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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Kimball Elevator Company Records

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1871-1934
Creator: Kimball Elevator Company
Extent: 1.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0524
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Papers of the Kimball Brothers' Elevator Company, 1883-1934. Incoming correspondence and order forms for freight and passenger elevator and dumb waiter company, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: These papers were purchased by the University of Iowa Libraries in 2001.

Preferred Citation: Kimball Elevator Company Records, 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
Email: lib-spec@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/sc

The Kimball Elevator Company was started in Anamosa, Iowa, in 1883. A grocer who wanted an easy way to get potatoes from his basement to his shop floor could find no one to make him an elevator, so he went to the local machine shop, owned by the father of William H. and Charles E. Kimball. They agreed to build this freight elevator, and the Kimball Brothers' Elevator Company was born.

In 1892, they moved their main operation to Council Bluffs, though a branch still operated in Anamosa. They had considered other locations, such as Cleveland, Ohio, but were lured to Council Bluffs by a petition, signed by seventy-nine Council Bluffs businessmen, pledging the brothers about $1500 if they would open their plant in Council Bluffs. The excellent rail service in Council Bluffs may also have contributed to their decision to locate their new factory there. The company was incorporated under Iowa law in 1901.

Kimball Brothers had their own foundry, and the elevators were made entirely at the Council Bluffs factory. By 1928, they were turning out one elevator every day, and by 1953, they had manufactured 14,000 elevators. In 1947, they had branch offices in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Gary, Indiana, Kansas City, Missouri, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. By 1955 they had offices in California, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Louisiana, and Ohio. Kimball Brothers were innovators in the elevator business. In 1928, they manufactured a high-speed push-button elevator capable of traveling 300 feet per minute. Their taper drum safety catch became a standard in the industry.

Every elevator was custom built. Kimball elevators went from 200 feet underground to 300 feet in the air. Elevators built by Kimball ranged from a 40,000 pound freight elevator at the J. I Case plant in Racine, Wisconsin, to the only elevator that operated at a 25 degree angle at the Pathfinder Dam near Casper, Wyoming, to chair lifts for the handicapped, to a gold plated elevator in a Hollywood home, to an elevator for taking patient records from a storage vault to the hospital office. Actress Norma Shearer used a Kimball elevator to raise a large theater screen from a concealed floor-level position in the ballroom of her home. An elevator for inspecting mines was installed at Fort Randall Dam in Pickston, South Dakota. This elevator, measuring seventeen feet long, eight feet wide, and nine feet high, was completely portable and could be moved from one mine shaft to another by a gantry crane which picked up the penthouse car and slipped it on and off tracks in each shaft.

In 1953, the O'Keefe Elevator Company of Omaha, Nebraska purchased an interest in the Kimball Brothers' Elevator Company. Dennis O'Keefe had been an elevator installer for Kimball Brothers in 1912 before going into business for himself. The company still exists today as the O'Keefe Elevator Company of Omaha.

The Kimball Elevator Company collection dates from 1871 to 1934 and is comprised of business letters and forms. These are incoming orders and forms -- very little outgoing mail from the company is represented in the collection. These are arranged chronologically.

The collection contains some materials whose relationship to the Kimball business is not readily apparent, though for reasons of provenance they have been left with the collection. Some of these materials do have a common thread, and they have been removed from the main body of the collection. Besides a small file of miscellaneous items, there are receipts for J. C. Young of Taylorville, California; C. E. Young, also of Taylorville, California; H. W. Stephens of Windy, West Virginia; and I.C.C. Whitmore of Eureka, Nevada. These three appear to have been dry goods merchants and these records are apparently orders to their suppliers. Also represented are records of two banks, both in Carson City, Nevada -- the Bullion and Exchange Bank and the State Bank and Trust.

The local Iowa connection as well as the company's involvement with interests across the country make this collection interesting to business historians. Many small companies in Iowa ordered freight elevators from Kimball, and a microcosm of the sorts of businesses operating in Iowa around the turn of the nineteenth century can be gained from looking at incoming orders. In addition, the country's westward development can be deduced by the orders placed from western states, which represent the preponderance of orders after Iowa. Washington and Oregon are heavily represented in this collection. As well, there are a few orders from Canada and Mexico.

