Inducted in 2019
One of the nation’s leading boat-building companies in the 20th century, the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works was organized in 1904 with the equipment and legacy of its predecessor, the Iowa Iron Works. In 1907, this innovative company completed the 305-foot-long railroad transfer boat Albatross, which had the capacity of ferrying sixteen railroad cars at one time across the river. The Albatross later became the well-known St. Louis excursion boat the Admiral, capable of carrying 4,400 passengers.
By 1908, the company received a contract to build twenty-eight barges and was additionally working on two passenger boats and towboats. During World War I, the Boat and Boiler Works was used for war-time production of tows, barges, dredges, submarine chasers, and Coast Guard cutters. Then they built and launched the $260,000 Del Commune and the U.S. Lighthouse Service tender Willow.
By the 1920s, the company was led by Ira Davenport who was Jacob Shreiner’s son-in-law. Among the scores of boats built, they constructed three paddlewheel steamboats for the newlyincorporated Upper Mississippi Barge Line – the C.C. Webber, the S.S. Thorpe (later re-christened `George M. Verity), and the John W. Weeks. This was a major turning point in American transportation history, helping mark the re-opening of the Upper Mississippi River for commercial freight. During World War II, the Boat and Boiler Works launched war-time Coast Guard cutters, tenders, mine planters, and towboats.
By the 1950s, the company was under the leadership of Henry “Hank” Miller, the son-in-law of Ira Davenport. Under this leadership, the Boat and Boiler Works built what the nation wanted and became one of the major excursion boat and houseboat manufacturers in the country.
Capt. Dennis Trone, who had already built the Talisman, joined the company and ultimately became its last president. He built the Julia Belle Swain, one of the few steamboats that operated on the Mississippi River into the 21st century.
In 1972, Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works made its final dock and closed their doors, finalizing their decades of impact and legacy to the maritime industry. It’s this legacy that makes Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works a fitting inductee into the National Rivers Hall of Fame.