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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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BERWANGER, John

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Pictured on the left with his former partner, Tom Peed, Berwanger in 1946 had been a smithy for 45 years. Peed had retired in 1920. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

BERWANGER, John. (Dubuque, IA--Dubuque, IA, June 30, 1966). In 1955, Berwanger was the last active horseshoer in Dubuque. (1) In those days, a person entered the trade after serving a four-year apprenticeship. (2) With Tom Lagen and Tom Peed, Berwanger operated LAGEN, PEED & BERWANGER, considered one of the best horseshoeing establishments in Dubuque. The business was located on Locust Street between Fifth and Sixth STREETS. (3)

In its earliest days, Dubuque had as many as sixty-five blacksmiths. In 1946 only two were still living in Dubuque and only Berwanger was actively working. In 1945 Berwanger's business was located at 2157 Central adjoining the IOWA DAIRY COMPANY. He still handled the shoe requirements of the more than 20 horses still used by the dairy business. In 1946 horses working within the city were shod in rubber shoes or with metal shoes with rubber coverings. Replacements were usually once per month and it was ironic that rubber shoes generally lasted longer. (4)

In 1955, Berwanger's business came primarily from horse-riding clubs in the area especially in East Dubuque. Instead of the horse being brought to his shop, Berwanger traveled to the stables with his equipment. He admitted that his work was a bit easier. Now, instead of making the horseshoes, he purchased them and then fit the shoe to the horse. (5) A good blacksmith working steadily could fit and place more than 70 shoes per day. (6)

His son was Jay BERWANGER, the first winner of the HEISMAN TROPHY.

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Source:

1. Simplot, Jim. "Horseshoer Still At It at 71," Telegraph Herald, May 1, 1955, p. 1

2. "Blacksmith Undaunted by the Machine Age," Telegraph Herald, August 4, 1946, p. 24

3. Simplot

4. "Blacksmithing..."

5. Simplot

6. "Blacksmithing..."