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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BEACH, James

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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=bmds&id=I101

James Beach. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
BEACH, James. (Dover, NH, July 26, 1835--Dubuque, IA, Feb. 2, 1918). Beach came to Dubuque in 1858 from New Hampshire. His father, Lurandus Beach, started making soap on a small scale at Dover in 1828. When his son, the focus of this entry, was in too poor health to continue school, his father sent him out with a horse and wagon to trade soft soap for ashes and house grease from which more soap was made. (1)

Joseph Beach left home in 1857. He spent one year in Chicago and then moved to Dubuque where he formed a partnership with F. M. PLEINS in the DUBUQUE LARD-OIL, SOAP, AND CANDLE FACTORY, soap and candle manufacturers, at the corner of Dodge and Bluff STREETS. Candle-making was dropped and the company was renamed PLEINS & BEACH. (2)

In 1880 Beach bought out Pleins interest. Beach advertised his soap by hiring youth to distribute bars of soap, free-of-charge--to homes throughout the city with a circular explaining the gift.

In 1890 his second son Edward became his partner and the firm was renamed James Beach & Son. The demand for soap led in 1891 to the construction of a large, three-story brick building on the same site and forty men were hired. (3) The youngest son, Charles, joined the business in 1895 and the company was renamed James Beach & Sons. George Beach, the eldest son, joined the business in 1918. (4)

Locally, Beach held the office of city alderman and was the chairman of the city council's finance committee. His efforts resulted in city warrants, once selling at fifteen to twenty cents on the dollar, regaining their par value. He was also credited with securing WASHINGTON PARK and Grandview Avenue for the city.

Located at 11th and Locust, the house no longer exists.
Beach served several years as president of the National Soap Makers' Association. He was also the president of the Minnesota Soap Company. Beach and John T. HANCOCK led efforts organizing the LINWOOD CEMETERY Association, purchased the land and laid out the grounds. Beach, president of the Association for many years, was the last surviving member of its original board. He was also an original member of the board and president of FINLEY HOSPITAL (THE) and the GERMAN BANK. At the time of his death, he was president of the DUBUQUE PACKING COMPANY and the firm of James Beach and Sons, then the second oldest company in Dubuque.



1. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, October 31, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18801031&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. Kruse, Len, "Soap-Making Had an Interesting Dubuque Run Before Being Washed Up," Telegraph Herald, May 18, 1991 p. 13

3. Ibid.

4. "Beach's Soap More than Century Old," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, March 31, 1929, p. 77

Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 764