"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

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
Jump to: navigation, search
IOWA PROSPERITY CELEBRATION AND EXPOSITION. In 1916 Dubuque hosted a six-day exposition that attracted over sixty thousand visitors. On four consecutive days, parades marched through Dubuque to the old Athletic Field (later PETRAKIS PARK), the scene of the fair. (1)

Held the first week of October, one of the main features was an automobile show hosted by the local automobile dealers and those who handled accessories. Special booths larger than those used for other displays were constructed. The participation of the dealers in the planning was considered a sure sign of the fundraising committee being able to raise their goal of $25,000 during the week of August 9th. (2) Eventually the DUBUQUE COMMERCIAL CLUB donated $20,000 to finance the exposition and an admission of 25 cents was charged. In the entertainment area, a grandstand seat cost 15 cents, a bleacher seat went for 10 cents, and a box seat cost $1.00. Advertising efforts included "a mammoth aeroplane with facilities for carrying one or two passengers besides the driver." The airplane with advertising materials of the fair was to be sent to destinations within one hundred miles of Dubuque. (3)

The event began with rough start. The uniforms for the Royal Huzzar Band did not arrive from their last engagement in Memphis, Tennessee until just before their night program . The Loras College Band did not appear on Monday at all, but did show up on Tuesday. Roda Royal and her trained elephant did not show up. It appeared that Roda was on her honeymoon. Her performance time was given to an Australian whip-cracker. (4)

Tuesday went much better with the exception of a small fire that started near the Roshek booth and threatened to destroy a half million dollars of merchandise. A reported ten thousand people visited the fair that day. (5)

Mayor James SAUL declared Wednesday "Dubuque Day" and a "half-holiday." Nearly 25,000 people entered the exhibition grounds for the afternoon and evening activities. Government offices and many private businesses closed at noon. The "Floral Pageant" at 2:00 p.m. was a major attraction. A flower-covered automobile won first place and a prize of $75. There were ten floats, scores of decorated automobiles and four bands of musicians. Some of these scenes were memorialized in postcards discovered in 1979. In the era known as the "Golden Age of Postcards," these postcards were unique because they featured photographs rather than drawings. (6)

Thursday was busy with "Wisconsin Day" being the theme. Special trains were scheduled to bring people from Potosi and Bloomington. Aviator Eugene Heth flew to Dubuque and performed an aerial routine over the athletic field. He performed again on Friday and buzzed the LORAS COLLEGE football game at NUTWOOD PARK so often the referee had to halt play. (7)

Saturday was planned as "Carnival Day" with a Madri Gras parade complete with masks. Worrying that the event would get out-of-hand, however, the council ordered the police to arrest anyone who showed up with a mask. (8)

Although the event was judged a success, the festival was not immediately repeated. The Commercial Club disbanded the following year and the Chamber of Commerce was just getting organized. A similar celebration was held in 1919 with expositions presented in 1925 and 1926. (9)



1. Buckley, John, "Fair's Granddaddy Was Real Swinger," Telegraph-Herald, August 11, 1968. p. 13

2. "Automobile Show and Expositions," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 9, 1916, p. 10

3. Ibid.

4. Buckley

5. Ibid.

6. "Floral Pageant of 1916," Telegraph-Herald, October 9, 1979, p. 5

7. Buckley

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.