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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

FOCKLER, Charles

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FOCKLER, Charles. (Pennsylvania--Unknown). Chas. Fockler, the senior member of KEY CITY CARRIAGE TOPS, invented the adjustable buggy top in 1876 while traveling through the country selling agricultural implements. The buggy top which shielded him from rain as well as the sun's rays proved so popular that he opened his manufacturing 'buggy and extension vehicle tops' the following year. Business grew so quickly he was able to stop selling other agricultural equipment. (1) In 1878 as the business increased, his brother became associated with him. Charles had charge of the manufacturing department, and his brother, Louis Fockler, had charge of the office and finances of the firm.

The company, the first to manufacture the adjustable buggy top, was successful enough to occupy three stores of three stories. The timber used in their business was selected and bought in Indiana and consisted of the second growth of ash; they cut it with their own machinery there.

In Dubuque the company, at 42 South Main and later 42, 44, and 46 South Main, had a steam room where the bows were bent and a drying-room; shops where the ironwork was made; enameling-room, paint-rooms and trimming-rooms. They employed between fifty to seventy-five workers and shipped their goods--the adjustable buggy top and the carriage extension tops--to every state. The company had a large trade on the Pacific Coast. The factory employed seventy-five men at a weekly cost of $600. Annual sales reached $200,000. In 1877 the company relocated to Fifth and White STREETS. This building was destroyed by fire in 1878. (2)

Following the fire, Charles, Louis and Joseph Fockler moved to East Dubuque where they established the East Dubuque Manufacturing Company to manufacture agricultural implements. (3) In 1901 the brothers asked to be discharged from bankruptcy. A third brother, Joseph, however opposed the action claimed that his brothers owed him $400. He claimed that his brothers owned a property they had failed to report to the court. The brothers claimed that this belonged to their wives. Joseph Fockler additionally charged that his two brothers had fallen into bankruptcy around 1894 through their involvement with the American Wheel Company. (4)



Oldt, Franklin. The History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Association, 1880, pg. 788 & 791

1. "Dubuque County Before 1880," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, October 19, 1933, p. 17

2. Ibid.

3. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, December 17, 1885, p. 4

4. "In East Dubuque," Dubuque Daily Telegraph, July 28, 1901, p. 8