippi is contained within the limits of Iowa; about one-eighth is in Illinois; and the remainder, or nearly four-fifths, in Wisconsin. On the Iowa side of the river, the ore is more abundant, and lies deeper than on the opposite side. The difference in the character of the diggings of the two sides is quite remarkable — those on the east side being clay diggings, in which mineral are often found in the clay within a few feet of the surface; while on the west or Iowa side, the miner is frequently obliged to sink his shaft through the rock more than one hundred feet. It is thought, however, that the greater abundance of the mineral in the rock deposit is more than a counterbalance to the ease of obtaining it in the clay.

The strip of land along the western or Iowa bank of the Mississippi, containing the lead deposits, extends through Dubuque County and Clayton County, which joins it on the north, embracing about eight townships, or 288 square miles. Its surface is uneven, and near the river it is frequently too rough for cultivation. There is, however, much excellent farming land in each county. West of the city the country is strikingly beautiful and well watered; it is a rolling prairie, interspersed with groves of timber, while along the small streams, running from north to south, there are large bodies of good timber and extensive water-power.

In 1832, the settlement of the city of Dubuque was commenced by Henry McCraney, who built the first house and settled the first white family on the Iowa side of the Mississippi above Keokuk. The post-office was established in July, 1833, Miles H. Prentice being the first post-master. The office was first opened and kept in a small one-story log building, on the spot where the Messrs. Herron's bank building now stands. Succession of postmasters: — Miles H. Prentice, 1833-36; Guy H. Morrison, 1836-38; John King, 1838- 49; William H. Robbins, 1849-53; Charles Corkery, 1853-57.

The following table shows the progress in population of the city of Dubuque, of the county of Dubuque, and of the State of Iowa: —

  1840. 1850. 1852. 1854. 1856.
City of Dubuque 1,200 3,108 4,500 6,634 15,000
County of Dubuque 3,059 10,841 12,500 16,662 25,871
State of Iowa 43,112 192,214 230,000 326,014 509,414

In September, 1856, the Board of Education of the city caused to be made, for school purposes, a complete enumeration of all persons residing in the city between the ages of five and twenty. The following is an abstract of the result: —

  First ward. Second ward. Third ward. Fourth ward. Fifth ward. Total.
Males 274 120 302 377 273 1,346
Females 298 120 312 455 277 1,462
Total 572 240 614 832 550 2,808

The city is situated on a natural terrace of land, which is broad, and extends along the river for several miles. The area occupied by the city on the plain is about two miles long by half a mile wide. The city is


bounded on the west by a range of high bluffs, which do not approach the river so closely as those on the Illinois side, directly opposite. They are ascended by an admirably graded and macadamized road rising to a level and fertile table-land behind them; and the view thence of the city, of the river, of Dunleith, and of the surrounding country, including portions of Wisconsin, as well as of Iowa and Illinois, is seldom exceeded. Many persons regard the situation of the city as superior to that of any other town in Iowa. The appearance of the city is also of a superior character, since it is more compactly built, and contains a greater proportion of fine buildings than any other place in the State. The buildings on the bluffs are almost wholly made up of the residences of citizens, who attend to mercantile and other pursuits in the lower portion of the city; and for the most part they are of costly construction. The number of buildings erected in Dubuque in the year 1854 was 333; in 1855, 471; and in 1856, 502.

The following table presents a synopsis of the trade of Dubuque from 1851 to 1855, both inclusive:

  Steamboat Merchandise exported. Merchandise imported.
Years. Arrivals. Depart's. Tons. Value. Tons. Value.
1851 351 352 4,287 $233,239 59 20,662 $1,175,207
1852 417 418 13,284 629,140 00 23,926 1,670,390
1853 672 672 7,482 1,006,710 00 32,007 2,497,123
1854 846 845 12,034˝ 1,573,408 30 97,663 4,933,208
1855 908 906 24,215ź 3,689,266 50 276,690 11,266,845

The Dubuque Express and Herald of March 18th, 1857, contains a lengthy account of the buildings erected in Dubuque during 1856, and some statistics of the business of the city during the same year, from which we have compiled the following statement: —

Mercantile and Manufacturing Business.
Branches of trade. Number. Imports in 1856. Sales and exports in 1846.
Groceries 67 $3,423,000 85 3,936,450 00
Dry goods 57 3,595,200 00 3,749,547 00
Hardware 9 284,540 00 408,160 00
Iron warehouses 3 837,650 00 701,315 00
Boots and shoes 21 318,000 00 298,071 00
Hats, caps and furs 4 119,594 00 47,962 00
Crockery ware 2 82,000 00 90,740 20
Stoves and tinware 13 198,400 32 187,697 00
Clothing 29 321,987 00 332,720 00
Millinery 12 38,741 00  
Carpets, etc. 2 75,960 00  
Drugs and chemicals 11 198,460 00 247,118 00
Paints, oils, etc. 2 25,916 19 25,711 75
Books, stationery, etc. 4 92,765 00 105,876 00
Furniture 16 128,640 00  


Two houses deal exclusively in agricultural implements, seeds, etc. The amount of seeds imported into the city during 1856, in value, was $6,597; of agricultural implements, $41,763; of reapers and mowers, $79,321. There are two nurseries within the city limits, which brought in, during the fall of $5,657, and have exported $3,600 in the year.

