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FARLEY AND LOETSCHER MANUFACTURING COMPANY
The firm, with only two employees, operated from a 16- by 20-foot second floor space leased from the Key City Mill. (1) In 1876 Loetscher formed a partnership with A. B. Carlin and J. Rickard. The company, renamed Clark, Rickard and Company, bought the KEY CITY PLANING COMPANY and remained a small millwork factory. (2) In February 1877 Farley bought out the interest of Mr. Clark and the business was renamed Farley, Loetscher and Company. (3)
Jesse P. FARLEY became the principal partner in the company in 1879 by investing $75,000 in a three-story building at Eighth and Jackson STREETS. In 1881 the company was incorporated as the Farley and Loetscher Manufacturing Company. Farley served as president until his death. (4) Loetscher was the active head of the company. (5) He served as president until 1900 when he was succeeded by J. M. Burch, Sr. who had purchased the interest of A. B. Carlin. Burch died in 1927 and John Loetscher was named president. (6)
One of many expansions of the company occurred in 1882 at a cost of between $25,000 and $30,000. The saw mill was removed and that part of the business abandoned. The plans called for the buildings to extend from 8th to 7th streets. The warehouse would be on 7th street and join the business office which was to be moved to the corner of 7th street and an alley. (7)
In March 1893 the company was beginning the manufacture of screen doors and windows for the summer trade. This year, however, it was benefiting from an invention of Christian Loetscher. The machine automatically started all the nails at even distances apart in the strip that covered the edges of the wire cloth. (8)
Loetscher pioneered the use of west coast white pine lumber in 1900 as the company branched out to markets around St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Des Moines, Iowa. In 1913 it merged the two largest sash and door companies in Chicago. (9) The "Qualitybilt" brand of sash and doors became nationally recognized. In 1905 the company announced the construction of a solid block of buildings in Dubuque. The firm asked the city council to vacate the alley running through the block bounded by Jackson, Washington, Seventh and Eighth streets. It also asked for the right to lay track and switch to the right of the proposed new building. (10)
In 1910 records indicated that the company annually produced 500,000 windows and 300,000 doors. (11) In addition the company manufactured frames, mouldings, blinds, stairwork and interior finish. Between 1,200 and 1,500 carloads of lumber were used annually. (12) The company owned and operated its own electric light company and maintained a crew of electricians to care for it and the telephone systems used in the plant. (13) Nothing went to waste. Wooden shavings were advertised for those interested in horse bedding. (14)
By 1927, when the company was led by J. A. Loetscher, Christian's son, the firm occupied buildings covering twenty-three acres. The company also maintained subsidiary companies. Loetscher and Burch Manufacturing Company operated in Des Moines. Another subsidiary was Roberts Sash and Door Company of Chicago. (15)
One of the structures was the largest building in Dubuque until the development of the JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS. In 1904 Christian Loetscher attended the St. Louis Exposition and bought forty huge timbers, each 13 by 11 inches and up to sixty feet in length, when the exhibition buildings were being dismantled. These were shipped back to Dubuque and used in the construction of a building described as "the largest lumber shed in the world." Thirty-two timbers were placed around the perimeter of the cupola while eight were spaced at intervals along the center of the building. In 1930 this building easily stored 6 million feet of lumber. (17)
Years before recycling became known, Farley and Loetscher gathered waste chunks of wood and all the sawdust. This was transported to the roof of one of the buildings to a funnel-shaped named "the hog." There the material was ground to fine dust which was carried to the basement. Specially designed boilers received the dust from a moving track. When burned this dust provided all the heat for the buildings.
The company's electricity was generated by a dynamo within the plant. Unlike some companies of the time, however, there was no commissary so nearby businesses benefited from the purchases of food. (18)
A plastics division was added to the company's line in the early 1930s. This produced laminated plastics for decorative and industrial uses and once occupied three acres of floor space. (19) A newspaper article of 1930 especially praised a new product "Formica" which resisted heat, cold and water.