This collection is also of interest from a graphic design standpoint, showing turn-of-the-century letterhead and stationery designs of the businesses ordering elevators from Kimball, as well as blueprints from that era.

Some Kimball Brothers catalogs may be found at this web site: https://archive.org/details/KimballStraightLineDriveElevators.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: CORRESPONDENTS 1889
Series 2: CORRESPONDENTS 1890
Series 3: CORRESPONDENTS 1891
Series 4: CORRESPONDENTS 1892
Series 5: CORRESPONDENTS 1893
Series 6: CORRESPONDENTS 1894
Series 7: CORRESPONDENTS 1895
Series 8: CORRESPONDENTS 1896
Series 9: CORRESPONDENTS 1897
Series 10: CORRESPONDENTS 1898
Series 11: CORRESPONDENTS 1899
Series 12: CORRESPONDENTS 1900
Series 13: CORRESPONDENTS 1901 [B-G]
Series 14: CORRESPONDENTS 1901 [H-Y]
Series 15: CORRESPONDENTS 1902
Series 16: CORRESPONDENTS 1903 [A-H]
Series 17: CORRESPONDENTS 1903 [J-W]
Series 18: CORRESPONDENTS 1904
Series 19: CORRESPONDENTS 1905
Series 20: CORRESPONDENTS 1906
Series 21: CORRESPONDENTS 1907
Series 22: CORRESPONDENTS 1908
Series 23: CORRESPONDENTS 1909
Series 24: CORRESPONDENTS 1910 [A-H]
Series 25: CORRESPONDENTS 1910 [I-W]
Series 26: CORRESPONDENTS 1911 [A-L]
Series 27: CORRESPONDENTS 1911 [M-W]
Series 28: CORRESPONDENTS 1912 [A-L]
Series 29: CORRESPONDENTS 1912 [M-W]
Series 30: CORRESPONDENTS 1913 [B-H]
Series 31: CORRESPONDENTS 1913 [I-W]
Series 32: CORRESPONDENTS 1914 [B-L]
Series 33: CORRESPONDENTS 1914 [M-W]
Series 34: CORRESPONDENTS 1915 [A-G]
Series 35: CORRESPONDENTS 1915 [H-Z]
Series 36: CORRESPONDENTS 1916
Series 37: CORRESPONDENTS 1917
Series 38: CORRESPONDENTS 1918
Series 39: CORRESPONDENTS UNDATED
Series 40: GENERAL