The lumber business of Dubuque is of much importance. A large amount is brought from the pineries of Wisconsin and Minnesota in the log and for its manufacture into square timber, boards, shingles, and lath, there are two steams saw mills and one shingle manufactory. The amount of lumber imported in 1856 was, ready sawed, 15,961,880 feet; in the log and manufactured in the city, 73,479,000 feet; aggregate, 89,440,880 feet; shingles imported, 8,984,000, the total value of which amounted to $612,000.

There are four establishments that manufacture doors, sash, and blinds, employing on an average about sixty men. The amount of lumber used during the year was 573,000 feet, and valued at $10,055; value of manufactured articles sold, $73,000; amount of lumber planed for customers, 1,128,000 feet; lumber split, 200,000 feet.

There are five wagon shops, employing on an average fifty-five men; value of manufactures in 1856, $105,500; and aside from these there are several shops where repairing is done.

There are three iron foundries and two brass foundries. Connected with the former are machine shops. There is also, connected with one of them, a threshing-machine shop, which turned out ninety-five machines during 1856.

There are sixteen steam-engines used in the city for propelling machinery — three, are used in saw mills, three in flouring mills, two in sash factories, two in foundries and machine shops, two in cabinet shops, one in a feed mill, one in a wood yard, one in a shingle factory, and one in a printing office.

A steam-boiler and steam-engine manufactory was commenced near the close of the year 1856. Preparations are being made for the erection of three large saw mills in the forepart of 1857. Another extensive foundry and machine shop is in course of erection. In these and other improvements, with the contemplated enlargement of old establishments, it appears that the various manufacturing interests of Dubuque are highly prosperous, and will be greatly augmented the present year.

The following table shows the various branches of business carried on the city, and the number of establishments in each: —

Stores and shops: — Boot and shoe, 21; furniture, 16; stove and tin, 16. Stores: — Grocery, 67; dry goods, 57; clothing, 29; drug and medicine, 11; jewelry, 11; hardware and cutlery, 9; fruit and confectionery, 9; saddle, harness, and leather, 9; liquor, 6; cigar, 4; music stores, including piano rooms, 4; book and stationery, 4; iron and steel, 2; crockery and glass ware, 2; agricultural warehouses and seed stores, 2; periodical depots, 2. Shops: — Blacksmith, 19; tin, 11; paint, 10; wagon


repairing, 9; wagon, 5; coopers, 5; marble, 3; gunsmith, 3. Offices: — Law, 30; medical, 19; insurance, 12; dental, 2. Foundries: — Iron 3; brass, 2; smelting furnaces, 2. Factories: — Rectifying, 6; vinegar, 2; sash, blind, and door, 5; shingle, 1; planning machines, 6; saw mills, 3; flouring mills, 3; breweries, 6; bakeries, 5; lumber yards, 6; stone yards, 3; warehouses, 13; pork packing houses, 2. There are five livery stables, employing 154 horses, and a capital of $58,000. There are four daguerrian rooms; one express office, (three companies;) one telegraph office; and two stage offices. There is one plumber's establishment; two of lock-smiths; and three of gas fitters. There is one hook and Ladder Company and three fire-engine companies.

The embryo city of Dunleith, situated directly opposite Dubuque, is the northern terminus of the Illinois Central Railroad, which, by its connections, affords Dubuque constant communication with the East. The following is a statement of the merchandise delivered at Dunleith for Dubuque and points above it, from May to December, inclusive, in 1856, and of the freight charges for the same: —

  Lbs. freight. Charges.   Lbs. freight. Charges.
May 5,745,959 $52,386 77 September 17,683,354 $130,225 46
June 5,175,206 39,046 10 October 19,735,056 134,716 66
July 5,888,625 43,755 88 November 12,186,954 72,650 30
August 8,237,181 56,614 06 December 2,833,552 34,415 59
Total 77,485,889 $563,810 76

Of the first four months of 1856 no record could be obtained, but it would be fair to estimate the freight received at 32,948,724 pounds, and the charges at $226,456 24, which, added to the above, will make a total of 110,434,613 pounds received, and of $790,267 freight charges. Of the receipts more than one-fourth was for Dubuque.

During 1856, there were 908 arrivals of steamboats and 906 departures. The greatest number of arrivals and departures, 186, was in the month of May. The first arrival was the Alhambra from Galena, on 11th April; on the same day arrived the Metropolitan, the first from St. Louis; and on the 17th April the Fanny Harris, the first from Pittsburg. The last boat arrived from above was the Resolute, from La Crosse, on 2d December. The season of river navigation in 1856 was nearly eight months, which was one month less than the season of 1855.

There are three express companies — the American, E. Haydon, agent; the Northwestern, T. Adams, agent; and Parker's, Eaton, agent. During 1856, the transactions of these companies were as follows: — In receiving; $3,121,129 92 of moneys, and 1,565,448 pounds of merchandise. In forwarding, $4,580,961 of moneys, and 132,984 pounds of merchandise. These amounts of pounds do not include packages, which were a large proportion of the goods received.

