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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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HUGHES, James. (1834-1877). According to the 1858-1859 Dubuque City Directory, Hughes operated a grocery on Lorimier Avenue. The 1861 Dubuque City Directory listed his grocery on Julien between Spruce and Walnut.

The August 5, 1862 Daily Herald announced:

         MORE SHOT TOWERS.--James Hughes, the enterprising grocer on
         Julien Avenue, not to be out-done by others, will commence
         this week the manufacture of shot in the old "Stout shaft"
         on the road to West Dubuque, near Dr. Finley's. This is an
         excellent location, near the city, and on the highway, making
         it a desirable place. When all the shot towers get under full
         blast that article ought to be cheap. (1)

The August 7, 1862 edition of the same newspaper reported:

         James Hughes commenced the erection yesterday of a frame
         building 40 by 25 feet, over the shaft spoken of the other
         day. Lumber, ropes and building material are already on the
         ground, and in a few days Jim will have shot for sale a 
         little lower than St. Louis prices. (2)

Hughes did not lack in commercial bravado. He used the image of the SHOT TOWER in his advertisements. The Daily Herald even went so far as to credit Hughes with establishing "the first one of the kind ever started in this vicinity." (3)

Hughes was able to purchase the equipment used in the shot tower in early 1863. Hughes was in full production on April 1, 1863 with a daily production equal to the Booth-Carter-Graves operation. (4) His works were located just west of the intersection of West 5th and Delhi. (5) Molten lead was dropped down a shaft nearly two hundred feet deep. He installed new machinery including a small elevator which carried the shot up to an inclined plane where it rolled into a hopper for sorting. (6)

Within a period of five years, Hughes' shot tower was repeatedly destroyed by fire. The first occurred in 1864 with the plant being rebuilt the following year. The second fire happened in August, 1866. The third fire struck in March 1869. Plans were made for the business to be rebuilt. (7)

Hughes was a close acquaintance of many of Dubuque's most influential men. Julius K. GRAVES gave him the position of managing the SHOT TOWER along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER which may have given Hughes his first experience in the business. Hughes also managed the street railway, owned the predecessor of the TELEGRAPH HERALD, owned and operated three steamers and the EAGLE POINT FERRY. He was buried in Clinton, Iowa, the home of his wife. (8)



1. National Register of Historic Places," Online: http://weblink.cityofdubuque.org/WebLink8/1/doc/16333/Page72.aspx,

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., p. 73

5. Ibid., p.73

6. Ibid., p. 74

7. Ibid., p. 74

8. Ibid., p. 75