  • Series 1: CORRESPONDENTS 1889
  • Box 1:
  • B. F. Martin, Rochester, New York
  • Series 2: CORRESPONDENTS 1890
  • Box 1:
  • Clark & McClelland, Leon, Iowa
  • Series 3: CORRESPONDENTS 1891
  • Box 1:
  • Bates, H. E. and Company, Anamosa, Iowa
  • Series 4: CORRESPONDENTS 1892
  • Box 1:
  • Anderson & Winter, [no city] [no state]
  • Series 5: CORRESPONDENTS 1893
  • Box 1:
  • [ Anderson?], John, Missouri Valley, Iowa
  • Series 6: CORRESPONDENTS 1894
  • Box 1:
  • [Bandy?], W. A. [no city] [no state]
  • Series 7: CORRESPONDENTS 1895
  • Box 1:
  • ?, Forest City, Iowa
  • Series 8: CORRESPONDENTS 1896
  • Box 1:
  • ?, Faribault, Minnesota
  • Series 9: CORRESPONDENTS 1897
  • Box 1:
  • Crabill, J. M., Clarinda, Iowa
  • Series 10: CORRESPONDENTS 1898
  • Box 1:
  • ?, Hopkins, Missouri
  • Series 11: CORRESPONDENTS 1899
  • Box 1:
  • ? Denison, Iowa
  • Series 12: CORRESPONDENTS 1900
  • Box 1:
  • ? Spencer, Iowa
  • Series 13: CORRESPONDENTS 1901 [B-G]
  • Box 1:
  • Baily, W. A., Maryville, Missouri
  • Series 14: CORRESPONDENTS 1901 [H-Y]
  • Box 1:
  • Harbert, Beary & Pollock, Powersville, Missouri
  • Series 15: CORRESPONDENTS 1902
  • Box 1:
  • ?, Aledo, Illinois
  • Series 16: CORRESPONDENTS 1903 [A-H]
  • Box 1:
  • Airy & Roseberry, Maryville, Missouri
  • Series 17: CORRESPONDENTS 1903 [J-W]
  • Box 1:
  • Judith Hardware Company, Lewistown, Montana
  • Series 18: CORRESPONDENTS 1904
  • Box 1:
  • ?, Carthage, Missouri
  • Series 19: CORRESPONDENTS 1905
  • Box 1:
  • Boykin & Burwell, Jacksonville, Florida
  • Series 20: CORRESPONDENTS 1906
  • Box 1:
  • ? Sheldon, Iowa
  • Series 21: CORRESPONDENTS 1907
  • Box 1:
  • Bailey and Lambert, Walla Walla, Washington
  • Series 22: CORRESPONDENTS 1908
  • Box 1:
  • Brace, H. G., & Company, Seattle, Washington
  • Series 23: CORRESPONDENTS 1909
  • Box 1:
  • Baer Brothers, Freeman, South Dakota
  • Series 24: CORRESPONDENTS 1910 [A-H]
  • Box 1:
  • Abernathy Furniture Company, Leavenworth, Kansas
  • Series 25: CORRESPONDENTS 1910 [I-W]
  • Box 2:
  • International Harvester Company, Sioux City, Iowa [Interstate Electric & Manufacturing Company; G. S. Montgomery, agent]
  • Series 26: CORRESPONDENTS 1911 [A-L]
  • Box 2:
  • Ashley, C. E., La Porte City, Iowa
  • Series 27: CORRESPONDENTS 1911 [M-W]
  • Box 2:
  • Marcus and Sutherland, Merrill, Iowa [Zack Eyres, contractor]
  • Series 28: CORRESPONDENTS 1912 [A-L]
  • Box 2:
  • Case, J. I. Threshing Machine Company, San Francisco, California
  • Series 29: CORRESPONDENTS 1912 [M-W]
  • Box 2:
  • McNee & Sons, Blairsburg, Iowa
  • Series 30: CORRESPONDENTS 1913 [B-H]
  • Box 3:
  • Battershell Brothers, Pocahontas, Iowa
  • Series 31: CORRESPONDENTS 1913 [I-W]
  • Box 3:
  • Independent Fisheries Company, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Series 32: CORRESPONDENTS 1914 [B-L]
  • Box 3:
  • Baker, R. M., Sioux City, Iowa [agent for Chesterman Company; Palmer & Company; Crittenden Home]
  • Series 33: CORRESPONDENTS 1914 [M-W]
  • Box 3:
  • Marcles, J. C. Company, Omaha, Nebraska [Keeline Building; J. S. Wakefield]
  • Series 34: CORRESPONDENTS 1915 [A-G]
  • Box 3:
  • Abernathy Furniture Company, Leavenworth, Kansas [C. R. Hills]
  • Series 35: CORRESPONDENTS 1915 [H-Z]
  • Box 3:
  • Haas-Shuenk Hardware Company, Le Mars, Iowa
  • Series 36: CORRESPONDENTS 1916
  • Box 3:
  • Baker, R. M., Sioux City, Iowa
  • Series 37: CORRESPONDENTS 1917
  • Box 4:
  • Campbell, A. H. Company
  • Series 38: CORRESPONDENTS 1918
  • Box 4:
  • Globe Machinery and Supply Company, Des Moines, Iowa
  • ?, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Series 39: CORRESPONDENTS UNDATED
  • Box 4:
  • Most of these are blank contracts, used for the illustration on the back to demonstrate what unknown clients want in their elevator. There are also several drawings and blueprints that I am not able to associate with a particular client in these folders.
  • Series 40: GENERAL
  • Box 4:
  • Newspaper clippings about Kimball/O'keefe Elevator Company. Photocopies
  • Bullion and Exchange Bank, Carson City, Nevada
  • Miscellaneous
  • State Bank and Trust, Carson City, Nevada
  • Stephens, H. W.
  • Whitmore, I. C. C.
  • Young, C. E.
  • Young, J. E.

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.


Browse:
Businessmen and Businesses