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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
Bank postcard used for private business in 1879. Photo courtesy: Larry Friedman
1892 Business Card
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FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF DUBUQUE. Opened for business on June 20, 1864, First National Bank was the first nationally chartered bank in Dubuque under the Banking Act of 1864 and the successor to the local branch of the STATE BANK OF IOWA. The deposits the first day totaled $2,261. Located at 121 Main, First National saw its business expand quickly; by 1866 the capital of the bank stood at $150,000. (1)

On August 16, 1893, First National Bank closed its doors. This was caused by its inability to realize as promptly as expected the enormous amounts recently paid out — over $543,000 in about three months. Examiner McHugh said the bank could and would open in a few days. The depositors signed an agreement to accept for their balances certificates of deposit bearing 4 per cent interest and payable in four equal installments three months apart, beginning January 1, 1894. The bank resumed business on August 30. (2)

The first site of First National Bank

The bank's first location in Dubuque was on the northwest corner of Main and Sixth STREETS in what was known as the Jones Block. This proved a temporary location.

Child's bank circa 1930. Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/45737582684/
First National Bank's location for 95 years.

The bank soon took possession of a building on the northwest corner of Main and Fifth streets once occupied by Dubuque's branch of the STATE BANK OF IOWA. First National remained in this location for ninety-five years with expansions and modernization occurring twice.

The GREAT DEPRESSION led to the failure of many banks across the United States including those in Dubuque. Of the six banks in operation in Dubuque in 1929, only First National Bank and AMERICAN TRUST AND SAVINGS BANK survived. Concerned about additional failures and the health of banks in operation, state and the federal governments instituted a BANK HOLIDAY. On March 7, 1933 First National remained the only bank in Iowa in operation. Its officers stated that being a national bank, it would remain in operation until specifically ordered to close by the Secretary of the Treasury. (3)

First National Bank's location after 1962.

By 1962 continued growth left the bank in need of additional space. First National then constructed a modern banking facility on a site between Sixth and Seventh Streets on Locust.

"Walk-up window" and "curb teller" banking. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Junior Banker

During its years of service to the community, First National boasted many "firsts." The bank offered the first Christmas Club Accounts on January 1, 1921. In October 1954 First National announced "curb teller" and "walk-up window" services. The "curb teller" allowed a customer to ring for the attention of the cashier inside the bank, talk with the cashier over a two-way loudspeaker, and place his/her deposit into a small steel box which traveled by conveyor belt under the sidewalk into the bank in less than twenty seconds. The "walk-up window" with bullet-proof glass was next to the teller. Customers could communicate with the teller who used a two-way loudspeaker operated by foot pedal. A marquee protected the customer from rain or snow. (4) The merger of DUBUQUE THRIFT PLAN with First National Bank on January 1, 1955, led to the city's first installment loan department in a bank. The first junior savers' program was begun on June 7, 1962 and agri-business banking began in 1964.

In more recent years, First National was first to offer West Dubuque banking (October 28, 1968), North Dubuque banking (July 13, 1971), Asbury area banking (May 24, 1976) and was the first to offer combined banking services with its New Outlooks Club (April 4, 1974). First National initiated computer display terminals that provided customers with instantaneous response to their balance questions (January 1976) and was the first to offer their Automated Central Information File for customer accounts (November 1979). In February 1990, First National became the first area bank to resume limited Saturday service using their Kennedy Road facility.

In 1987 DUBUQUE MAIN STREET, LTD., through the support of First National and four other local banks, was able to offer a $200,000 loan pool program, the first in the nation, to enable it make loans for the purchase and rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings in the Main Street District. The National Trust for Historic Preservation gave Main Street Ltd. a matching amount with First National administrating the National Trust's share. (5) In 1989 First National was one of five initial investors in the Iowa Business Development Finance Corporation, a venture fund established to assist new or established businesses in need of capital. (6)

On March 1, 1991 First National Bank was awarded all Statesman Federal Savings Bank deposits by the Resolution Trust Corporation. (7)

Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

In 1993 the acquisition of First National by Northwest Bancorporation of Minneapolis was rejected by the Federal Reserve Board. (8) In 1993 First Dubuque Corp., the holding company of First National, announced a merger under which First National and its subsidiaries would become part of Hawkeye Bancorporation. (9) First National Bank became the largest bank in the Hawkeye company and the first bank in Dubuque that was part of a state or regional banking company. (10) A few years later, the bank merged into the Mercantile Bank corporation. In 1999, Mercantile Bank was acquired by FIRSTAR. After Firstar merged with U.S. Bancorp, the combined banks became known as U.S. BANK, the name carried in 2008.

First National was a local leader in supporting the publication of books about the history of Dubuque. Their efforts began with 1864-1964 Journey Through a Century of Service and Growth (See: attachment), The Heritage of Dubuque: An Architectural View (1975), and Encyclopedia Dubuque.

The 1985 through 1989 Dubuque City Directory listed 7th at Town Clock Plaza, Kennedy and Wacker, Jackson and White at 22nd and Asbury at Hales Mill Road.

Photo courtesy: Joseph Jacobsmeier
Bank postcard
Drive-up banking envelope
1894 business form

See: PANIC OF 1873

See: 1864-1964 Journey Through a Century of Service and Growth http://www.encyclopediadubuque.org/images/1864-1964%20Journey%20Through%20a%20Century%20of%20Service%20and%20Growth%20.pdf (11)



1. Statement of Condition." Dubuque Herald, July 8, 1866, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=eBBBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=LKgMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5258,5824151&dq=first+national+bank+dubuque&hl=en

2. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-22-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

3. "Kraschel Says All Iowa Banks Are Now Closed," Telegraph Herald and Times Journal, March 7, 1933, p. 11. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=6f1QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Or4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=4045,3791016&dq=first+national+bank+dubuque&hl=en

4. "City Bank Installs Curb Teller, Walk-Up Window," Telegraph Herald, November 8, 1954, p. 4

5. Blocker, Sue. "Dubuque Main Street to Offer Loan Program," Telegraph Herald, September 23, 1987, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=lQJlAAAAIBAJ&sjid=d3YNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2144,4732687&dq=first+national+bank+dubuque&hl=en

6. Mischka, Joe. "Banks Raise $2.5 Million For Venture Fund," Telegraph Herald, February 11, 1989, p. 11. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=kgteAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6F8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=6322,2278993&dq=first+national+bank+dubuque&hl=en

7. "First National Bank Welcomes Statesman Bank to Our Family of Financial Friends," Telegraph Herald, March 3, 1991, p. 6. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=IWpFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UbwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5818,428968&dq=first+national+bank+dubuque&hl=en

8. "Northwest Bancorp Bid for Bank in Dubuque Rejected by Fed." Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1973. Online: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/djreprints/doc/133820889.html?FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:AI&type=historic&date=Sep%2020,%201973&author=&pub=Wall%20Street%20Journal&edition=&startpage=&desc=Northwest%20Bancorp%20Bid%20For%20Bank%20in%20Dubuque%20Is%20Rejected%20by%20the%20Fed

9. "Dubuque Bank, Hawkeye Merge," The Daily Reporter, March 26, 1993, p. 78. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HVkrAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0tkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5137,3147646&dq=first+national+bank+dubuque&hl=en

10. Bergstrom, Kathy. "City Bank Joins Hawkeye," Telegraph Herald, August 27, 1992, p. 1

11. Courtesy: Rachel Harpham