A City at Work: Dubuque Portraits from 1912

January 18, 2020 - May 17, 2020

A City at Work 2020

A City at Work: Dubuque Portraits from 1912 features rarely-seen images of Dubuque industries as they existed more than a century ago.

As described in the exhibition catalog by co-authors Tim Olson and Mike Gibson of the Loras College Center for Dubuque History: In the spring of 1912, two men arrived in Dubuque and began shooting the photographs that would become the Klauer Collection. For three weeks they traveled throughout the city with a large format camera and a magnesium powder flash lamp, photographing workers in factories, offices, shops, saloons, and even the operating room of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. We don’t know the photographers’ names, though they each posed as customers when needed, leaving us several self-portraits. … When the photographers left Dubuque, they left behind roughly 440 extraordinary photographs documenting a city at work.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the project, in 2012, Dubuque artist and photographer Tim Olson returned to the same locations and photographed the places as they existed a century later. The resulting exhibition, A City at Work: 1912 to 2012, shown at DuMA in partnership with the Loras College Center for Dubuque History, was among the best attended and most popular in the museum’s history.

However, when this exhibition closed in 2013, that wasn’t the end of it. Olson and Gibson continued to research and exhibit the Klauer Collection. With the assistance of several local historians, they completed two books of the collection, one for the 1912 images and one for the 2012 images.

As a result, the Dubuque Museum of Art is once again revisiting these familiar and beloved images from Dubuque’s significant industrial history. This new exhibition focuses on six of the 1912 images along with newly researched biographies of the men and women in the photographs.