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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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

HEIM BRICK COMPANY. Heim was one of Dubuque's premier BRICK MANUFACTURING companies. In 1880, following the death of his father, John H. Heim, John L. and their mother converted their pottery business into a brickyard at 32nd and Central STREETS. The firm employed sixty to seventy-five workers including jail inmates who worked with a ball and chain attached to a leg. In 1911 the Heim Brick Yards had been in business forty-four years. The company included two yards, comprising forty acres of land, and employed forty men. The kilns had the capacity of manufacturing 50,000 brick per day. (1)

Workers dug the clay from the ground and carried it to a pit. The clay was mixed with water by a mixing shaft being turned by teams of horses. The wet clay was hand molded into bricks and carried to level ground to dry. The drying process, called "edging," often relied on children who earned ten cents per hour to turn the bricks. The semi-dry bricks were placed in covered corridors called "alleys" to continue drying. The final drying was carried out in kilns in which the heat gave the bricks their reddish color. (2)

Heim brick was used in the construction of WASHINGTON MIDDLE SCHOOL, SACRED HEART CHURCH, and HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH. Brick produced by the company was sold within four hundred miles of Dubuque. After the death of his mother, John L. Heim incorporation two yards near Fremont and Broadway. A step-brother, Joseph P. Heim, entered into a partnership with John L. in the operation of the Broadway yard. A son of John L., John G. Heim, also entered the business. (3)

A building slowdown occurred in 1896 leading the company to temporarily layoff its entire force of thirty-four workers. At the time the company had 2.5 million brick unsold. (4) Another building slowdown occurred during the 1920s. The GREAT DEPRESSION of the 1930s caused the company to fail. (5)



1. Thran, Sally. "Brickyard Was Foundation of Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, July 16, 1961, Dubuque News, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Daily Herald, September 12, 1896, p. 5

5. Thran

Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Heim brickyard with DUBUQUE BREWING AND MALTING COMPANY visible in the background.Image courtesy: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/2926