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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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: David Lynn
November 9, 1921. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

DUBUQUE RETAIL MERCHANTS BUREAU. The public face for many years of the DUBUQUE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, the Bureau hosted a variety of activities including a $150 Easter wardrobe for men and another for women in March, 1960. (1) In the 1930s it partnered with other community organizations to publish upbeat newspaper articles during the GREAT DEPRESSION extolling virtues under such titles as "I Knew Him When He Pushed a Wheelbarrow." (2)

Pylon indicator of contributions to the Dubuque War Chest. October 19, 1944. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In 1940 the State of Iowa asked all merchants to close for business on November 28th. Edward F. Graham, chairman of the Bureau, announced that Governor Wilson had been asked to proclaim November 21st as Thanksgiving as suggested by the President of the United States in order to extend the Christmas shopping season. Merchants preferred the date. Iowa, however, remained one of the few states still holding to the traditional Thanksgiving being held on the last Thursday of November. (3) In 1942 the Bureau sponsored "Navy Day." An estimated four thousand people crowded the DUBUQUE ATHLETIC FIELD to watch the induction of thirty-two Dubuque area recruits into the United States Navy and the baseball game between teams from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois and the Navy Pre-Flight Training School at Iowa City. (4) In 1944 during WORLD WAR II, the Merchants Bureau organized a contest for a way of demonstrating the success of fund-raising for the Dubuque Community War Chest. The winning design, a pylon erected at 8th Avenue and Main, was constructed of donated materials and spotlighted at night with lights. Marks placed on the pylon indicated the amount of contributions received. (5)

The Bureau organized festivities in association with the opening in 1943 of the bridge to East Dubuque. The Bureau unanimously endorsed the idea of the federal government constructing a $3 million air force reserve base at the municipal airport near Dubuque in 1956. (6)

September 14, 1960. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Encouraging business in Dubuque included sponsoring "Free Bridge Day" in 1941. On May 1st, the bureau made it possible for East Dubuque residents to pass over the JULIEN DUBUQUE BRIDGE toll free to shop between 8:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. "Dubuque Days" in September, 1960 featured $300 in home furnishings from the store of the customer's choice for visiting a retailer and leaving a coupon found in the newspaper. (7) The second annual Christmas Parade was held in 1956 with sponsorship shared between the Merchants Bureau and the Telegraph Herald.

Not all Merchants Bureau activities were non-controversial. In 1954 the Bureau changed its "official" shopping night from Friday to Monday. E. M. Loyson, chairman of the Bureau, maintained that one reason for the change was to allow grocers to get Friday night parking spaces unused by Friday night shoppers and that other merchants would get full use of Monday parking spaces. The change when into effect on August 2nd. Central Avenue merchants reacted by keeping Friday night openings. At least two downtown merchants chose to remain open on both Friday and Monday nights. There was initially a drop in business and then a 'decided upturn.' (8) Recognizing that Christmas and New Year's Day fell on Mondays, Bureau officials announced in December, 1955 that retail stores would remain open for business until 9:00 p.m. on the Tuesdays following both holidays. (9)



1. Advertisement. Telegraph-Herald, March 31, 1960, p. 4

2. Advertisement. Telegraph-Herald, January 11, 1937, p. 7

3. "Turkey Day Here to be on November 28th," Telegraph-Herald, November 19, 1940, p. 1

4. "Navy Day" Here Thrills 4,000," Telegraph-Herald, August 24, 1942, p. 1

5. Photograph. Telegraph-Herald, October 19, 1944, p. 3

6. "Local Air Force Base is Endorsed in Testimonial Letters," Telegraph-Herald, March 11, 1956, p. 4

7. Advertisement.

8. Germanson, Ken. "Monday Night Gets Merchants' Praise," Telegraph-Herald, Oct. 24, 1954, p. 23

9. "Stores to be Open Late on Tuesdays After Holidays," Telegraph-Herald, December 21, 1955, p. 16