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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Photo courtesy: Eric Manson
CHARLES RATTRAY. In the fall of 2006, the City Historical Museum in the OLD JAIL featured a recreation of the bookstore of Charles and Jean William Rattray. The carefully researched and authentically reconstructed bookstore was accomplished by Ms. Tacie Campbell, Curator of the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY and Wayne McDermott and staff through a $15,000 grant from Humanities Iowa.

Charles Rattray was born in Stockport, England in 1802. His wife was born in Sussex, England in 1803. They were married in Glasgow, Scotland in 1823. Their children were James; Elizabeth; Mrs. Cola McCrea, wife of a Dubuque blacksmith and attorney; Margaret; Mrs. Christopher Buck; Agnes; Mrs. Martin Leonhart; Jane; and Mrs. Walter Manson, the namesake of Manson Road in Dubuque.

James Rattray left Glasgow first. He came to Dubuque and established a publishing house on Bluff Street. When Charles and Jean left, they were presented with a a silver snuff box on which was inscribed:

         Presented to Mr. Charles Rattray by his friends
         in the Littlejohn Friendly Society as a token for
         their respect on leaving his native country for
         America. August 25, 1851

The Rattrays arrived in Dubuque sometime after January 1, 1851 aboard the steamboat Shirley. The 1857-1858 Dubuque City Directory listed 115 Main as the address of their bookstore. In 1858-1859 the store was continued as Mrs. Charles Rattray. At the time, there were six book and stationery stores and two book binderies in Dubuque, a community of about 13,000.

Bookstore Notice. (Dubuque Weekly Observer. July 15, 1854. Photo courtesy: Eric Manson
Bookstore Re-creation. Photo courtesy: Eric Manson
Charles died in Dubuque in 1857 of TYPHOID. Because he had no will, the estate was probated giving the re-creation a complete listing of the store's contents. Including crosses; ink stands; copy, prayer, music and copy books there were 600 titles included in the inventory. Copies of about two hundred of these books were located for the display. Sixteen of Rattray's original books are known to exist. In 1857 the entire estate was valued at $5,350 with debts of books due the estate of $800. This did not include a dozen parcels of land he owned.

The Rattrays are buried in the Center Grove Methodist Cemetery in Dubuque.


Manson, Rev. Duane. "Rattray Bookstore to "Reopen." Julien's Journal, August 2006, pgs. 58-59