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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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LITERARY ORGANIZATIONS. Obscure literary groups in Dubuque came into existence prior to 1855, the year the Dubuque Literary Institute announced its reorganization and interest in the community's intellectual and moral culture. In June 1856, a number of young professional and businessmen formed a literary group to host lectures on literary and scientific subjects during the winter of 1856-1857.This "Young Men's Literary Association of Dubuque" was incorporated in March 1859.

One of the Association's most challenging tasks was the establishment of a library. Using funds gained from the lectures, the group purchased books that were displayed in the rear of a local bookstore. In December 1865, the organization dropped the word "1iterary" from its title and became the "Young Men's Library Association." This group began the collection that eventually led to the formation of the CARNEGIE-STOUT PUBLIC LIBRARY.

In the 1850s reading circles began among the women of the community who met in private parlors. From these circles grew a club of fifty men and women who met in the Universalist Church during 1862 and 1863 for reading and study. The Round Table, a men's club for historical, scientific, and literary pursuits, was organized in 1865 and met every Saturday night in the FACADE BUILDING. Mrs. Mary Newberry ADAMS founded the CONVERSATIONAL CLUB in October 1894. This group met monthly in private parlors to participate in discussions, often led by an out-of-town expert.

A rich heritage of spirited lecture and debate nearly ended during the CIVIL WAR. Only four literary notices appeared in the Herald from December 16, 1863, to within weeks of the end of the war.

In 1876 there were three literary clubs--American, English, and Shakespearean. Each held separate meetings and "were doing a great deal of good in relieving the minds of the young women from the giddy frivolities of the gay and festive world." The writers of the Dubuque Herald continued:

                     The branches should extend, so as to enfold within
                     an outer circle at least the wives and daughters of
                     of the impeccable artisan whose impecuniosity (sic)
                     prevents them from acquiring those advantages vouch-
                     safe to the more fortunate. (1)




1. "The Literary Organizations," Dubuque Herald, December 8, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18761208&printsec=frontpage&hl=en