The end of WORLD WAR II meant that the production of doors, windows, and other supplies that had gone to the military simply shifted to civilian use. There was no need to replace equipment or retrain employees. (21) The only problem was the need in 1944 to hire four hundred more employees due to the demand for products. (22) In addition to new homes, surveys nationwide indicated that 34% of homeowners were planning renovations. FARLITE, a plastic sold to the government for use in signal corps radio equipment and table tops, would be provided for civilian use. (23)
Employment peaked at 1,250 and dropped to five hundred prior to 1960 when Clear Fir Sales Company, a trust headed by W. H. Gonyea of Springfield, Oregon, purchased the company. Unprofitable items and overhead were slashed to improve the company's profitability.
In July 1960, Farley and Loetscher announced the sale of its plastics manufacturing facilities to Durel, Inc., a subsidiary of CARADCO. On January 12, 1962 the company announced that it would close on or about February 28, 1962. (24) Cited as causes were rapidly increasing wage rates and low prices for millwork. Manufacturing operations were ended the first week of April. (25) The closing meant a loss of employment for about 600 persons, an annual payroll of $4 million, and local tax revenues of $100,000. Workers did not receive severance pay or other general benefits. It was hoped that many would be hired by CARADO where some of Farley and Loetscher's product lines were being transferred. (26)
With the closing of the company in Dubuque, options were signed in May, 1962 by CARADCO and Fischer, Inc. for the purchase of the entire Farley and Loetscher property. Caradco had an optionn to buy the power plant, kilns, the four-story factory building (old plywood plant), and the large lumber shed in the block immediately south of the power plant. Fischer, Inc. headed by Louis PFOHL optioned the rest of the property including the main manufacturing plant and warehouse. (27)
At the time of its closing, Farley and Loetscher was the third largest employer in Dubuque. (Photo Courtesy: http://www.dubuquepostcards.com)
1. "Here's Romance of Modern Industry," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, April 30, 1930, p. 8. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=DbBFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=2351,5092211&dq=farley+and+loetscher+manufacturing+company+dubuque&hl=en
2. Reber, Craig D. "A Brief History of Farley and Loetscher," Telegraph Herald, March 22, 2009, p. 3. Online: http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=DQ&p_theme=dq&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=127213B765873938&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM
3. "Business Change," Dubuque Herald, February 1, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770201&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
4. Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 127. Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=3n4_AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA127&lpg=PA127&dq=Farley+and+Loetscher&source=bl&ots=DzImGD6Nnt&sig=6TrIk64PAJfQiJCqBNDxwgP0KYQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XkGFUojNJ8fd2AW0gIGwDQ&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBzgU#v=onepage&q=Farley%20and%20Loetscher&f=false
5. "Farley and Loetscher to Close," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 1962, p. 2
6. "F. & L. Plans Complete Exhibit," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, March 31, 1929, p. 71
7. "Factory Enlargement," The Daily Herald, May 13, 1882, p. 4
8. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 1, 1893, p. 4
9. "Farley and Loetscher to Close."
10. "To Expend Much More Money Here," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, January 5, 1905, p. 3
11. "Dubuque Covers Dubuque With Its Sash and Door Products," Telegraph Herald, January 2, 1910, p. 1
14. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 27, 1892, p. 8
15. "Dubuque Man is Named Head of Des Moines Firm," Telegraph Herald, August 7, 1927, p. 40. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=mo1FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0rwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6891,6061408&dq=peaslee+and+company+dubuque&hl=en
16. "Here's Romance of Modern Industry."
19. "Farley and Loetscher to Close,"
20. "Honor Flag Raised at Local Lactory," Telegraph Herald, July 17, 1942, p. 16. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=nj9FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kbsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5323,1674278&dq=farley+and+loetscher+manufacturing+company+dubuque&hl=en
21. "Farley's Ready for Peace Work," Telegraph Herald, October 15, 1944, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=T9JkAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wnUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4629,3680152&dq=farley+and+loetscher+manufacturing+company+dubuque&hl=en
24. "Farley and Loetscher Millworking Operations to End; 600 to Lose Jobs," Wall Street Journal, January 15, 1962.
25. "Farley, Loetscher Buildings Optioned to Pfohl, Caradco," Telegraph Herald, May 17, 1962, p. 1
26. "600 to Lose Jobs at Iowa Plant Closes," Des Moines Register, Undated article