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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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PETER KIENE AND SON. Peter Kiene & Son was founded in 1857 by Peter Kiene, Sr. His son, Peter KIENE, was admitted to partnership in 1876. The business consisted of fire, marine, tornado, accident and life insurance in addition to loaning money and dealing in real estate. They were also agents for ocean steamship companies. The company employed three clerks. (1)

The insurance transactions of the company was confined mainly to the city and vicinity. In loaning money, the business covered a territory throughout northern Iowa. By 1887 this department of the business was the largest in the city with their transactions amounting to several millions of dollars. Loans were made on real estate securities, principally farm lands in the interior. (2)

The company's officers were Peter Kiene, Franc W. ALTMAN, E.A. Fitz, Otto M. Lorenz, and William Zumhof.

Before September 20, 1904 a large amount of money was borrowed for the IOWA IRON WORKS. Notes were signed or endorsed by William Watts BONSON and Robert BONSON and given to Peter Kiene with the assurance that he would be responsible for the debt. There was no further accounting between the Bonsons and Kiene, who paid the interest on the indebtedness but sold the notes to other parties.

Peter Kiene and Son was also heavily involved in the Coggon and Anamosa Railway which was a project of Peter's brother, Henry KIENE. In 1911 the company's investment in the railroad had raised its capitalization to $1,500,000. (3) Renamed in 1911 the Chicago, Anamosa and Northern Railroad, the line actually ran between Anamosa and Coggon. The tracks had been extended to within twenty miles of Waterloo when no further financing could be arranged. The line was owed approximately $107,000 by the SMEDLEY STEAM PUMP COMPANY and DUBUQUE STAMPING AND ENAMELING WORKS was a debtor to Peter Kiene and Son, but it had not been in business for years. Money from a possible sale of the railroad's assets (listed at $871,000) was expected to bring no more than $100,000. (4)

In 1914 the firm of Peter Kiene and Son fell into bankruptcy. The total Bonson indebtedness came to $150,000 (worth $3,697,860.00 in 2018).

Their assets turned over to the bankruptcy court included holdings in the Bonson Concentrator Company with its subsidiaries, over forty separate tracts of land and their holdings in over 1,000 acres of mineral lots, lands and properties in Dubuque County, and the residence and farm of about 140 acres known as "Burnage Villa" which had been the homestead of the Bonson family for over thirty years. The only exceptions were claimed for life insurance and person and household goods and wages. (5)

The 1878-79 Dubuque City Directory listed the southeast corner of Main and 5th.

The 1880 Dubuque City Directory stated that this business, insurance, was to be found at the corner of 7th and Main.

The 1883 through 1904-05 Dubuque City Directory stated that this business was located in the Kiene Building at the corner of 4th and Main.

The 1909 through 1913 Dubuque and Dubuque County Directory stated that this business was located at 406 Main.



1. The Industries of Dubuque: Her Relations as a Trade Center, Dubuque: J. M. Elster and Company, Publishers, 1887, p. 78

2. Ibid.

3. "Kienes to Build Into Waterloo," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 27, 1911, p. 20

4. "Federal Probe of the Kiene Case?" Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 23, 1913, p. 8

5. Bonsons File Petitions in Bankruptcy," The Telegraph-Herald, February 17, 1914, p. 1