"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.
MAIZEWOOD INSULATION COMPANY
MAIZEWOOD INSULATION COMPANY. In May 1928, machinery was being installed at the Maizewood Products plant in Dubuque and it was announced the company would open before June. A twenty-four hour production schedule was anticipated due to the orders already placed for maizewood. There were more than eight thousand tons of cornstalks already in storage at the plant site. Marketing of the product was managed through the Chicago office of the firm. (1)
In 1929 the company underwent a major change of officers. Hugh Brennan, organizer of the company and others, sold their interest to a group of Chicago businessmen who had organized National Cornstalk Processes Inc. Among these businessmen were executives of International Harvester, John Deere and Company, former Governor Frank O. Lowden of Illinois, and George N. Peek, a leader in farm relief activities. (2)
These businessmen installed the latest machinery and brought into the business new talent. Among this new talent was W. S. Trader, a sound and insulation engineer who had developed and patented Multi-Fibre and Acoustical Celotex and had served as the engineering counsel of the Celotex Corporation. A. B. Hunicke, an engineer associated with National Cornstalk Processes Inc., was hired to develop new industrial uses for MAIZEWOOD. Among the directors of both the old and new Maizewood Company was William H. MEUSER. (3)
In 1929 the Development Bureau of the Illinois Central System reported that the Maizewood Products Corp. at Dubuque was producing and soon would be ready to run on capacity schedule. The company was expected to employ between 100 and 115 men and would turn out 100,000 square feet of insulation board daily from corn stalks. (4) Distribution to lumber and retail outlets was handled through CARR, RYDER, AND ADAMS COMPANY and their branch stores.
In 1930 eighteen carloads of cornstalks which otherwise would have been burned off in the field were shipped to Dubuque. The Department of Agricultural Engineering at Iowa State College (later Iowa State University) in Ames harvested and baled the stalks using machinery built by the engineering department. Farmers were paid $1.75 per ton. Freight on the stalks amounted to $2.56 per ton. On delivery to the plant, $10.00 was paid per ton. (5) The manufacturing plant was purchased in January 1930 by National Cornstalk Processes, Inc. (6)
In 1930 the announcement was made that MAIZEWOOD had been chosen by the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition to provide roof and wall insulation in the first two buildings, Administration and Travel and Transportation, for which contracts had been let. The choice of maizewood was seen as being in keeping with the goal of the Exposition to demonstrate the contributions of science to human progress. The roof of the Travel and Transportation building alone required about five acres of inch-thick insulation.
In 1931 the business, which had been busy providing insulation board for the Chicago World's Fair, along with ten tons of cornstalks was destroyed by fire. (7) Company officials announced on December 7th their plans to rebuild the plant "bringing cheer into the families of the seventy people employed there." (8)
In 1941 the company purchased over 115,000 square feet in the RAFFERTY SLOUGH area and had an option on an additional 400,000 square feet. All of this was adjacent to land the company already owned along Railroad Avenue. (9)
In 1951 the company was included among the thirty-three local industries involved in the annual Business-Industry-Education Day." That year 500 school teachers learned about the business world through a day-long program of plant tours, luncheons, and lectures by company executives. (10)
With the development of the mechanical cornpicker, cornstalks could no longer be used in the production of insulation board. The Maizewood plant was purchased by the Celotex Corporation in 1967 and cornstalks were replaced with wood fiber for the production of sixteen different styles of decorative ceiling tile and panels. (11) According to Darryl Mozena, a native of Dubuque County, the demand for wood fiber created a thriving industry of harvesting small or nuisance trees to supply the demand for wood fiber. (12) The demand was great with production of ceiling tile increasing by 40% in July 1979. Products were sold locally through SPAHN AND ROSE LUMBER COMPANY and Wickes Lumber Company. Marketing nationwide was part of the Building Products Division of Celotex. In 1980 the Celotex plant, a subsidiary of the Jim Walter Corporation, occupied seven acres at Charter and Salina STREETS, employed 150 people, and had an annual payroll exceeding $23 million. (13)
The 1934 Dubuque City Directory listed Maizewood Building Company at 9 LINCOLN BUILDING.
The 1939 Dubuque City Directory through 1948 Dubuque Classified Business Directory listed Maizewood Insulation Company at 275 Salina.
1. "Maizewood Plant Will Start Soon," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, May 23, 1928, p. 14. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=96pFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Gr0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=6739,4920326&dq=william+meuser+dubuque&hl=en
2. "Dubuque Product Used on World's Fair Buildings," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, September 8, 1930, p. 2
4. "Insulation Board From Corn Stalks," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 1929. Online: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/djreprints/doc/130610928.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Jan%203,%201929&author=&pub=Wall%20Street%20Journal&edition=&startpage=&desc=INSULATION%20BOARD%20FROM%20CORN%20STALKS
5. "Ames Shipping Cornstalks Here," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, Apr. 17, 1930, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=BLBFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=3273,3425860&dq=maizewood+dubuque&hl=en
6. "Expansion Policy for Local Plant," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, May 4, 1930, p. 19. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ELBFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Pb0MAAAAIBAJ&pg=6139,5744454&dq=maizewood+dubuque&hl=en
7. "Cornstalk Factory Destroyed by Fire," Milwaukee Journal, Dec. 8, 1931, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0LJQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OyIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3236,4482393&dq=maizewood+dubuque&hl=en
8. "Things Have Been Bad Before," Telegraph Herald, Dec. 24, 1950, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=LBRRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vtAMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2241,2755527&dq=maizewood+dubuque&hl=en
9. "City Property is Purchased by Maizewood," Telegraph Herald, February 16, 1941, p. 2
10. "500 Teachers B-I-E Guests," Telegraph-Herald, August 30, 1951, p. 28
11. "The Celotex Corporation," (advertisement), Telegraph Herald, July 7, 1980, p. 30
12. Interview with Darryl Mozena, June 13, 2019
13. "The Celotex Corporation..."