There is one telegraph office, the business of which, in 1856, amounted in receipts to $4,800; total of messages sent and received, 7,200 — a large increase over the year 1855.

There are seven banking houses, conducted by firms with ample resources and of much experience; the first was established in 1844, the last in December, 1856. The amounts of exchange drawn by them during 1856 were — on New York, $4,936,208; Boston, $1,115,900; Chicago,


$1,027,953; St. Louis, $676,700; and on all other points, $294,300; total $8,051,061.

The business of the post-office affords an excellent criterion of the general progress of the city. In 1856, the number of letter bags received was 21,870, a daily average of nearly 60; newspaper bags, 6,570, a daily average of 18; letters distributed during the same year amounted to 8l,149,60; number of clerks, 11, at an aggregate salary of $6,600. The following are some statistics for three years: —

  1854. 1855. 1856.
Number of free letters 2,779 5,088 14,822
Postage on letters received for delivery. $3,561 30 $5,472 08 $8,420 49

The post-office is in the Odd Fellows' Building, erected in 1856, and is regarded as one of the most commodious and complete in the entire West.

The total number of buildings erected during 1856 was 502, of which 292 were frame, 178 brick, and 32 stone. The total expenditure for their erection was $1,167,145, this being entirely exclusive of the large expenditure made upon the ground on which they were constructed, and of the cost of the ground itself. The amount of $15,000 should be added for the cost of certain improvements of buildings not otherwise mentioned. The amount expended by the city authorities in grading streets, making sewers, etc. , during 1856 was $51,228 58. The Dubuque Harbor Company expended $51,228 58, and the Dubuque Harbor Improvement Company $41,636 78, in accordance with their respective contracts with the city.

We will mention some of the principal buildings erected in l856. Among these are several large hotels, increasing the whole number of hotels and inns in the city to eighteen. Their names and their reported cost are as follows: — Lawrence Hotel Block, $90,000; Larimie Hotel, 125,000; Graffort's Hotel Building, $30,000; Merchants' Hotel, $16,000; Kesler's Hotel Building, $16,000; and Adams's House, $14,000. The city now contains thirteen religious societies, three of which erected new houses of worship during the last year. The Alexander College Building is of stone, four stories high, 100 feet long, 40 feet deep, and when completed will probably cost $30,000. Early in the spring of 1856 the school system was reorganized, and appropriations were made for two new school buildings, one of which was completed at a cost of $23,000, and the second is under contract. The Odd Fellows' Hall will have cost when completed about $38,000. Messrs. Geo. Rogers & Co. erected a shot-tower, at a cost of $7,000, which has the following dimensions: — It is of square form; its base measures 26 feet, and at its base the walls are 9 feet in thickness; its height is, in all, 150 feet; to the height of 110 feet it is composed of substantial stone masonry, and the other portion, or 40 feet, is of brick. One of the finest business buildings in the city is Rebman's Block, which cost $30,000, and with this may be mentioned the Washington Block, which cost $15,000, and is in part occupied as the Julien Theater. The Iowa Brewery was erected at a cost of $10,000, and its capacity will permit of one hundred barrels of beer being manufactured daily. The Dubuque and Pacific Railroad Company erected on their grounds two frames, one an engine house, and the other a freight and passenger depot, at a cost for both buildings of $14,000.



1. The Merchants' Magazine of March, 1848, (vol. xviii. , pp. 285-298,) contains an article on the "Lead Region and Lead Trade of the Upper Mississippi," by Hon. E. B. WASHBURNE, of Illinois, to which the reader is referred for a more detailed account of the history of Dubuque and region by which it is surrounded.

2. He was a member of the first General Assembly of the Territory of Wisconsin, in which Iowa was then included, and was one of the delegates to form the State Constitution of Iowa. He also occupied many public trusts, and died at Dubuque, May 21, 1855.

3. The Merchants' Magazine of July, 1852, (vol. xxvii., page 138,) contains a statement of the business of Dubuque in 1851. The number of May, 1853, (vol. xxviii. , pp. 632-633,) contains Mr. G. R. West's detailed statement of the trade and commerce of Dubuque in 1852.

4. Including the goods manufactured in this line.

5. There are also eleven tin shops in the city, doing an aggregate business of $40,000 yearly.

6. Including the value of the clothing manufactured in the city during 1856, viz., $35,987.

7. These items include the transactions of the drug stores in paints, oils, etc.

8. Including $45,000 as the amount manufactured in the city.

9. Of the sixty-seven grocery establishments, ten are heavy wholesale houses; of the fifty-seven dry goods establishments, there are eleven that job goods, four of them exclusively; the items of imports of hardware and iron are exclusive of the items of sheet-iron, tin, zinc, and copper, the importation of which amounted to $76,000; of the twenty-one boot and shoe establishments, three are large jobbing houses, others do a jobbing and retailing business together, and several are new houses, started in 1856; of the drug stores, six are wholesale; a fifth book store opened in the spring of 1857.