"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.
KEESECKER, Andrew. (Shepherdstown, VA, Jan. 29, 1810--Dubuque, IA, 1870). Coming to Dubuque in 1834, John KING, who was not a printer, realized the possibilities for a newspaper. He returned to Chillicothe, Ohio in the fall of 1835 and purchased the equipment and hired William Cary Jones, an experienced printer. Traveling to Cincinnati, the two purchased a hand press and an assortment of type. Andrew Keesecker, a printer from Galena, Illinois was also hired. (1)
Keesecker was apprenticed to the printing trade at the age of eight. At the age of fourteen, he worked as a journeyman printer in Baltimore, Maryland, but abandoned the work to serve in the Greek Revolution of 1822-1827. Keesecker then returned to the United States as a printer in several cities, including New Orleans, before coming to Galena. In 1832 he was the printer and often the editor of the Galenian. (2)
On May 11, 1836, the first issue of the DUBUQUE VISITOR was published. Keesecker set the type and ran the press. Like many of its successors, the Visitor had a short life. The Miners' Express, the first strong political paper in Dubuque, began publication around August 1, 1841. David S. WILSON and Andrew Keesecker were the editors. Keesecker also set up "The Linwoods," a story, the first printed in the state. (3) Known as the "Thunder" for its support of Democrats over Whigs, the Express merged with the Iowa News in 1842. In January 1845, Keesecker sold his interest in the paper to George GREENE, an individual often credited with the development of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (4) He returned to the paper in 1848, but again sold his interest in 1851. In 1853 Keesecker renewed his work with the Miners' Express.
During his career, Andrew Keesecker acquired a great reputation as a rapid typesetter. He had the unusual ability to compose an editorial as he set it up in type without reducing it to manuscript. Once he entered a typesetting contest with A.P. Wood, another Dubuque printer and publisher. At a signal given by an assistant, they began to set up the words of the Lord's Prayer. Keesecker finished first. According to the arrangements, he was to announce his success by calling out the last word. Unfortunately, Keesecker stammered and excitement made the speech impediment worse. While he tried to shout out the word, Wood yelled "Amen". Recovering his voice, Keesecker insisted that he had been trying to say the word for thirty minutes. The referee gave the award to Keesecker. (5)
He died in the office of the Herald after becoming sick working at his type case. His son Charles B. Keesecker joined the Telegraph and worked in its composing room. (6)
The initial success of the TYPOGRAPHICAL LOCAL NO. 22 in Dubuque was probably due in large part to his leadership. Keesecker has been called the "Nestor of the Iowa Press." (7)
1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-19-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml
2. "First Issue Was Printed During May of 1836," Telegraph-Herald, August 24, 1930, p. 6
4. "Law and Order Reached County Early in 1840s," Telegraph-Herald, September 15, 1946, p. 12
6. "A Newspaper Anniversary," The Herald, May 11, 1892, p. 4
Scharnau, Ralph. From Pioneer Days to the Dawn of Industrial Relations: The Emergence of the Working Class in Dubuque, 1833-1855." The Annals of Iowa, Volume 70, Number 3, Summer 2011; p. 221