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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.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

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


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"Currency" issued by the Dubuque Central Improvement Company

COINS AND CURRENCY. The City of Dubuque and many local merchants once printed money. Currency, carrying the name of a merchant, advertised his place of business and encouraged customers to come into the store to redeem the notes.

There was no need for currency in early Dubuque until settlers, by way of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, established commercial ties to merchants in St. Louis. By 1836 the future state of Iowa was part of Wisconsin Territory whose laws encouraged banking. The location of the first bank in Dubuque, the center of commerce in Iowa, was obvious. The MINERS' BANK existed twelve years, longer than any other bank of its time.

In 1839 Iowa achieved territorial status during a time of strong anti-bank sentiment. It was not until 1857 that the law against the issue of currency was loosened. Directors of large building projects then issued currency that was readily accepted in the community to help the activity succeed. Occasionally poor management left these notes worthless.

During the CIVIL WAR coinage became so scarce that merchants issued cards redeemable for five, ten, twenty-five, and fifty cents to enable change to be made. Most cities or private ventures ended their printing of currency in 1866 when the federal government began levying a 10 percent tax on privately issued notes.

The City of Dubuque issued currency in 1857--1858 with a total value of $47,926,124. Those who accepted the notes could convert the amount into bonds paying 10 percent interest. Other currency printed during Dubuque's early years came from the DUBUQUE CENTRAL IMPROVEMENT COMPANY, DUBUQUE HARBOR COMPANY, DUBUQUE AND PACIFIC RAILROAD, DUBUQUE, MARION, AND WESTERN RAILROAD COMPANY, DUBUQUE AND SIOUX CITY RAILROAD, DUBUQUE WESTERN RAILROAD, Lumberman's Bank of Dubuque, H. Markell and Company, Babbage and Company, Miner's Bank, and the State Bank of Iowa, Dubuque Branch.