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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.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

KEY CITY PLANING COMPANY. In 1875 Christian LOETSCHER, a twenty-five-year-old Swiss immigrant, opened a mill operating the business from a 16- by 20-foot second floor space leased from the Key City Mill.

In 1876 Loetscher formed a partnership with W. R. Clark, A. B. Carlin and J. Rickard. Carlin was not an active partner because he was an agent for the Singer Sewing Machine Company. He drove about town in a horse and buggy large enough to carry a sample machine. In an unusual practice for the time, he sold sewing machines on the installment plan. Rickard retired from the lumber business after a few years and with his son manufactured boxes for manufacturers and wholesalers. The boxes were stored in a knocked down condition for assembly as needed. (1) The company, renamed the Key City Planing Company, purchased CLARK AND SCOTT in 1876 and remained a small millwork factory.

In February 1877 Loetscher bought out the interest of W. R. Clark. (2) This may have been made possible by the investment of $5,000 by Jesse P. FARLEY. Farley was so impressed by the Loetscher that he advanced another $10,000 for development. (3)

In September 1878 a boiler built by Rouse and Dean and recently repaired exploded. One person was killed and several others injured. The loss was estimated at between $5,000 and $6,000 all of which was charged to Loetscher. An insurance policy that had been in place had been allowed to lapse. The company had recently leased the PATCH & WAITE mill which allowed business to continue. (4)

in 1879 Farley became the principal partner in the company in 1879 by investing $85,000 in the construction of a three-story building at Eighth and Jackson STREETS. Loetscher was the active head of the company which became the FARLEY AND LOETSCHER MANUFACTURING COMPANY.



1. Loetscher, Carole. Wood: The History of Farley & Loetscher Manufacturing Company Once the Largest Millwork Company in the World, 2017, p. 10

2. "Business Change," Dubuque Herald, February 1, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770201&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. Loetscher

4. "Terrific Boiler Explosion," Dubuque Herald, September 28, 1878, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18780928&printsec=frontpage&hl=en