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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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Under the banner of "Park Life" boys work on a farm. American Primary Teacher, Boston: New England Publishing Company, September 1910, p. 245
A photograph of Park Life participants having a picnic.
PARK LIFE. Pioneering Dubuque program to prevent juvenile delinquency. Park Life was the idea of B. J. HORCHEM, a Dubuque educator and principal of AUDUBON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. (1) Established in 1907 as an outdoor camp where boys planted gardens and studied nature, Park Life was Horchem's way of keeping city children involved in positive activities over the summer. He hoped that eventually the public schools would become year-round making the summer outdoor classes part of the regular program. His motto was "Form, Not Reform."

The program was incorporated in 1911 with a board of directors that included Judge Matthew C. MATTHEWS, George W. Myers, Robert Percy ROEDELL and a board of trustees that included twenty-four of Dubuque's most prominent business and professional leaders. The chapter was part of the Agassiz Association. (2)

Horchem began with a small number of boys who set up tents and planted a garden near EAGLE POINT PARK. The boys slept in the tents, tended their garden, and cooked their own food. When not gardening, the boys took nature hikes and developed their ability to identify birds and plants. Visiting lecturers were invited to the camp.

In 1910 two groups of the New York Minorca eggs were sent to the boys by a U. S. Customs Inspector. Iowa State Game Warden George A. Lincoln gave the boys a number of pheasant eggs to observe. The park at that time covered 250 acres. (3)

Park Life received glowing reports in the May, 1912 issue of American Magazine and great interest at the National Education Association meeting in San Francisco. (4) It, however, had a difficult time financially. Horchem kept the project going initially using his own money. Local businessmen later came to his aid. On April 21, 1911, Park Life was incorporated. The following year, the 415-acre Zollicoffer farm just north of Dubuque was purchased for Park Life use.

The financial prosperity of Park Life was short-lived and the movement came to an end. Despite Horchem’s plans to establish metal and woodworking shops, financial aid to the project gradually declined. The development of other youth organizations also took away potential members.



1. Today's Education Vol. 6, Washington, D. C.: National Education Association of the United States, 1917, p. 161

2. The Guide to Nature, Connecticut: The Agassiz Association, 1909, p. 33. Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=7c4eAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=Park+Life+%28dubuque%29&source=bl&ots=t-tNGkJTmr&sig=7bVNayveKrMENann4em3d-fJAGM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iIdNU-3hIrbKsQTF-oCoCw&ved=0CH4Q6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=Park%20Life%20%28dubuque%29&f=false

3. "Park Life Idea Grows," Telegraph Herald-Times Journal, April 24, 1912, p. 5

4. "Park Life Improved," Telegraph Herald, May 26, 1910, p. 6