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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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The building in 2009 after the renovation into the Washington Court Apartments.
Casket handles from the company.
Desk item

DUBUQUE CASKET COMPANY. Dubuque Casket Company's articles of incorporation were filed on January 20, 1893 by Mathias M. HOFFMANN, Sr., Arnold Nicks, Joseph H. Whatmore, J. C Longueville and J. C. ALTHAUSER. (1) In 1958 it ranked 21st in sales volume among 472 similar organizations in the United States. (2) The company was unique in the industry for its custom construction of each order. Over four hundred interior designs were offered. A workforce of sixty-five was employed year-round in addition to the office staff and traveling salesmen. (3)

In August, 1896 the company announced its construction of a casket for "the largest man in Iowa," The interior dimensions were 6 feet 3 inches in length, 3 feet in width, and 2 feet in depth." The casket was made for George Raible, a cigar manufacturer from Davenport. (4) The company continued to maintain a storeroom of oversized "shells for heavy or very tall people as well as small ones for stillborn or young children. A display room could accommodate as many as one hundred models. (5)


The company sold its product to funeral directors in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin. A branch of the company was located in Sioux City, Iowa. (6)

Envelope return address. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

In 1988 the company was closed, and the building at 1798 Washington Street was sold to Boyes Truck and Auto Parts.


Washington Court Apartments, located at 1798 Washington St., involved the adaptive reuse of the Dubuque Casket Company Company into 36 affordable rental housing units. Twenty-four of the 800 to 900 square foot units were planned to have one bedroom. Twelve of the 900 to 1000 square foot units would have two bedrooms. The units would be occupied by tenants at or below 60% of the area median income. As a response to a significant demand for handicapped accessible living units, 25%, or nine of the units were be designed and equipped to meet the needs of persons with sensory and mobility impairments.

A collaborative agreement with the DUBUQUE VISITING NURSE ASSOCIATION was planned to help disabled residents live independently. Amenities included common space, parking, central air, stove, refrigerator and on-site laundry. The rehabilitation of the four-story structure incorporated the housing units within the upper three floors. The ground floor space was to be made available for a community room and to local service organizations/nonprofit organizations/schools/offices serving the north end. Parking consisted of 88 spaces. Total project costs for the restoration of the Dubuque Casket Co. building was estimated at 5.6 million dollars. This project was carried out by John GRONEN of GRONEN PROPERTIES/GRONEN RESTORATION.

Shipping box with an unfortunate suggested meaning. Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Envelope and bottle opener. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Sales catalogue
Matchbook. Photo courtesy: Mike Avitt



1. "Dubuque Casket Company," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 21, 1893, p. 4

2. "Dubuque Firm's Output Ranks High in Nation," Telegraph Herald, June 29, 1958, p. 16

3. "Dubuque's Coffin Factories Employ 200 Men--Trade Covers the Entire West," Dubuque Herald, February 6, 1910, p. 1

4. "A Large Casket," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 7, 1896, p. 8

5. "Dubuque Firm's..."

6. "Dubuque's Coffin Factories Employ 200 Men..."