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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. The property was conveyed by the CHICAGO GREAT WESTERN RAILROAD from land which had been used division terminals in the city. The company agreed to construct a building costing at least $150,000 of which &75,000 was to be given by the DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION with the remainder provided by the company. The company also agreed to hire five hundred male employees the first year. (1) The company insisted that those employed belong to the union affiliated with the line of work for which they were hired. By January 1913 the company hoped to have 1,000 workers. (2)
In 1912 the first shipment of new machinery and supplies arrived on 25 railroad cars. (3) People on the north-end of the city soon became accustomed to the plant whistle that sounded the beginning of the workday, noon break and 30 minutes later to signal back to work, and the end of the day. (4)
Located at Jackson Street and 32nd Street, 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. (5) The bars won design awards at international exhibitions and were used in popular bars and restaurants around the country.
In 1914 a contract was received from the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph Company. The company's East Orange, New Jersey plant could not keep up with demand for cabinet work needed for their phonograph machines. The company began the production of radio cabinets in the 1920s. Employment soared to 1,650 people. (6)
On April 1-4, 1930 the plant closed for inventory and was purchased by Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. on April 10th. It was announced that three thousand workers would be employed after expansion. (7) 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. (8)
The factory remained empty for several years before Warner Brothers refurbished the grounds with the intent to lease it. The factory was eventually the property of FLEXSTEEL INDUSTRIES, INC.
1. "Brown Tells of Contract Terms," Dubuque Telegraph Herald, February 26, 1911, p. 15
2. "Cabinet Makers Needed," Dubuque Telegraph Herald, August 20, 1912, p. 3
3. Kruse, Len. "Memories of Brunswick," Over 49 News & Views," December, 1991, p. 3
5. "Way Back When," Telegraph Herald, Undated article. Courtesy: Diane Harris
6. "Turning Points, Telegraph Herald, September 25, 1983, p. 28
7. "Dubuque Will Be Main Distributing Point For Concern," Telegraph-Herald, April 4, 1930, p. 1