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)
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. (3)
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. The "Qualitybilt" brand of sash and doors became nationally recognized.
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. (4)
The company in 1930 was an employer of between eight hundred and nine hundred people. (5) The seven company buildings covered five city blocks. Each of the buildings, except for three warehouses, were connected by bridges that crossed over the streets. At one time described as the largest lumber shed in the world, one of the structures was the largest building in Dubuque until the development of the JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS. In 1930 it easily stored 6 million feet of lumber. (6) Christian Loetscher while attending the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 bought forty huge timbers when the exhibition buildings were being dismantled. These timbers, each 13 by 11 inches and up to sixty feet in length, were used in the construction of the building. Thirty-two were placed around the perimeter of the cupola while eight were spaced at intervals along the center of the building.
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 the company's electricity was generated by a dynamo within the plant. A newspaper article of 1930 especially praised a new product "Formica" which resisted heat, cold and water. Unlike some companies of the time, however, there was commissary so nearby businesses benefited from the purchases of food. (7)
In 1942 the company qualified for an "Honor Flag." Issued by the Treasury Department, the flag was issued on the basis of a company's employees participating in buying United States War Savings Bonds. More than 1,100 employees were purchasing bonds through payroll deduction according to Dubuque County War Bond Committee representatives. (8)
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. (9) The only problem was the need in 1944 to hire four hundred more employees due to the demand for products. (10) 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. (11)
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. Two years later, the company announced that it would close on or about February 28, 1962. (12) Cited as causes were rapidly increasing wage rates and low prices for millwork.
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. 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
4. "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
5. "Here's Romance of Modern Industry."
8. "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
9. "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
12. "Farley and Loetscher Millworking Operations to End; 600 to Lose Jobs," Wall Street Journal, January 15, 1962. Online: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/djreprints/doc/132802971.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Jan%2015,%201962&author=&pub=Wall%20Street%20Journal&edition=&startpage=&desc=Farley%20&%20Loetscher%20Millworking%20Operations%20To%20End;%20600%20to%20Lose%20Jobs