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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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CONNOLLY, Thomas. (County Tipperary, Ireland, Mar. 2, 1837--Dubuque, IA, Dec. 28, 1903). Connolly began business in Dubuque on August 23, 1858. In partnership with Asa Roberts, he formed Connolly & Roberts, the successor of Picket & Clark which had a small factory on the corner of Locust and Eighth STREETS. The company manufactured carriages, wagons and sleighs. (1) At about the same time, he established a small wagon factory on Bluff Street across from the WALES HOTEL. In 1860 the Eighth Street factory was burned to the ground. The building was an uninsured loss, and Connolly was forced to pay 25 percent interest on money he borrowed to resume business.

Business letter.

Connolly built a large wagon factory on Seventh and Iowa streets in 1872. The quality of the workmanship from the factory was realized the following year at the IOWA STATE FAIR. His company was awarded the "red ticket first premium" for its three-seated carriage, track wagon, and two seated sleigh and cutter. The company won the sweepstakes premium for the best and largest display. (2)

The 1874 annual report of the Iowa State Agricultural Society reported that Connolly won the prize for "best shifting top buggy" and received a diploma and ten dollars. In the same year he won the prize for "best two-horse sleigh" and received a diploma and five dollars. He won the "best carriage beck yoke and received three dollars, "best track wagon" and "best single sleigh" and received five dollars in each category, and best display of vehicles and received twenty-five dollars. (3) The international recognition of Connolly's wagons was received in 1876 when a carriage manufacturer in Dusseldorf, Germany wrote to Connolly asking for copies of the architectural drawings of his factory. (4)

Metal advertising tag.

The company was destroyed by fire four times including twice in 1875. (5) Connolly was so pleased at the work of OETH AND TREXLER, the contractors who rebuilt his factory in October 1875, that he paid them and then had each purchase a suit of clothes at STOLTEBEN AND SON at his expense. (6)

Coming back each time, by 1885 Connolly's factory produced one thousand buggies, carriages, and sleighs annually ranging in price from $100 to $1,500. That same year, CONNOLLY CARRIAGE MANUFACTORY or carriage-manufacturing plant contributed $200,000 to the local economy with sales of such products as buggies, carriages, sleighs and bicycles. BYRNE BROTHERS announced in 1886 their purchase of an elegant five glass landeau carriage from the Connolly company. (7) The first "paddy-wagon" for transporting criminals was purchased by the DUBUQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT from the company on August 31, 1887. (8) In 1910 the company occupied a building 125 feet by 100 feet and was recognized as the largest carriage manufacturer west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (9)

Unlike Augustin A. COOPER, a business rival but friend, Connolly was interested in automobile production. In 1905 ADAMS-FARWELL AUTOMOBILES used chassis built by the Connolly company. (10) The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada owns the last existing of the ADAMS-FARWELL AUTOMOBILES, a Series 6 40/45 hp Touring Victoria, coach built by the Connolly Carriage & Buggy Company. This car was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2011 where it won the Charles A. Chayne Trophy for the most advanced technology of its period. (11)

Financially successful through his carriage factory, Connolly had one of Dubuque's most elegant mansions built in 1891 on the 1600 block of Iowa Street. (12) Fine woods floated down the MISSISSIPPI RIVER from forests in Wisconsin and Minnesota were used in the construction. (13) Connolly personally supervised the selection of the planks discarding all but the perfect. (14) The home was one of the few in Dubuque with a carriage step, a raised platform three feet off the ground enabling visitors to leave their carriages without soiling their clothes on the ground. (15) The home was still present in 2015 adjacent to JACKSON PARK although it had been reduced from its former state by fire. As a reminder of the area in which the home was constructed, workmen laying the foundation found several human bones--a reminder of the previous use of the JACKSON PARK area as a cemetery. (16)

Notice upon the death of Thomas Connolly. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

Connolly was not just involved in wagon and carriage manufacturing. As early as 1887 with the prosperity gained from his company in Dubuque, Connolly purchased 1,500 acres near Fort Collins, Colorado. This ranch raised fine-blooded bulls and stallions for the improvement of range herds. Newspapers at the time noted the high demand for such animals. (17)

Connolly was an active civic supporter of Dubuque. He encouraged the construction of the JULIEN HOTEL and the BANK AND INSURANCE BUILDING. He served as president of the DUBUQUE FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY and the Bank and Insurance Building. He was a director of the Hotel Julien Building Company, IOWA TRUST AND SAVINGS BANK, and the KEY CITY GAS COMPANY. He served as vice-President of the National Carriage Builders of America. (18) He was succeeded in his business by his son Maurice CONNOLLY. (19)

His good friend Augustin A. COOPER purchased fifty lots in MOUNT OLIVET CEMETERY for his family and good friends. Thomas Connolly's burial site is found there. (20)

The 1867 and 1868-69 through 1870-1871 Dubuque City Directory stated that this business could be found on the northwest of 8th and Locust and the east side of Bluff between 8th and 9th.

The 1875-1876 through the 1911-12 Dubuque City Directory located this business at the southwest corner of Iowa and 7th. He was listed as an auto dealer in 1911.

The 1915 Dubuque City Directory listed 298 7th.



1. Advertisement, Daily Express and Herald, February 6, 1859, p. 2

2. "The State Fair," Dubuque Herald, Sept. 12, 1873, p.. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Qg9eAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-18NAAAAIBAJ&pg=2244,4979481&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

3. Annual Report of the Board of Directors By Iowa State Agricultural Society (1874), p. 152

4. "Dubuque Manufacturers in Germany," Dubuque Herald, April 28, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760428&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "Iowa State News," Lyons Weekly Mirror," July 17, 1875, p. 2. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ioEmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EgEGAAAAIBAJ&pg=4879,951852 dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuquehl=en

6. "Complimentary," Dubuque Herald, October 24, 1875, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18751024&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "News in Brief," The Herald, June 15, 1886, p. 4

8. Bielema, Ross, "Equipment Would Make Past Men of Law Stare in Awe," Telegraph Herald, Feb. 23, 1988, p. 45. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=UY5dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=j1wNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5243,4668086&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

9. "Dubuque Has Largest Carriage Factory West of the Mississippi," Telegraph Herald, January 24, 1910, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ESlCAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gKoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3202,239641&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

10. "First Enclosed Auto Was Built in Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, Jan. 29, 1939, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=gtdBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=BaoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3207,4929966&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

11. National Automobile Museum. Online: http://nationalautomobilemuseum.blogspot.com/2012/01/1906-adams-farwell-wins-special-award.html

12. Wright, David. "Little Time Remains for the Nagle Mansion," June 15, 1972, p. 19. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=dQ9RAAAAIBAJ&sjid=BsQMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5276,6747849&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. "Local News in Brief," Dubuque Daily Herald, Mar. 22, 1887, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=OXtFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qrwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1150,4363042&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

17. "Sickening Skulls Dug Up," Dubuque Daily Herald, May 30, 1891, p. 4

18. "Rich Manufacturer Dies," Davenport Daily Republican, Dec. l 27, 1903, p. 32. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4Q5cAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AFUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=3793,4196341&dq=connolly+carriage+manufactory+dubuque&hl=en

19. "Dubuque Has Largest Carriage Factory..."

20. Friedman, Larry and Fischer, Katherine. A. A. Cooper: Reinventing the Wheel, River City Press, 2016, p. 144

"Our Spirited Years," Telegraph Herald, 1976