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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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FISCHER COMPANIES (THE). In 2010 the Fischer Companies was one of the largest commercial entities in the city of Dubuque.

Founded in 1856, the company was a partnership of Louis FISCHER, James CUSHING, Henry WHEELER, Henry Riker and only sold ice.

In 1875 when Louis FISCHER died unexpectedly, his partners saw an opportunity to buy out his shares of the company. They offered his widow a low price at which she could sell out to them or they had the option to buy her out. His wife, (Maria) Carolina Rhomberg FISCHER chose instead to buy out their shares and add coal and fuel to the company's offering. (1) At the age of thirty-one, she became one of Iowa's youngest businesswomen choosing to operate the business with her sons Albert and Eldon F. FISCHER. Especially important was her daughter Julia who worked with the books. It was Julia Mathis who assumed the leadership of the company when her mother died.

In 1895 the company announced that it would construct what was called the largest ice house under a single roof in Iowa. Located at the foot of Third Street within a few feet of the river, the building was to be 113 feet x 113 feet x 24 feet tall. (2)

The company was incorporated and renamed Fischer & Company, Inc. in 1910. Company offices were built at Third and Iowa STREETS in 1912 and in 1913 a large ice manufacturing and cold storage plant was constructed on the river front. By 1934 the plant had been enlarged and completely electrified with storage capacity of 250 rail cars. (2)

Ink Blotter. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

Julia's daughter, Pauline, later married Louis PFOHL who was a major force in diversifying the company. In 1900 the business included ice, wood, and oil and later started the coal storage plant on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. Pfohl, who began the plastics division in New York, began buying large tracts of property which expanded the company into real estate.

In 2010 Fischer Companies owned in addition to the HOTEL JULIEN DUBUQUE, the Fischer Building, 909 Main St.; Fischer Arcade 880 Locust St.; Farley & Loetscher Building 698 Jackson St.; the Kirby Building, 701 White St.; the former site of BETTY JANE HOMEMADE CANDIES, 965 Main; several apartment buildings and parking lots, property in the Port of Dubuque; and undeveloped farmland on the corner of Asbury Road and the NORTHWEST ARTERIAL.

Over the years, The Fischer Companies have had businesses in Dubuque at many addresses including:

The 1874-1875 Dubuque City Directory stated that Fischer and Company was located at 332 Iowa.

The 1884-1885 through 1890-91 Dubuque City Directory gave the northeast corner of 3rd and Iowa as the address.

The 1915 Dubuque City Directory through the 1941 Dubuque City Directory listed 302 Iowa for the coal business.

The 1939 and 1942 Dubuque Classified Business Directory listed 401 Locust for a service station.

The 1948 Dubuque Classified Business Directory through 1966 Dubuque City Directory listed 300 Iowa. The 1948 Dubuque Classified Business Directory listed a tire dealer at 3300 Iowa.

The 1968 Dubuque City Directory listed 200 Fischer Building.

The 1977 through 1993 Dubuque City Directory listed 290 Main.



1. "Dubuque--An ice Manufacturing and Coal Center," Telegraph-Herald, August 19, 1934, p. 7

2. "Largest Ice House," Dubuque Herald, November 20, 1895, p. 8

"Rich History for Fischer Companies," 175 Years Volume II, Telegraph Herald, June 23, 2008