(article) New Year’s in Dubuque a Hundred Years Ago
The arrival of 1922 in Dubuque
As a new year began in Dubuque a hundred years ago, the bustling city saw its share of celebration, accidents, crime, and diversion.
Late in 1921 the weather had been cold. Cold enough that ice at McGregor allowed for the season's first vehicle to pass from Iowa into Wisconsin over the frozen Mississippi River. The last day of 1921 was windy and warm in Dubuque, though. After a cold Christmas, The New Year’s Eve Day high was 40 degrees. The strong wind was considered a factor in a serious injury to a woman who was struck by a locomotive. As she walked along the tracks, the sound of the wind interfered with her ability to hear the train behind here until it was just a few feet away.
The Dubuque Fire Department was busy with two fires reported in addition to calls for assistance with wind damage. A large fire at Morris, Jones, and Brown Manufacturing at the foot of 9th street caused total loss of the building. One firefighter was injured when part of the structure collapsed and fell on him. He was sent home for treatment. Another fire was extinguished at a coal pile on the property of Dubuque Electric Company on Wall Street.
Burglars described by police as “amateurs” made off with $10.00 from a coal and wood company on Garfield Avenue, and although prohibition was in effect, there were various alcohol-related issues. The Dubuque Police Chief called intoxication the leading cause for arrests in the city, and estimated “hootch” was a factor in 97 percent of criminal court cases in the year that was ending.
There was a lot of dancing on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day around town. The Hotel Julien Dubuque hosted a night of dancing and turkey dinner with an admission price of 90 cents. The hotel also placed a newspaper wanted ad searching for turkeys, geese, and chickens. 250 couples were expected for dancing at Armory Hall. 284 people brought in 1922 while dancing to a 7-piece orchestra at The Dubuque Country Club, where the night was capped by the appearance of a large electric sign that read “Happy New Year.” At the Hotel Paris on 4th Street, 45 couples danced, and a midnight meal was served.
Dubuque’s various bowling alleys were busy with league play, ice skating was offered at Athletic Park for a 10-cent admission fee, and the rather new sport of basketball was played between some industrial league teams at the YMCA.
Various live acts were performing in Dubuque at the holiday. A combination of amateur and professional acts including skits, a trombone soloist, and even a 6-round boxing match was part of a full day’s entertainment offered at Dubuque’s Majestic Theater (now Five Flags Theater). Plays and movies filled theaters throughout the city. “The Golden Snare” was playing at The Grand, while a Rudolph Valentino film, “The Conquering Power” was playing at The Strand.
So the people of Dubuque partied, played, worked, relaxed, rested, and lived at the arrival of the new year one hundred years back. Imagining the scenes leaves me to wonder how I might have welcomed 1922 were I here for its arrival. How do your New Year’s plans compare with what people were doing here a hundred years ago?
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Sources: Dubuque Telegraph Herald archive, Encyclopedia Dubuque, US Library of Congress.