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Advertisement from Dubuque Trade Journal September 20, 1882. Photo Courtesy: Bob Reding
Official stationery of the Diamond Jo Line.
DIAMOND JO LINE. In December 1977, the former Diamond Jo Boat Store and Office, now property of Inland Molasses Company at Jones and Terminal STREETS, was added to the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES. The building, which once had an office at the end facing the river and a steamboat warehouse behind it, is the only remaining building in Dubuque traceable to one of America's great steamboat companies.
The familiar Diamond Jo sign on the steamboat Quincy. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The company was named for Joseph "Diamond Jo" REYNOLDS, a prosperous businessman who made fortunes in milling, tanning, RAILROADS, MINING, and shipping. The origin of his name, often the source of wild stories, came from his habit of surrounding his name Jo, for Joseph, with four lines suggesting a diamond. Another name remembered for his connection to the company was Captain John F. KILLEEN.

The "Dubuque." Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Reynolds felt that he had been treated badly by other business interests along the Mississippi. In 1860 he began his business buying grain, hides, and furs. His business expanded so quickly that he thought it necessary to have his own boats. In 1862 he purchased the steamer, "Lansing."

Before he had operated it for long, the Minnesota Packet Company operating between Dubuque and St. Paul convinced Reynolds to sell them the boat while promising him that his business would be treated fairly. Before the end of the season, he found these promises to be worthless.

Reynolds retaliated during the winter of 1862-1863 by constructing the steamer "Diamond Jo" and the barges "Fleming" and "Conger." He had other boats constructed and purchased others like the "Pittsburg" and "Gem City" from the Davidson line when it went out of business. The "Pittsburg" was renamed the "Dubuque."

Telegraph Herald, Sept. 11, 1964. Image courtesy: Diane Harris

In 1874 a building in Dubuque was constructed as the main office of the Diamond Jo Steamers. Originally the company was primarily involved in transporting grain. As this declined, transporting passengers took on greater importance.

In 1878 the Diamond Jo Company spent about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and located permanently at Eagle Point. J. A. Johnston had charge of the yards at first ; seventy-eight men were employed in January, 1880. (1) The demand for quick river transit encouraged the Diamond Jo Company prepared to construct fast passenger boats to travel from St. Louis to St. Paul — all of steel and to be built here. Many steel barges were also considered. Six steel hull steamers were planned at once.

By July, 1885, the ice harbor was practically completed. The J. K. Graves, an iron hull rafter, was built in the ice harbor in 1885. The Van Sant & Musser Transportation Company built a large rafter built in Dubuque early in 1886; it was called Musser and was 137 feet long. The Diamond Jo Company built the upper part and the IOWA IRON WORKS constructed the iron and steel part. With Joseph Reynolds as president and general manager and Ernest M. DICKEY the superintendent the Diamond Jo Line built a barge with a double steel hull in 1886.

With the death of Reynolds in 1891, the company belonged to and was operated by his brother-in-law, Jay Morton of Chicago.

On February 3, 1911 the company was sold to the Streckfus Company of Rock Island. For $200,000 the Streckfus Company obtained the steamers St. Paul, Quincy, Dubuque and Sidney. In addition it received the wharves, warehouses and boatyards of the company.

The Streckfus Company announced that it intended to remodel the Sidney into a first class excursion boat to take the place of the J. S. which was destroyed by fire near Trempealeau, Wisconsin during the summer of 1910. The Sidney was to be ready for the excursion season beginning on May 1st and would sail between Peoria and St. Paul during the summer and south at New Orleans during the winter. The other three steamers would be refitted and placed into regular packet trade between St. Louis and St. Paul during the summer and St. Louis to New Orleans during the winter. While general offices of the new company would remain in St. Louis, it was announced that Dubuque would remain important since it was a midway point between there at St. Paul.

The main salon on the "Dubuque.". Photo courtesy:http://www.riverboatdaves.com/postcards/d/dubuque/dubuque.html
The side deck on the "Dubuque.". Photo courtesy:http://www.riverboatdaves.com/postcards/d/dubuque/dubuque.html

Diamond Joe Line

1867, called Chicago, Fulton and River Line, Headqtrs. Fulton, Ill.

1874, Headquarters moved to Dubuque,

Owner: Joseph Reynolds

Officers: 1880, shortly after superintendent, Capt. John Killeen


1864-83, DIAMOND JO. At one point she was sold to competitor, then in 1868, repurchased. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_D

1867, JOHN C. GAULT, propeller driven towboat.

186?9?, early spring?,-72, LADY PIKE

1869, July, Chartered STERLING to help with enormous work load.

1867-73, Sometime between the line added a boat named IMPERIAL. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_I
1867-70, Sometime between, the JEANETTE ROBERTS. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_J

1871, Chartered briefly, BANNOCK CITY

1873-81, IMPERIAL a powerful towboat

1873, Built and operated JOSIE.. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_J
1878-99, Built and operated JOSEPHINE. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_J
1879, LIBBY CONGER, passengers and freight only. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_L
1880-87, Built and operated MARY MORTON. Photo courtesy: https://wiki.cincinnatilibrary.org/index.php/Inland_Riverboats_-_M
1883-86, ST. PAUL. Observers watch the St. Paul, another ship of the Diamond Jo Line. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

189?-1901 WASHINGTON

1886 promotional leaflet
Pen and ink drawings of life aboard the steamboat in 1886
Advertisement for a tour on the Diamond Jo Line.
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Complimentary pass. Photo courtesy: Bill Pollard



1. Oldt, Franklin. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880. Online: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-26-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

"Diamond Jo Line Boats are Sold," Telegraph Herald, February 3, 1911

Hudson, David; Bergman, Marvin; Horton, Loren. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2008

Riverboat Dave's. "Riverboat Companies and Owners," Online: http://www.riverboatdaves.com/owners/d.html