Skip to content
print page header

The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Mississipppi River Power Company Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1911-1913
Creator: Mississippi River Power Company
Extent: .25 linear foot.
Collection Number: MsC0918
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Building a dam across the Mississippi River at Keokuk, Iowa as pictured in a series of 94 large photographs (58) and photograph postcards (36) of the project, 1911-1913. Images, 6 x 9 to 8 1/2 x 11 inches, picturing phases of the project from scenes of the city and countryside before the dam's construction through activation. Accompanied by Electric Power from the Mississippi River (Keokuk, IA: Mississippi River Power Company, May 1911, Bulletin No. 2), a status report on the construction to that time.

Access: This collection is open for research.

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

Acquisition: The University purchsed this collection in 2012.

Preferred Citation: Mississippi River Company 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

An excellent pictorial record of the construction of the dam across the Mississippi.
From Roald D. Tweet, Taming the Des Moines Rapids: The Background of Lock 19:
"Such a dam marked a serious shift of direction for navigation improvement on the Mississippi. Several earlier dams had been proposed at various locations, but none had ever been built. The River and Harbor Act of June 13, 1902, authorized a survey of the Mississippi at Keokuk 'to determine whether a dam constructed at the foot of said rapids would be a benefit or impediment to the navigation of said river.' The subsequent detailed and careful examination and report was favorable to the project. A single lock, together with the deep long pool which the dam would create, would flood the entire Des Moines Rapids, cutting both time and operating expense by 20% over the canal. Local residents and commercial interests favored the plan. In 1905 Congress authorized the Keokuk and Hamilton Water Power Company to proceed with the design and construction of the project. In addition to a new dry dock to replace the canal dry dock, and to provide free power to operate all lock and dry dock machinery, the lock was to be of sufficient dimensions to meet the requirements for an improved six-foot channel.
"Actual construction began in January 1910. Throughout the project, two complete crews worked, one from the Illinois side building the dam, and the other from the Iowa side building the dry dock, the lock, and the power house. For three years the dam slowly grew across the river, a cofferdam to keep the construction site dry proceeding just ahead of the work. Construction on the Iowa side was more complicated because it involved a number of projects, and because the canal had to be kept open to navigation. Construction on the Iowa side began in the spring of 1911 with the power plant. A cofferdam surrounding 23 acres was built out from the Des Moines Rapids Canal embankment. Here work on the power plant and new lock progressed during 1911 and 1912.
"By the middle of 1912 the dam was three-quarters of the way across the Mississippi. At its peak the project employed 1,200 men and used three steam shovels, five derrick cars, thirty dump cars, and fifteen locomotives operating over twenty miles of track. The last concrete was poured in the dam in May of 1913.
"On May 31, the company, now called the Mississippi River Power Company, held a locomotive parade across the new dam from Illinois to Iowa. The completed lock was turned over to the government in late spring.

94 photographs of the construction of the dam across the Mississippi at Keokuk; one issue of Electric Power from the Mississippi; and one photocopy from Huebinger's Automobile and Good Road Atlas of Iowa.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Electric Power From the Mississippi, Mississippi River Power Company, Keokuk, Iowa, U.S.A. Bulletin No.2, May 1911
  • “The Power Achievement of the Century.” Huebinger’s Automobile and Good Road Atlas of Iowa, 1912
  • Photographs.
  • Photographs.

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.