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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BROWNE, James W. (Brownie)

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Ancestry: https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/87951349:60525?tid=&pid=&queryId=e6cd1b99ac1a5fa439513732a5c9e2fc&_phsrc=HEg9113&_phstart=successSource

Ralph Browne, son of James, at the popular stand. Photo courtesy: Barb Browne Van Sickle

BROWNE, James W. (Pittsburgh, PA, Jan. 29, 1868--Dubuque, IA, Sept. 9, 1931). Browne was one of Dubuque's best known residents. For many years, he operated a popular popcorn stand at Eighth and Main STREETS.

Browne came to Iowa in 1868 settling first in LaPorte City. In 1890 he entered the Wells Fargo Express service in Waterloo, the town in which he lived until 1896. He was transferred to Oelwein as an agent for the company and moved to Dubuque six years later. Browne operated his popcorn stand for more than twenty years at Eighth and Main and then relocated to Ninth and Main in 1912.

Ralph "Brownie" Browne, his son, inherited the business from his father and sold popcorn at Ninth and Main, generally under the iron steps of the Burden Building which was replaced by GRAHAM'S STYLE STORE. The stand was such a familiar sight that the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY wished to store it at the HAM HOUSE and use it every Fourth of July. Unfortunately the stand was taken to the landfill before the Ham House was acquired. (1)

The stand was finally closed in 1962.

Browne's stand demonstrates its popularity. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald and the Center for Dubuque History

The accompanying sketch was made by famed Dubuque artist Norman ZEPESKI for the calendar series "Not So Long Ago: The Dubuque of Our Memories" in 1993.



1. Fyten, David, "Downtown Popcorn Era Ends," Telegraph-Herald, October 29, 1973, p. 23