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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

HOPKINS, William

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HOPKINS, William. (Glasgow, Scotland, Feb. 1, 1840--Dubuque, IA, Feb. 5, 1902). Hopkins learned the trade of iron shipbuilding and boiler-making in Europe. During the CIVIL WAR, he was hired to come to the United States by Harrison Loring the shipbuilder, of Boston, to build monitors for the government. He remained in Boston until the close of the war. (1) He then settled in Toronto, Canada. (2)

In 1867, he came to Dubuque and was master mechanic of the boiler shops of the DUBUQUE AND SIOUX CITY RAILROAD, until the company passed into the control of the ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD. He opened his own business at Clay and 9th STREETS before taking a job as foreman for Rouse & Williams and stayed with the firm when it became Rouse, Dean and Hopkins and then Dean, Hopkins, McMurchy. (3) This became the IOWA IRON WORKS. At the time of his death, Hopkins was vice-president of the company. (4) Hopkins, perhaps more than any other person, led Dubuque to become the premier BOAT BUILDING center on the inland waters of the United States. (5)

Working for the Iowa Iron Works, Hopkins supervised the construction of the "Clyde", the Upper Mississippi River's first iron-hulled boat and the second built for the lumber trade. The boat was named for a river in Scotland. (6) He was also involved in the building of the torpedo boat,"Ericsson and the revenue cutter "William Windom." (7)

In 1882 he patented the "doctor," a lift and feed pump used to maintain a minimum level of water in boilers and thereby prevent high pressure boiler explosions. (8)



1. Oldt, Franklin. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 812.

2. "Good Life Ends," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 6, 1902, p. 5

3. "Notice of Dissolution," Dubuque Herald, April 20, 1880, p. 1

4. "Good Life Ends"

5. Oldt

6. "Good Life Ends"

7. Ibid.

8. Oldt.