Guide to the Wesley Redhead Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1853-1893
Creator: Redhead, Wesley (1825-1891)
Extent: 1.00 linear foot.
Collection Number: MSC0021
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Businessman of Des Moines, IA. Diaries and account books, business correspondence, and tax receipts concerning his business ventures in early Des Moines.

Administrative Information

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


Preferred Citation: Wesley Redhead Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Biographical Note

Wesley Redhead (1825-1891) was born in England but immigrated to Canada when he was four years old. When his parents died in 1831, he was sent to Cincinnati to live with an uncle. There he was apprenticed to learn the printing business. However, his uncle decided to send him east to Vermont where he was to live with his older brother and learn cabinet making. Unhappy there, Redhead ran away to work at whatever jobs he could find. These jobs included working on canals, farms, riverboats, etc. In 1844, he landed in Iowa and stayed. In Iowa City, he apprenticed himself for three years to a tailor and in 1851 he opened his own tailor shop in Fort Des Moines. He remained in Des Moines for the rest of his life, becoming one of its most prominent pioneer citizens.
In 1853, Redhead was appointed postmaster. He combined this office with a book store. In 1855, he opened an Aetna Fire Insurance Company office and issued the first insurance policy in Des Moines. Redhead was later elected vice-president of the Equitable Life Insurance Company. In 1864, Wesley Redhead began investing in coal mining operations. His first was the Des Moines Coal Company, but he also was involved in the Black Diamond Coal Co. and the Pioneer Coal Co.
Although he was never a politician, Redhead was elected as a representative to the state's 21st General Assembly in 1866. That same year he was elected to represent Des Moines township on the County Board of Supervisors.
Some of Redhead's other investments included State Bank of Iowa (director and stockholder), Des Moines Scale Co. (treasurer), and the State Printing Company (vice-president). He also helped organize the Pioneer Hay Company and the local Grange. In 1879, Wesley Redhead helped secure the State Fair permanently in Des Moines and donated some of the land for the fairgrounds.

Content Description

The papers of Wesley Redhead consist of two boxes of manuscripts (one linear foot) dating from 1852-1893, relating to his career as a pioneer businessman. Comprised of correspondence, diaries, account books, and tax receipts, these papers document his activities in early Des Moines. The correspondence concerning his three coal mining interests includes letters from Samuel Kirkwood who was a partner in the Black Diamond Coal Company.

Detailed Description of the Collection

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This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Coal mines and mining


Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Des Moines
United States -- Iowa
United States -- Iowa -- Polk County