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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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Canteens developed by the company and submitted to the military were found unable to handle hard use without chipping. They were rejected.

DUBUQUE STAMPING AND ENAMELING WORKS. In 1891 Dubuque Stamping and Enameling Company was established by investors including Paul TRAUT who served the company as vice-president. (1) Other founders of the company included J. F. Kenkel, George Falkenhainer, Franc W. ALTMAN, Mathias M. HOFFMANN, Sr., Charles H. MEYER, Dominic Rhomberg, and Nicholas J. SCHRUP, Sr. (2) Plans called for a building 135 feet x 155 feet, twice the size as originally projected with a workforce of three hundred although only eighty would be employed at first. (3)

In December 1892 the company announced the opening of a downtown store and warehouse at the corner of 12th and Iowa. (4) One of the first products of the company, a wash basin, was exhibited in the office of the county treasurer. (5)

c. 1894 Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

The business was located one-half mile northeast of the old fairgrounds along the Peru Road. The company had only been in business less than a month when it was destroyed by fire on April 11, 1893. (6) The fire originated in the explosion of oil used in the heating of furnaces involved in the baking of enamel to metal. The ignited oil was thrown by the explosion throughout the building. There was a phone in the office, but the men in charge of the furnaces were so injured they were unable to send out an alarm. The fire department could have done nothing because there was no water in the vicinity. (7) Among the items lost were finished goods the company had hoped to display at the World's Fair. (8)

The owners of the company quickly announced their intention to rebuild. Although some interest was expressed in rebuilding downtown, the same location was chosen. It was expected that enameling machinery would need to be imported from Germany. (9)

In January 1894 the estimated twenty employees of the business announced they would be establishing a club room in the northern part of the city. Social meetings would be held every evening and Sunday. (10)

Manufacturing actually resumed in July 1894. (11) Situated on three acres of land, the new company boasted a two stories high brick factory, immense warehouses, and a complete system of water works including a reservoir with a capacity of sixty thousand gallons. New fire fighting equipment included a heavy pump, four regular fire hydrants, and a thousand feet of hose. (12) The company employed seventy-five in the production of its "Atlas Ware" and "decorated ware of every description." (13)

The following year the city council ordered 800 street signs at 30 cents per sign to be placed on the street corners. (14) The City of New York placed an order for $150,000 worth of enamel signs, an order said to be largest at the time ever given to a single company. (15) In April, 1895 business had increased so much that new orders had to be declined. Stockholders met and decided to issue more stock and expand the operations with the addition of equipment. The plant then had seventy-five employees. (16)

One of the less successful products of the company was their canteen. The enameled canteen along with others was tested by the military with some of the results included below:

        It is understood that this is a naked metal flask, 
        coated inside and outside with some kind of agate, 
        vitrified, glazed, incrysted (sic), porcelained (sic), 
        lava, granite or annealed ware. If it chips like the 
        enameled agate ware used in furnishing officers' mess 
        chests, its use will be dangerous if the chips are 
        swallowed. In composition it is understood to resemble 
        the kind of ware commonly used in cooking utensils. This 
        type, viz.: uncovered metal, is merely a thing to carry 
        fluid in without pretending to keep the fluid at a 
        palatable temperature. 
        During Test No. 46 the Dubuque enameled canteen froze 
        after two hours exposure and burst open at the seams 
        along the edges, during the next hour. It had forty-five 
        (45) fluid ounces of water, temperature 102 deg., F., 
        placed in it at 8:10 a. m. The variations of air 
        temperature were, (observations made hourly), as follows: 
        -10 deg.; -8 deg.; -6 deg. The temperature of the contents 
        of the canteen fell from 102 deg. to 38 deg. after one hour's
        exposure;at the expiration of the second hour the fluid 
        dropped to 32 deg. During this test, the enamel splintered 
        off around the edges; little blisters of enamel, like small 
        volcanoes, bubbled up, and patches of the enamel blew off, 
        exposing the metallic base. The cause was simple. The Dubuque 
        Stamping and Enamel Co. canteen is a combination of mineral 
        and metal; the metal contracted; result, disintegration. (17)

In 1896 the company resumed production after being closed "for a period of some time." (18)



1. Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894. Online: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~iabiog/dubuque/djc1894/djc1894-t.htm

2. "Wiped Out," Dubuque Sunday Herald, Apr. 11, 1893, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=y3tFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=trwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2602%2C2465669

3. "Enameling Works," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 29, 1892, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18920729&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Municipal Molecues," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 24, 1892, p. 4

5. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald,

6. "Wiped Out,"

7. Ibid.

8. 'Will Be Rebuilt," Dubuque Sunday Herald, April 12, 1893. p. 4. Online: Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=y3tFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=trwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2602%2C2465669

9. Ibid.

10. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 9, 1894, p. 5

11. "Dubuque's Stamping and Enameling Works," Daily Herald, January 1, 1895, p. 1

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. City Council Minutes. Dubuque Daily Herald January 3, 1894

15. "Brief Locals," Dubuque Daily Herald, January 19, 1894, p. 5

16. "Branching Out," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 11, 1895, p. 8

17. Reade, Philip. Lieut. Colonel, History of the Military Canteen Washington, D. C.: Secretary of War, 1900, p. 32. Online: http://archive.org/stream/historyofmilitar00readrich/historyofmilitar00readrich_djvu.txt

18. "Factory Starts Up," Dubuque Daily Herald, November 15, 1896, p. 8

We appreciate the special research assistance provided by Michael May of the Carnegie-Stout Public Library.