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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.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

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


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Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
Photo courtesy: Jim Massey
This small bulk plant was located in the Ice Harbor area. The operation consisted of a small warehouse and a 300 gallon tank drawn by a team of mules. Photo courtesy: Jim Massey

IOWA OIL COMPANY (IOCO). In 1905, a group of twenty-five boating enthusiasts were determined to obtain an ample supply of good gasoline for their own use. They found that Cities Service products met their requirements and began selling gasoline to other boaters from a barge. As interest grew, the Iowa Oil Co. was organized to handle a variety of petroleum products. Iowa Oil remained with Cities Service for 36 years.

The company began shipping products out of town from their bulk plant at Dubuque. Later bulk plants were opened at Galena, Illinois, Dyersville and Manchester, Ia., and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Eventually the company had 18 bulk plants--ten in Iowa, two in Illinois, and six in Wisconsin. (1)

In 1930, Iowa Oil Company was the oldest and largest independent oil company in Iowa. (2) In 1933 the company had grown to twenty-five Super Service Stations. By 1938 this was risen to thirty-five, sixty in 1946 and 81 in 1988.

Innovation was a factor. In 1935 Iowa Oil offered its customers Certified Metered Oil Delivery. In what became standard in the industry, the purchaser ordered a specific number of gallons of heating oil. The driver set an automatic recording meter to the specified number of gallons and a receipt was printed on-site recording the transaction. (3) The same year, the company arranged to be the supplier of gasoline and petroleum products at the DELLS OF DURANGO, a resort that opened north of Dubuque in July. (4)


During their 99 years in business, the Iowa Oil Company marketing products with the following brands: (5)

   Iowa Motor Oil
   Iowa Axle Grease
   Iowa Hi-Grade Gasoline
   Iowa Hi-Grade Motor Oil
   Iowa Gas

The 1911-12 Dubuque City Directory listed near Railroad Avenue.

The 1923 Dubuque City Directory listed Levee at the foot of 1st.

The 1929 Dubuque City Directory listed the corner of Water and 1st.

In 1934 stations were maintained at 4th and Locust, 20th and Jackson, Delhi and Asbury, 14th and White, and 27th and Jackson. The 1948 Dubuque Classified Business Directory listed 1397 White.

The 1937 Dubuque City Directory listed 302 E. 20th.

The 1939 through 1962 Dubuque City Directory listed E. 1st and Levee.

The 1964 through 1987 Dubuque City Directory listed Levee Front and 1481 Dodge.

The 1989 Dubuque City Directory listed Levee Front.

The 1993 Dubuque City Directory listed 100 E. 1st St.

The staple products of the company included burning oils, lubricating oils, gasolines and greases, and a special line of non-carbonizing motor oils, transmission oils and greases for the automobile and motor boat trade. The company's leading brands included "Iowa Light Oil" and "Auto-Marine Gasoline" adapted for use in engines, lamps and stoves.

In the early 1920s the first service station was built at 4th and Locust. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The original IOCO name and logo were created by Ron Enke. The three triangles in the original logo symbolized the tri-state area. The first convenience store was built in 1977 at 1481 Dodge. By 1988 there were six convenience stores and a truck plaza in Dubuque. The same year the company marketed through eighty location and employed 190 people in three states.

In 1987 IOCO convenience stores in Dubuque could be found at 3270 Dodge, 1481 Dodge, 1387 Dodge, 2335 University, 3200 Central, 1998 Jackson, and the Hwy.20 W. Truck Stop.

Company Timeline: (6)

October 19, 1905 - Articles of Incorporation are filed in Dubuque County

1915 - Begins distribution of Cities Service Products with their private label brands

July 1955 - Featured in Service magazine, the official company publication of the Cities Service Oil Company

October 1955 - Celebrates 50th anniversary

2003 - Files for Bankruptcy (7)

May 2004 - Assets of the company are auctioned at a public sale

Matchbook advertising
Matchbook. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
1955 advertisement. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Paper weight and clip



1. Nathan's Petro.com. "Iowa Oil Company," Online: http://www.iowaoilcompany.com/index.html

2. "Iowa Oil Company is Leader in Field, Telegraph-Herald, August 24, 1930, p. 4

3. Advertisement. Telegraph-Herald, October 13, 1935, p.

4. "Public Invited to Participate in Opening," Telegraph-Herald, July 21, 1935, p. 7

5. Nathan's Petro.com

6. Ibid.

7. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2004, p. 34