Photograph of Trenkle's Sausage Company sign used by permission. Original photograph (Image #151), taken by Cara Pusateri of Dubuque, Iowa, a few years ago as the building on which the sign was painted was being demolished. It was located on Central Avenue across from the former Trenkle's Sausage Company.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dubuque & Trenkle's Meat Market

To Dubuquers, sausage and cold cuts meant Trenkle's. Never mind that there were four sausage manufacturers listed in the 1901 Dubuque City Directory -- to Dubuquers, there was only one place to shop for luncheon meats, sausages, and weiners. Stopping by every Saturday was as much a weekly activity as hanging the wash outdoors every Monday (and yes, even on
the coldest winter days).

I have vivid memories of my mother or my Grandma Holz waiting to be served. There were always several customers in line, no doubt patiently holding numbers. I remember the tall glass display cases piled high inside with sausages and cold meat loaves, the clean black and white tiles, the men, including Henry himself, in white aprons quickly wrapping purchases in white heavy butcher paper or handing out samples to anyone who asked and always to the children, including me. The smells were fresh and pleasant. Henry died in 1948 so I must have been four-five-six-or seven years old at the time.

Heinrich Trenkle was born on 29 September 1866 to the shoemaker, Karl Trenkle and his wife, Therese (Volk) Trenkle. After serving as a private in the German Army, he sailed for America on the Normania and arrived at age 25 on 6 November 1891. He made his way directly to Dubuque where he found work in George Wiedmer's meat market on 19th and Jackson. I wonder if he would have had time to apprentice with a sausage maker in the old country. Nevertheless, from 1892 until 1894, Henry, as he now called himself, continued to absorb all he could about the meat and sausage business in a variety of positions in Iowa and Wisconsin. On 16 April 1894, he opened his own meat market on 14th Street in Dubuque and eventually had twenty employees, some of whom did bring the needed skills from Germany and many of whom continued to work for him for more than thirty years.

In 1895, Henry married Miss Katherine Gassman and the following year, the first of five children were born. His two sons, William and Henry, would eventually take over the business.

In 1897, he bought property at 1227 Central Avenue and began to manufacture his own sausages and luncheon meats. That same year, Henry became a naturalized citizen. The business grew and thrived as the city and the region discovered the uncompromising quality of his meats. Soon, he was supplying grocers as far away as Sioux City, Iowa and into Wisconsin and Illinois. The daughter of a grocer in Guttenberg, Iowa remembers the welcomed deliveries of Trenkle's sausages to her father's store.

Between April, 1923 and October, 1924, Trenkles completely remodeled and added the latest in equipment, a huge revolving smoker and only one of four in the United States like it at the time. During a typically busy Saturday, Henry and his employees would serve 1,400 to 1,800 customers, many who had first stopped at the outdoor market up the street.

Of the 45 varieties of smoked and unsmoked sausages and cold luncheon meats, my mother's favorites were veal loaf, head cheese, braunschweiger, ring bologna, and wieners. All except the unattractive head cheese became mine, too. When Trenkles finally closed after 76 years, my mother sought out the veal loaf at Pike Place Market's Bavarian Meat Market or the German Continental Store on Roosevelt whenever she visited Seattle.

1. 1901 Dubuque City Directory. Page
2. Passport Application, 1902. Footnote, Inc. Accessed 15 January 2009.
3. Passport Application, 1922. Footnote, Inc. Accessed 15 January 2009.
4. "Trenkle's Sausage Plant One of Most Modern in Country." Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. 5 October 1924, pg. 29-31.
5. Flyer: Invitation to Formal Opening. 8 October 1924. Vertical File: Dubuque Carnegie Stout Public Library; Dubuque, Iowa.
6. "Trenkle Co. Sale is Told." Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. 13 November 1970, pg. 5.
7. "City Demolishes Trenkle Building." Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. 23 March 1981, pg. 3.
8. Dubuque: The Encyclopedia. First National Bank. 1991.
9. "Henry Trenkle, Sr., President H. Trenkle Sausage Company." 2 March 1940. Citizens Historical Association, Indianapolis. Vertical File: Carnegie Stout Public Library; Dubuque, Iowa.
10. Tigges, John T. and James L. Shaffer. Dubuque: The 19th Century. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S.C. ; 2000. Photograph of the Henry Trenkle Company building, pg. 54.

