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.


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Hi Barbara ~
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trenkle358 said...

Thanks soo much, I am so glad I found this piece of history. The reason being, Tim Trenkle is my biological father, Henry's great nephew. I am proud to have the Trenkle name. Henry would have been my great-great Uncle. My name is Michael Trenkle. I am looking to get more information on my family lineage.