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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.


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Museum of Natural History

HERRMANN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (HERRMANN MUSEUM). Richard HERRMANN began his collecting as an employee of the Illinois Central Railroad. (1) Beginning with geological specimens, he gradually developed an extensive collection of Native American relics. (2) In 1896 he was elected secretary of the organization meant to be a reorganization of the IOWA INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND ARTS. (3) At the age of eighty-three, he was still giving guided tours of his collections which were stored in the upstairs areas and halls of his home. (4) In his earlier days he made presentations at the museum. One such meeting for the Immanuel Brotherhood of which he was president involved an illustrated lecture entitled "The North American Indians" with Herrmann discussing daily life and manners of Native Americans. (5)

Herrmann, his wife and his sister Rosalie lived in the museum at 2419 Central Avenue. In 1954 his sister admitted that what had begun with several small items had become almost uncontrollable. She wanted to eventually catalogue the collection, but she was busy with a doll collection and gardening. She acted as librarian, Herrmann's wife helped in his collection, and a brother Oscar added a collection of birds' eggs and his skills as a taxidermist. While Henry "followed botanical lines" the collection covered the fields of archaeology, botany, zoology, history, and Indian lore. A mastodon molar found near the 11 miles post of the ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD rested on one table. (6)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

Herrmann excavated Dubuque's grave to prove that he had really been buried there. What he found, including Dubuque, were the remains of Potosi, his wife, and Peosta, the chief. All the remains were exhibited in the Herrmann home/museum and whern they were reburied, Chief Peosta's body remained in the museum. His skeleton wired together and shellacked to preserve the bones, stood against a wall. It was surrounded by collections of stuffed birds and fish, a birch bark canoe, and flint tools and arrow points. Paintings made by Herrmann indicated that he was an "accomplished artist." (7)

Nothing in the various collections had been sold although interest had been especially keen in some of the old guns. Most of the items carried a tag on which Herrmann had written the date the item had been collected and the name of the donor. Often these people were friends of the family who knew of the Herrmanns' interest. One of the items was a "pipe hatchet" that was an example of the weapons the French provided their native American allies during the French and Indian War. This had been snagged during a fishing trip in 1901. A large meteorite said to have landed in Dubuque was displayed in a cabinet with specimens of minerals. The cabinet happened to stand beside a wooden cradle Dubuque may have used as a child. This had been donated by Dubuque's descendants in Canada. (8)

Upon his death, relatives loaned his countless artifacts to the DUBUQUE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Originally displayed at the HAM HOUSE, the collections were moved in 1982 to the Mississippi River Museum. In 1995 the donation was made permanent. (9)

The 1939 through 1964 Dubuque City Directory listed 2419 Central.



1. "Herrmann Museum Chock Full of Rare Relics, Antiques, Curiosities, and Art Work Gathered From the Middle West," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, Feb. 26, 1933, p. 18.

2. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Center for Dubuque History, Loras College, 2000, p. 54

3. "Richard Herrmann in Business Fifty Years," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, June 12, 1927, p. 4

4. "Herrmann Museum Chock..."

5. "Immanuel Brotherhood Meets," Dubuque Telegraph Herald, June 12, 1913, p 14

6. Dahlinger, Mark, "Peosta's Skull Still Hangs in City Home," Telegraph Herald, August 8, 1954, p. 21

  Special thanks to Paul Hemmer

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Gilindinning, Mary, "Family Donates Dubuque History," Telegraph Herald, May 10, 1995, p. 3.