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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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Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque
Photo courtesy: Bob Johnsen
DUBUQUE REGATTA. Regattas were popular events for Dubuque residents as early as 1864. To raise money for the NORTHERN IOWA SANITARY FAIR, a regatta was held that had boats racing from the barrel factory in Dunleith to a point near the elevator on the Iowa side and finishing at the ferry dock near Jones Street. The mile and one-half race carried a purse of $100.00. (1)

In 1889, members of the DUBUQUE BOAT CLUB participated in an event in Spirit Lake, Iowa. The Dubuque Sunday Herald described a maneuver no other team attempted:

         They carried their shell (boat) down to the float and placed 
         it in the water, and with one foot on the float and the other 
         on a seat in the boat, they stood erect: then at a signal from 
         the Day they shoved the boat from the float, and at another 
         signal they all sat down together and rowed out into the lake, 
         the pretty movement eliciting loud and continuous applause from 
         the hundreds of ladies and gentlemen who thronged the lake front.(2) 

The Dubuque Boat Club's executive board announced in August, 1890 the intention of organizing a "grand local regatta" on September 18th consisting of four oared, single skull, canoe, tub, log swimming, and free for all skiff races with prizes for each. (3)

The idea of Dubuque hosting a state regatta began after 1894. In that year a team of Dubuque rowers left the city for Storm Lake. (4) Rough weather so marred the contest that it was questioned whether it would be held there again. A determined effort was made to interest the State Rowing Association in staging the event on ZOLLICOFFER'S LAKE. The site seemed ideal. The lake was one and one-half miles long and three-fourths of a mile wide. It's depth ranged from four to ten feet. Located eight miles north of Dubuque, the lake was near the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad. Visitors to the race could be transported by excursion train or steamboat. (5) Unable to make arrangements with the railroad, however, led the Dubuque sponsors to reluctantly withdraw their application to the executive committee of the state association. (6)

In 1901 the Dubuque Boating Association hosted its fourteenth annual regatta. The launch race was won by the "Star" with rowers representing DUBUQUE STAR BREWING COMPANY. Its only competitor was a boat unfortunately called the "Mud Turtle." Carried out in front of the boat house, the afternoon's racing was followed by a dance. (7)

Inscription reads--MVPA Regatta July 3 to 6-1911/ First Prize Trophy/ Class A Cruiser Race/ Won By/ Scrubber & Utea/ Clinton-Iowa/1911/ Pesented By/ Citizens of Dubuque. Photo courtesy: Ken Kozak
Photo courtesy: Ken Kozak
During the weekend of July 4-5-6, 1911, the Fourth Annual Regatta of the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association, the second largest association of its kind in the United States, was held in Dubuque. (8) It was sponsored by the DUBUQUE MOTOR BOAT CLUB which had only been formed the year before and therefore had no experience staging regattas. (9) It is certain the SCHEPPELE MOTOR COMPANY supported the event since its engines were prized.

As of June 24th there were twenty-six large motorboats entered in the races. (10) The course ran from 800 feet south of the East Dubuque High Bridge to three-eighths of a mile south of CATFISH CREEK with six races scheduled for each day. (11) There was a fine of $500 for encroaching on the course during the competition. Revenue cutters piloted by "strangers to Dubuque in order than they may feel no partiality" patrolled the length of the course. (12)

Commemorative pin from the 1911 Regatta. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Some of the boats entered in the races were built just for the Dubuque competition at a cost between $40,000 to $50,000. (13) While the average Dubuque "pleasure launch" had between 2-5 horsepower, these boats were capable of achieving 300-600 horsepower. (14) Several of the entries created special attention. The "Dixie IV" was entered by the owner of boats which had captured the International Championship for powerboats the preceding three years. (15) Commodore Hughey of Bellevue together with Commodore Pugh of Chicago were expected to defend the western championship against the eastern boats. (16) The average speed of these boats 30-50 miles per hour--faster than a passenger train. (Note: In 2013 the world's record speed on water was 317.6 mph) (17)

