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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.”
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Plant c. 1911Image courtesy: Center for Dubuque History, Loras College and http://www.cityofdubuque.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2926
Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Brunswick Recreation Building. Image courtesy: Joe Jacobsmeier
A talcum powder dispenser for pool halls. Photo courtesy: Jim Massey

BRUNSWICK-BALKE-COLLENDER COMPANY. By 1884, Brunswick a Chicago-based company, joined with rivals to become “The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company,” the largest billiard equipment operation in the world, larger than all its competitors combined. Expansion of the product line included elaborate and ornate front and back bars made of rich woods, flawless mirrors, and stained glass.

Originally offered as special order items, these items developed such demand that in 1911 a new factory was built in Dubuque, Iowa. Work began in June and when completed the plant encompassed 35 acres of land including a 115-foot high smokestack on the power plant building. One year later the first shipment of new machinery and supplies arrived on 25 railroad cars. (1) People on the Northend soon became accustomed to the plant whistle that sounded at the beginning of the workday, at the noon break and 30 minutes later to signal back to work and again at the end of the day. (2) Located at Jackson Street and Peru Road, this plant manufactured and shipped bar equipment around the world. Billed as the "Largest Bar Fixture Factory in the World," the company employed five hundred people. (3) The bars won design awards at international exhibitions and were used in popular bars and restaurants around the country.

The company began the production of media radios in the 1920s. On April 1-4, 1930 the plant closed for inventory and was purchased by Warner Brothers on April 10th. The new company, called Brunswick Radio Corporation, manufactured radios, phonographs and loudspeakers. Employment averaged between 400-500 people. As the GREAT DEPRESSION, continued fewer and fewer people could afford the machines. The plant closed in December 1931. (4)

The factory remained empty for several years before Warner Brothers refurbished the grounds with the intent to lease it. In 1937 Northome Furniture, GENERAL DRY BATTERIES, Dubuque Corregated Box Company, and McNaught Metal Products Company. The factory was eventually the property of FLEXSTEEL INDUSTRIES, INC. At its peak, the plant employed 1,300 people. (5)

A bar produced by the company.
Craftsmen near their work. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Located on the corner of 32nd and Jackson, the Brunswick Recreation Building offered a bowling alley, gymnasium, and restaurant. Illustration by Norman Zepeski.
This bar background was constructed in the 1880s for the Louisville Inn located in Louisville, Colorado. Built to fit, this enormous piece has no nails used in its construction.
Pool rack produced by the company.
Trade token-face
Trade token-back
Beautiful wooden cabinets were produced by the Brunswick-Balke-Colender Company. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Salesman's sample bar display.
Employee picture, December 11, 1922. Photo courtesy: Marleen Tulas. Photo editing: John Pregler



1. Kruse, Len. "Memories of Brunswick," Over 49 News & Views," December, 1991, p. 3

2. Ibid.

3. "Way Back When," Telegraph Herald, Undated article. Courtesy: Diane Harris

4. Kruse

5. Kruse