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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

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


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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A typical brick manufacturing operation in the 1800s.
Heim brickyard c.1900. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
BRICK MANUFACTURING. An announcement was made in November, 1855 that at least one brick-making machine might be brought to the city the following spring. The EXPRESS AND HERALD declared such an occurrence would be necessary if the city was to house its growing population. (1)

In 1891 clay from the farm of Robert W. STEWART was shipped to a brick manufacturer in Philadelphia. Its return in the form of high quality pavement brick indicated the beginning of a new industry for Dubuque. (2) In the late nineteenth century, most brick works were similar. Soak pits were used to prepare and mix clay. Clay was mixed with water and soaked overnight for softening so that it could be shaped into bricks using wooden forms. (3)

In the early days, the drying process called "edging" required that the bricks be placed on their sides. Children earned ten cents an hour helping the turn the bricks. (4)

Longer drying periods of up to three weeks occurred in "alleys." When the bricks were dry enough, they were placed in kilns to be burned--a process from which they got their red color. "Mobile kilns" were taken to the construction sites for brick making with cooks accompanying the workers on out-of-town jobs. (5) The kilning process took from two to three days and then varying times to cool. Bricks closest to the fire were called "maroon bricks." A dark red color, these were used on outside walls. Bricks furthest away from the fire were called "soakers" because they absorbed water. These were used in the construction of inside brick walls. (6)

Once technology began to take over, molding the bricks into the proper shapes became easier by using a soft-mud brick machine. The machine automatically shaped the pieces of clay into the form of bricks. A talented brick maker could produce about 4,000 bricks per day by hand. By the 1890s, some brick machines could even produce up to 5,000 bricks per hour.

Brick making in Dubuque was a casualty for many companies during the GREAT DEPRESSION.




1. "The Prospects of Dubuque," Express & Herald, November 27, 1855, p. 2

2. "Paving Brick in Dubuque," Dubuque Herald, January 1, 1891, p. 4

3. Thran, Sally. "Foundation for Early Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, July 16, 1961, (Dubuque News) p. 1

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Thompson, Bob. Born on a Mountaintop. New York: Crown Trade Group, 2012, p. 46

7. "Caught on the Fly," The Daily Herald, February 9, 1876, p. 4

8. "Changed His Base," The Daily Herald, December 1, 1878, p. 4

9. "Caught on the Fly," The Dubuque Herald, May 2, 1885, p. 4

10. "Death of W. E. Bentley," The Herald, September 5, 1891, p. 4

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

Historic Brick Manufacturers of Dubuque


A. Graham corner of Hill and 5th Street

P.S. Wells corner of Hill and 5th Street


John Behrens Division near Lake

Caleb Knapp KNAPP BRICKYARD head of Third


John Blake Mineral near Seventeenth

Anton Heeb south side of Eagle Point Ave. near Couler Ave.

Hughes & Hutton head of Third

Mrs. Harriet Wells north east corner of Fifth and Hill


A. Knapp southwest corner of Julien Ave. and Nevada

Bernard J. O'Neill west side of Hill between Fifth and Pine. In 1876 he purchased 1.5 acres once owned by Brown & Hedley for brick making giving him six acres "of the best material for brick making in the city." (7) In the winter, O'Neill became a grain buyer. (8)


John Heim Couler Ave. and 29th

Hildebrand & Ham on Division

August Roeber Eagle Point


T.B. Ham 740 High

Platz & Dietrich Division

August ROEBER north side of Lake east of 9th


Hutton & Curry 495 West 5th

A.J. Knapp West end West 3rd

C. Knapp corner of Grandview and Dodge

C.H. Mattox corner of Hill and 5th

J. Platz Division

A. Roeber head of Lake


Graham corner of Hill and 5th


August Roeber west side Lake between 6th and 7th

O.C. Knapp near corner Dodge and Grandview


Frank Chesterman (location unknown) employed up to eight men. (9)


John Dietrich 93 Lincoln

D. Maggenburg east side of Broadway north of Diagonal


William Bentley 204 Delhi. Operated this brickyard for two years. (10)


Dietrich Bros 1203 Lincoln

Eagle Point Lime Works Lime near Lincoln

Albert Gasser Grandview and Fremont, 307 Grandview

Mrs. Agatha Heim 3403 Couler Ave.


Dietrich & Beutin yards on hill west of Lincoln and Ann


John Heim Broadway Extension