The newest boats were expected from the east. Fauber hydroplanes were being expected from New York, New York; Wilmington, Delaware; Chicago, Illinois; and Oskosh, Wisconsin. If the hydroplanes did not live up to expectations, then contenders would include Carl G. Fischer of Indianapolis, Indiana; G. H. Deming of Cleveland, and J. W. Whitlock of Rising Sun, Indiana. (18)

Dubuque's population was expected to double on the days of the event. (19) An advertisement in the Telegraph Herald reminded people that although hotels and restaurants "will do their share and more" at least ninety percent of those coming would need to be cared for in Dubuque homes. (20)

              Every home should be thrown open for this occasion and
              this includes the homes of the wealthy and the poor and
              all in between. There will be opportunities for all. 
              Many loyal Dubuquers have already seen the opportunity
              and responsibility and have registered with the Regatta 
              Information Bureau at 7th and Main streets their
              willingness to help and as soon as the rest of our good
              people realize how big this Regatta really is they too
              will respond nobly.
              You are entitled to a fair price for whatever entertainment
              and supply and every Regatta visitor will be ready and
              willing to pay a fair price for room and meals. But don't
              be exhorbitant (sic) in your charges, treat your guests, 
              especially if they are strangers, as you would like to be
              treated yourself. (21)

In addition to the boats entering the races, Dubuque experienced many visitors who arrived by water just to watch. Officials in Alton, Illinois and St. Louis Missouri alerted Dubuque organizers in October, 1910 that owners of sixty boats had registered for a cruise to Dubuque to watch the events. An estimated one dozen cruisers were expected from Chicago while others were expected from Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota. (22)

A short black and white film was made of the event by the Champion Company. In August, the PRINCESS THEATRE advertised having pictures of the event to show. (23)

There were disappointments. Unscrupulous boat and engine manufacturers entered the contest and then did not come to the event. Despite trips out of town to secure competitors for Dubuque's event, on the days of the show less than half who said they would participate actually attended. (24) The same kind of problem affected Davenport the following year and then Chicago. (25)

The event in 1911, however, led to other regattas. The Dubuque Motor Boat Club held a local regatta in 1914 to remind people of the 1911 event. (26) A picnic and regatta was sponsored by the Dubuque Motor Boat Club in 1915. (27) A local regatta sponsored by the Dubuque Motor Boat Club was held following a picnic on September 24, 1916. Several thousand people watched from the shore as ten races were held with Carl Ziepprecht winning the most "firsts." (28)

Outboard motor boat racing was expected to draw large crowds to the Dubuque regatta of 1928. The event was sponsored by the Dubuque Outboard Motorboat Club of the American Outboard Association. Speeds of thirty-five miles per hour were expected. (29) Held on September 23, 1928 was held one block south of the lower high bridge to a point below the terminal warehouse. Special races would also be held for those with flat boats and family-type boats power with outboard motors. In addition a one-mile swim was scheduled and a canoe race. (30)

In 1929 a regatta was part of the activities planned for the Chamber of Commerce's "Visiting Merchants Day." An estimated 10,000 invitations were sent out to merchants in the city and within a radius of 150 miles for the stag event to be held at Riverside "north of the city." Entertainment included a pole vaulting exhibition by Sabin CARR and a regatta of boats from cities along the upper Mississippi. (31)

On September 11, 1938 police, National Guardsmen, and Sea Scouts cooperated in handling crowds that were expected to reach 15,000. Gates on the dam were lowered to prevent large pieces of wood from entering the racing area and to prevent a rise in water levels. There were six divisions of racers--three amateur and three professional. This regatta was sponsored by the Greater Dubuque Association. (32)

In 1939 the regatta was scheduled for July 3-4. Again sponsored by the Greater Dubuque Association, the event was planned to draw even larger crowds. Officials of the Mid-west Power Boat Association assured Dubuque organizers that at least thirty-five of the leading midwestern powerboat champions including several national champions would be attending. The amount of prize money would be increased and would be awarded to eight places in each category rather than the traditional five. (33) To advertise the event, the committee in charge ordered 15,000 stickers and buttons, 5,000 admiral hats, and declared the purse money was $200 more than other regatta were offering. (34)

