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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.


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Joseph "Tiger Joe" Zehentner

ZEHENTNER, Joseph. (Dubuque, IA, May 3, 1908--Dubuque, IA, Nov. 15, 1997). In 1932 Zehentner purchased the fruit store of Joe Costa and 1902 Central and renamed the company the Zehentner Fruit Company. The busness sold locally grown fruits and vegetables as will as fancy imported varieties. (1) During the GREAT DEPRESSION he was known for giving away packages of food to the needy.

During the 1930s, Zehentner was also a popular local wrestler. Known as "Tiger Joe" for his agility, he became interested in the sport at the DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB. His first matches were part of the evening's program with touring professionals. He wrestled at the Chicago World's Fair in the 1930s.

Zehentner's reputation as a wrestler soared after becoming friends with Charles "Midget" Fischer, a world champion light heavyweight. Fischer often insisted through his contracts that Zehentner wrestle the same evenings at such locations as Dubuque's MELODY MILL. Zehentner became famous for his “Indian Death Lock” from which there was said to be no escape.

In 1942 at the start of WORLD WAR II, Zehentner was a member of the Bridge Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers Local 498 and worked in the ship yard in National City, California until 1946.

Illustration by Norman Zepeski

Zehentner returned to Dubuque and worked as the manager of the ZEHENTNER'S SPORTING GOODS COMPANY for thirty-five years. He also served as vice-president of DUBUQUE AIRWAYS INC. Zehentner retired from business in the early 1970s.



1. "Joe Zehentner Will Operate Fruit Store," Telegraph-Herald, April 7, 1932, p. 5

Obituaries. Telegraph Herald, November 18, 1997, p. 10B. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19971118&printsec=frontpage&hl=en