Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Builders

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William Hopkins

William Hopkins grew up and served as an apprentice in the shipyards of Glasgow, Scotland, the birthplace of the iron shipbuilding industry. In the 1860's, he immigrated to America and built iron clad monitors for the U. S. Navy. Hopkins arrive in Dubuque, Iowa in 1867 as a master mechanic for the Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad.

In 1870, Hopkins revolutionized steamboat building on the western rivers with the construction of the steamer Clyde, the first iron hull steamboat on the Mississippi River. During Hopkins' thirty year career, the Iowa Iron Works built many noteworthy metal-hulled steamboats, including the Betsy Ann, the railroad transfer ferry Pelican, the towboat Sprague, a pleasure steamer for the King of Siam (Thailand) and an ocean-going torpedo boat for the U. S. Navy.

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