Trenkle's Sausage Company Sign

I discovered the above image of Trenkle's Sausage Company sign on notecards for sale by Cara Pusateri at Dubuque's historic Saturday market last June. As I took my time, looking for historic cards of the Dubuque I remember, one of Henry Trenkle's descendants arrived and proceeded to pick out all the copies of the cards. When I explained how much the shopping trips during the 1940s and 50s to Trenkle's with either my Grandma Holz or my mother meant to me, she let me keep two to bring home.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Please Stop At My Booth

This is my grandmother, Edna Anna Michels, dressed as a Dutch girl for a booth at the fair held at her high school, the Academy of the Visitation, in Dubuque, Iowa. The photograph was taken in either 1903 or 1904, the two years she attended the "Viz". She would have been fifteen or sixteen. I treasure this photograph because it shows her as a little "saucy" and dramatic. Also, when I knew her from the 1940s to her death in 1970, she had white hair and was not this trim.

Not only did my two grandmothers attend the Visitation, a private Catholic girls' high school founded in 1871, but my great aunts, my mother, her five sisters, my cousins, my four sisters, and I were also graduates of the Viz.

She was the best grandma a girl could have...always welcoming and loving, generous, a talented milliner, seamstress, crocheter, and quilter, and an excellent cook. But best of all, she loved her grandchildren unconditionally.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Serendipity ~ a fortunate discovery made by accident and sagacity while searching for something else. Originally coined by Horace Walpole in 1754.

In the late 1970s, during one of my trips back to Iowa, my mother and I decided to drive to East Elkport, the birthplace of her father and to learn more about his German emigrant family. In over sixty years, she had never visited her father's birthplace even though he was born a mere 50 miles north of our hometown. But in those intervening years, she developed a love of history and now had a bad case of family history fever. We were both excited to take this journey together.

We climbed the small hill to the cemetery above the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Elkport, a nearby town. We had no map or guide so we carefully searched the rows of moss-covered monuments until at last we came upon the gravestone of my mother's grandparents and their young daughter, Sophia Dora (or Baby Dora) whom we had not known about. The monument showed she died in 1871 at age two, along with entries for 1887 and 1892 for Dora's parents. We carefully copied the fading inscriptions and took several photos.

A view of Elkport with Immanuel Lutheran Church in the middle.
Above on the hill and to the right of the steeple is the cemetery. Date unknown.

At the bottom of the hill, we stopped by the Lutheran pastor's home to ask if any church records existed. He graciously let us search the fragile pages until we found entries for the family, including the baptism in 1876 of William Peter Andresen, my grandfather.

William Peter Andresen with his mother, Margaretha Dorothea Thomsen Andresen. Since she is wearing widow’s black, it appears she is in mourning for her husband, Karl Heinrich Andresen (known in East Elkport as C.H. Andresen), who died at age 52 in 1887. She died in 1892 at age 57. Based on these dates, this photo was probably taken about 1888-1889, when William would have been about twelve or thirteen. This is the only known photo of Margaretha Andresen.

Original was owned by William’s oldest daughter, Margaret who, no doubt, was named after her grandmother. Now in possession of her sons.

Although the sun was setting, we headed for the library to see if there were any town or county histories. We quickly found The History of Clayton County, Iowa (1882) on the shelf but the index listed a C. H. Anderson, not the correct spelling. As I pointed this error out to my mother, a woman searching at the sole microfilm reader looked up and asked which name we were looking for. When we said, "Andresen", we were rewarded with a big smile. "I'm related to you!" She explained that our ancestors followed her ancestors from Schleswig-Holstein and that several descendants remained in the county. We never dreamt that we would discover a distant cousin that day, specifically a distant cousin who was descended from the older sister of my mother's grandmother and who could fill in many of the empty branches on our family tree.

What's more, since she was a school teacher, she was only able to research her family during summer vacations. What if we had arrived during the school year?

My grandfather was orphaned at age 15 in 1892 and soon after, moved to Dubuque, Iowa, to learn the barber's trade from his older brother-in-law. Since he was the youngest of a family of six children, three born in Schleswig-Holstein and three born in Iowa, I imagine he did not carry early stories with him of his family or ancestors. But an older aunt and her children might.

This seredipitous discovery of a distant cousin and the information we both shared, eventually took us back to original documents from the 1600s in Germany and to the uncovering of many stories since about my grandfather's origins.

That day, when we returned home, my mother and I, usually very serious-minded, definitely did The Genealogists' Happy Dance.