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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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BERG, Christopher H.

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C.H. Berg. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

BERG, Christopher H. (Pittsburgh, PA, Mar. 15, 1841--Dubuque, IA, Apr. 9, 1926). MAYOR. Berg and his parents moved to Galena, Illinois and at the age of nine he took his first job as a newspaper carrier for the Galena Gazette. After working as a bellboy at the DeSoto House, he returned to the paper and learned the printer's trade. As arrangements were being made for the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the newspaper offices, Berg was asked by Abraham Lincoln to check at the post office to see if there was any mail for him. (1)

During the CIVIL WAR, Berg was involved in such well-known battles as Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, and Chickamaugua. He was wounded twice and captured temporarily until Union forces retook his position. (2) Berg served many years as the commander of the Hyde-Clark post of the GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC (G. A. R.). (3)

After the war, Berg was foreman of the Dubuque Times office for two years. Berg was instrumental in organizing the firm of Palmer, Winall, Bott and Berg Printing Company. In the early 1900s, he purchased the interests of his partners and organized BERG & BRIGGS, one of the largest printing companies in Dubuque. He was also a director of the GERMAN TRUST AND SAVINGS BANK and the CONSOLIDATED NATIONAL BANK, vice president of DUBUQUE NATIONAL BANK, and president of the BERG-ARDUSER COMPANY and UNION TRUST AND SAVINGS BANK in 1919 following the death of Peter KLAUER. (4)

Berg served as the mayor of Dubuque from 1898 to 1906 after one term as an alderman. He presided over the community during the STREETCAR STRIKE OF 1903. Street cars were idled for seven weeks, but it was when more than one hundred strike breakers were brought to the city that the violence escalated. An estimated 8,000 persons attacked the street car barns at 24th and Central, the Union Electric power house at 6th and Iowa STREETS, and the Union Electric company's offices. Hundreds of state troopers and Pinkerton detectives were called to reestablish order. (5)

In 1898 Berg, as mayor, became the head of a committee of six charged with negotiating the purchase of the water works. NUTWOOD DRIVING CLUB officials asked for improvements to the road leading to the park. (6) This was a year before the historic 1899 harness race together with a boxing tournament that attracted an estimated 25,000 people, the greatest number of visitors in the history of the city. Racing purses totaled $105,000.

In 1900 the board of health was abolished with the council assuming its role. The council appointed the city health officer and sanitary policeman. (7)

One of the issues Berg dealt with as mayor was icy SIDEWALKS. In 1903 he made good on his threat to fence in sidewalks from which the snow had not been removed. Finding sidewalks on Main Street not clean of snow, he ordered the Sidewalk Inspector to "fence" the area off using saw horses and planks. Fortunately for the merchants involved, the city owned only four saw horses.

As embarrassed shop owners cleared their walks so customers could enter their shops, the planks and saw horses were moved to other needy locations. Rather than continue the practice, city authorities decided to fine any property owners who did not clear their sidewalks within twenty-four hours. The fine would not be less than two or more than ten dollars.

Berg and the city council were not interested in the new voting machines that were being used in other parts of the country.

       The voting machine would, so it is said, 
       secure a full count of the vote hours 
       before the result could be announced by 
       the hand method. Let that be so, the 
       public and wait and we will feel content 
       that a correct and legal enumeration is 
       being made. (8)

At the time of his death, Berg held the record of service at mayor. He had the honor of welcoming two presidents of the United States to Dubuque, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. This was, of course, during the time that Senator William Boyd ALLISON and Speaker David B. HENDERSON called Dubuque their home. (9)



1. "C. H. Berg, Mayor of Dubuque from 1898 to 1906, Dies Friday," Telegraph-Herald, April 11, 1926, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. "Dubuque Veterans of the G. A. R. Continue in the Spirit of Youth," Telegraph-Herald, September 26, 1926, p. 22

4. "C. H. Berg..."

5. Ibid.

6. "Berg Names Citizens to Assist Council," The Dubuque Herald, September 16, 1898, p. 15

7."The City Health Officer," Dubuque Herald, April 7, 1900, p. 4

8. "Berg is Opposed to the Voting Machines," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, January 5, 1905, p. 6

9. "C. H. Berg, Mayor..."

Goodspeed, Weston Arthur, History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911, p. 704