Dubuque racing officials were thrilled in 1940. The American Powerboat Association awarded Dubuque the prized July 4th date for the annual regattas being planned across the nation. (35)

In 1947 as part of the first annual Julien Dubuque Days celebration a regatta was held on September 7th. (36)

Another regatta was held in 1949. Sponsored by the Dubuque Boat Club which had been organized in 1947, the event was termed for some reason the "first annual Dubuque Regatta." (37) Boats were expected to go 75 miles per hour with the potential of reaching 90. (38)

Again ignoring the history of regattas in Dubuque, the "second annual Dubuque regatta" was scheduled for 1950. (39) Held near EAGLE POINT, the event was sponsored by the Dubuque Boat Club and the Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association. (40) Local competitors included Lauren Kunkel of the "Miss Dubuque" and Don Dick with "Hot Pipes III." (41)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
In 1951 the Dubuque Boat Club again held a regatta near Eagle Point. Boats raced around a one and two-thirds mile course. (42) The 1952 regatta on August 10th featured only outboard motors because the river was considered "better adapted to smaller boat racing." The race was sanctioned by the Midwest Power Boat Association and more than one hundred boats were expected to participate. (43) The 1955 event was sponsored by the Dubuque Boat Club and the Central States Racing Association, Inc. (44) The 1957 regatta saw several drivers thrown into the water, but none were injured. (45)

Power boat racing returned to Dubuque in 1969. Sponsored by the DUBUQUE YACHT BASIN, INC. and conducted by the Hawkeye Stock Outboard Association of North Liberty, Iowa, the event was sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association. An expected seventy-five boats from a seven-state area were anticipated to participate in the two-day program. Although classified as a non-money making sport, cash prozes totaling $1,200 were offered over the two days with four places paid in each class each day based on total points in two heat races over the three-lap course. (46)

By 1983 Dubuque was becoming accustomed to the annual Sailboat Regatta. That year the event was scheduled as part of Riverfest. (47)

Certainly one of the most unique regattas occurred in Dubuque in 1990. In that year 15,000 rubber ducks were raced down the Peosta Channel during Riverfest. Individuals could purchase a duck for two dollars. The prizes included a weekend trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota. (48)




1. "The Regatta," Dubuque Democratic Herald, June 24, 1864, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18640624&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "The Regatta," Dubuque Sunday Herald, July 27, 1889, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Ep9FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_rwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2626,6403177&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

3. "A Local Regatta," The Herald, August 26, 1890, p. 4

4. "Ready for the Regatta," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 13, 1894, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=i41kAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7LwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4907,2861406&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

5. "That Regatta," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 26, 1895, p. 24. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=L49FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9rwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2108,7117592&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

6. "Sorry We Lose It." Dubuque Sunday Herald, May 1, 1895, p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ZZ1FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Br0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=3997,1155664&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

7. "Big Crowd at Regatta," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, August 24, 1901, p. 8. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=6VZBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3qgMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3814,6302318&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

8. "Must Keep Off the Regatta Course," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 25, 1911, p. 6

9. "Dubuque Regatta Served as Model," Telegraph Herald, August 29, 1915, p. 25. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=mHFiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8nYNAAAAIBAJ&pg=6888,266618&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

10."What the Regatta Really Is," Telegraph Herald, June 9, 1911, p. 6. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=FvFCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=76sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1992,6622989&dq=july+4th+dubuque&hl=en

11. Ibid

12. "Must Keep Off..."

13. "Dubuque Regatta Will Have Best Entries in the Country," Telegraph Herald, May 14, 1911, p. 24. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=_PBCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=76sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4955,3694857&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. "Water Speed Record," http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-1000/water-speed-record-%28fastest-boat%29/

18. "Dubuque Regatta Will Have Best Entries in the Country."

