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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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SMEDLEY, Edwin. (Manchester, England, Nov. 22, 1840--Dubuque, IA, Sept. 7, 1908). Smedley was educated in England and joined his parents when they emigrated to the United States. In 1856 he was apprenticed to the firm of Barrett & Chapman of Wooster, Ohio, a manufacturer of engines and heavy equipment. At the end of his four year apprenticeship, he served in the CIVIL WAR. (1)

Smedley returned to Wooster and resumed work as a machinist. At night he attended classes and took courses in bookkeeping, mathematics, and machine drawing.

Smedley came to Dubuque in 1872 and became the master mechanic of the river division of the CHICAGO, MILWAUKEE, AND ST. PAUL RAILROAD In 1882 the National Iron and Brass Works was organized in Dubuque by Smedley and Charles Meyer. In 1890 the company was renamed the Smedley Manufacturing Company. The firm manufactured the locomotive bell ringer and all kinds of hydraulic machinery and apparatus including the Smedley steam pumping machinery, boilers, drill presses, and steam engines. (2)

Smedley received from eight to ten patents including one for the Smedley steam pump and the pressure and vacuum pumps for laboratories. In 1892 he received a patent for the Smedley vacuum pump sold throughout the United States. In 1888 Smedley and Charles H Meyer installed a water works system in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of Smedley's greatest achievements. He went on the install water plants in Austin, Minnesota; Fremont, NEBRASKA; Stillwater, Minnesota; Galena, Illinois; and Fayette, Iowa. (3)

In 1892 Smedley took out US Patent US482814 - Steam-Actuated Air-Pump
1882, O.H. Hudson and Edwin Smedley Patent US263338-Valve for Steam Pumping Engines
1882, Edwin Smedley Patent US313114-Vertical Drill
1879, Edwin Smedley and Franklin O. Wyatt, Improvement in car-trucks




1. Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 345

2. "Edwin Smedley Answers Summons," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 8, 1908, p. 9

3. Ibid.

Greenwood Cemetery Part 1. Online: http://jodaviess.illinoisgenweb.org/cemeteries/Greenwood.htm