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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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DUBUQUE SHIPPERS' ASSOCIATION. The Association, organized in 1904, was composed of the jobbers and manufacturing concerns of the city for the purpose of bettering freight traffic conditions and rates. In proceedings before the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Association worked to remove existing discriminatory rates to and from eastern cities. In addition, the Association quoted rates to members, gave advice on traffic matters, audited freight bills, represented its members at rate hearings and investigations, and as the only exclusive jobbing and manufacturing organization in the city handled nearly any question of interest to its members. (1)

The shippers in August, 1904 held a banquet at the DUBUQUE CLUB to hear the report of the Association's work. Shipping facilities to town west of Dubuque had been improved to the point that goods could be sent in one day instead of two or three. Tariffs had been adjusted and other arrangements had been made with the rairoads--all without trouble. It was expected a great deal of interest would be given to the report of the river and harbor committee. (2) In 1903 the Association sponsored a trip for members to their customers to encourage business. A similar trip in 1904 for a couple of weeks to the north, south and west of the city seemed in the planning, but was then dropped. Suggestions were made not to have a trip so often. It was decided not to invite customers to Dubuque as had been done in the past because so few came. (3)

W. B. Martin, commissioner of the Shipper's Association had a long history of representing shipping interests in Iowa. In 1908 he led the Iowa State Manufacturers' Association in an effort to reduce express rates in Iowa and charged that members of the Railroad Commission and the express company officials should be prosecuted. He alleged rates were determined solely by the Commission and the express companies. (4) Martin appeared in 1913 for the East Dubuque Railway Company, a branch of the DUBUQUE BREWING AND MALTING COMPANY, in a case involving discrimination in freight rates against the ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD. (5)

In 1914 a proposed "5% increase in freight rates proposed by eastern railroads would cost river cities in Iowa between $75,000 to $100,000 for coal shipments." Testimony like this was given by Martin in testimony given to the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington, D. C. Martin used as an example the Dubuque Gas Company which alone would face an added cost of $2,700. This money, he argued, the company would be unable to collect as its rates were fixed. The commission assured Martin and other witnesses that instead of increased rates the river towns would be receiving from 7-18% in reductions. (6)

In 1915 the Association was advised that the Interstate Commerce Commission had suspended proposed increases in rates from New York City and New York rate points. by the National Dispatch. Direct route shippers charged 92.2 cents per hundred pounds of cargo. This was in comparison to 82.2 cents per hundred weight and 78 cents per hundred weight during open lake navigation.

The suspension was due to the action of W. B. Martin of the Shippers' Association. Martin argued that there was no proposed raise in rates to Quincy, Illinois or Hannibal, Missouri. This, he argued, was a violation of the "Mississippi River Case" where the Interstate Commerce Commission in January 1915 had prohibited the carriers from charging higher rates to and from eastern points to upper MISSISSIPPI RIVER cities like Dubuque. (7)

In February, 1926 the Association called a meeting of representatives from other river communities to discuss a river development plan endorsed by the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions clubs, Junior Chamber of Commerce, city council, city manager and the American Legion. Representatives from Lansing, McGregor, Guttenberg, Bellevue, Sabula, Savanna, East Dubuque, Potosi, Cassville, Glen Haven, and Prairie du Chien were invited to discuss the business implications of the formation of the UPPER MISSISSIPPI BARGE LINE COMPANY. The company had been organized "to place modern and efficient barge transportation on the Upper Mississippi River between the Twin Cities and St. Louis. (8)

Association representatives, following up the February meeting in 1926, urged shippers and others "interested in the industries growth of the city" to vote November 2nd for the establishment of a dock commission. Rather than seeing competition between rail and river traffic, the two would work together through "efficient management and coordination." Dubuque manufacturers were being forced to ship their products to eastern ports by railroad for trans-shipment to the Pacific Coast through the Panama Canal placed them at an economic disadvantage to eastern producers who paid less freight charges. The creation of a dock commission, it was argued, would stimulate river transportation. (9) Representatives of the Association joined members of city government on a trip to the lower MISSISSIPPI RIVER to inspect terminals and barge line activities at St. Louis and New Orleans. Reports were made that Memphis, Tennessee had witnessed a population increase from 140,000 to 200,000 and Baton Rouge, Louisiana increased from 35,000 to 55,000 residents. As a result of such reports, the November vote was overwhelmingly in-favor by 6,732 to 2,970. (10)

In 1929 it was estimated that the activities of the Association had saved Dubuque industries thousands of dollars annually in transportation costs and kept the city competitive with other cities. (11)

In 1936 the years of cooperation between the city council, Dubuque Shippers' Association, Upper Mississippi Waterways Association and the Chamber of Commerce in insuring future industrial growth for Dubuque by improving transportation facilities was celebrated during the creation of the nine-foot CHANNEL in the Mississippi. (12)



1. "Shippers' Assn. Files Articles," Telegraph Herald, April 25, 1924, p. 16

2. "Shippers Plans to Review Their Work," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 15, 1904, p. 3

3. "Trip is Reported Off," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 25, 1904, p. 13

4. "Martin for Prosecution," The Telegraph-Herald, January 12, 1908, p. 1

5. "Freight Rates Hearing Friday," The Telegraph-Herald, May 22, 1913, p. 3

6. "Martin Argues Against Raise in Freight Rates," The Telegraph-Herald, April 6, 1914, p. 1

7. "Carriers Want More Revenue," The Telegraph-Herald, August 1, 1915, p. 27

8. "Great Interest is Aroused in River Development Plan," Telegraph-Herald, February 21, 1926, p. 15

9. "Shippers Favor River Terminal," Telegraph-Herald, October 27, 1926, p. 11

10. "Dubuque Returns as an Important Port on the Upper River," Telegraph-Herald, August 12, 1928, p. 32

11. "Dubuque Shippers Meet Wednesday," Telegraph-Herald, April 1, 1929, p. 7

12. "Eagle Point is Most Desirable," Telegraph-Herald, April 12, 1936, p. 2