19. "What The Regetta Means to Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, June 6, 1911, p. 7. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=E_FCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=76sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2437,6305744&dq=july+4th+dubuque&hl=en

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. "Coming Regatta Boom to Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, October 2, 1910, p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4rJCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XqsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6529,1954104&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

23. "Dubuque Regatta Pictures at the Princess Theatre," Telegraph Herald, August 1, 1911, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VvZCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8qsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4219,5847888&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

24. "Chicago Buncoed On Its Big Regatta," Telegraph Herald, August 18, 1912, p. 24. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0k5CAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hqoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3812,4715968&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

25. Ibid.

26. "Speed Boats to Race on Sunday," Telegraph Herald, October 1, 1914, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Sw5eAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4F8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=4646,6183852&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

27. "Plans Perfected for Regatta," Telegraph Herald, September 15, 1915, p. 14. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qXFiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8nYNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5227,2271672&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

28. "Regatta Draws a Large Crowd," Telgraph Herald, September 25, 1916, p. 7. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=bBleAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5l8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=4324,4105678&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

29. "Record Crowd to Witness Regatta," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, September 19, 1928, p. 12. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OghCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Y6oMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4830,1304164&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

30. "Out-Board Motor Regatta Planned," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, September 12, 1928, p. 3

31. "City Prepares for Merchants' Picnic," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, August 19, 1929, p. 11. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=z5NFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4bwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3091,6484682&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

32. "Dick Neals Heads Field of Crack Speed Demons," Telegraph Herald, September 11, 1938, p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0-NBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7KkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5940,1711471&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

33. "Plans for Powerboat Regatta Are Laid," Telegraph Herald, April 20, 1939, p. 14, Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=PelBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FaoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2589,717498&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

34. "Local Regatta Has Big Purse," Telegraph Herald, May 21, 1939, p. 16. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=V-lBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FaoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3312,4690848&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

35. "Dubuque Get July 4 Date for Regatta," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 1940, p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=-gZCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QqoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5233,6166406&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

36. "Veteran Iowa Racer Enters Dubuque Regatta," Telegraph Herald, August 31, 1947, p. 15. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0kxhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=snQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=3498,3653439&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

37. Zimmerman, Hy. "Sports Hyway," Telegraph Herald, June 22, 1949, p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=puFhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AXUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4341,1518158&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

38. Ibid.

39. "Regatta Entries Mount," Telegraph Herald, June 30, 1950, p. 8. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=k5VSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jM0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=4939,982029&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

40. "Dubuque Holds Second Regatta," Telegraph Herald, July 2, 1950, p.21. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=lJVSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jM0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=3360,1244805&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

41. "Dubuque Holds Second Regatta," Telegraph-Herald, July 2, 1950, p. 21

42. "36 Boats Are Entered," Telegraph Herald, June 24, 1951, p. 21. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=LQteAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8l8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=3695,3166827&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

43. "Boat Regatta Slated for August 10," Telegraph Herald, July 27, 1952, p. 21. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=enVFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ubwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2949,4008440&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

44. "Boat Club Sets Annual Regatta," Telegraph Herald, July 10, 1955, p. 10. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=SPVQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=nrwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3414,915780&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

45. "Thrills at Boat Regatta," Telegraph Herald, August 11, 1957, p. 29, Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=q2ZFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PrwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2001,4360213&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

46. "Yacht Basin Girds For 10,000-15,000 at Boat Regatta," Telegraph Herald, June 1, 1969, p. 12. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=48VYAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Fb0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=6477,2239575&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

47. "Riverfest Regatta," Telegraph Herald, September 9, 1983, p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=GPdFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=KvAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2210,1007002&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en

48. "March of Dimes Plans Rubber Duck Regatta," Telegraph Herald, July 30, 1990, p. 13. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=pDxFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=nLsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3465,5542907&dq=dubuque+regatta&hl=en