Industry

The Sinclair Era: 1884-1906

Thomas McElderry (T.M.) and Caroline Sinclair moved to Cedar Rapids in 1871 as newlyweds. The couple moved so that T.M. could expand a successful family meatpacking business by opening his own plant in Cedar Rapids. The company, T. M. Sinclair & Co. quickly became one of the largest employers in the area, the largest meatpacking plant in Iowa, and the fourth largest in the world.

In 1871, an unfortunate accident at the plant lead to T.M.'s death. While the young widow Caroline took care of their family and oversaw construction on the estate that would become Brucemore, her brother Charles kept T.M.'s business running. T.M. Sinclair & Co. continued in operation until 1930 when operations were assumed by Wilson & Co., and later Farmstead Foods.


The Douglas Era: 1906-1937

George Bruce Douglas and his family played significant roles in the industrial development of Cedar Rapids. George's father, George Douglas Sr. founded the Douglas and Stuart cereal company which later merged to become The Quaker Oats Company. While George Bruce Douglas got his start in business at his father's cereal company, he made a name for himself when he started a partnership with his brother, Walter. In 1894, George and Walter partnered to form Douglas & Company which produced linseed oil.

In 1903, the brothers' shifted focus and formed the Douglas Starch Works, which produced cooking starch and oil, laundry starch, animal feed, soap stock, and industrial starches. This successful enterprise was a major employer in Cedar Rapids until an accident occurred on May 22, 1919. A small fire caused an explosion leveling portions of the plant, damaging buildings throughout the city and taking the lives of 43 people. Incredibly, the plant was able to reopen as it was purchased in 1920 by Penick and Ford. Today, the company continues as Ingredion.


The Hall Era: 1937-1981

Howard Hall began his business career at Commercial National Bank. Moving to Cedar Rapids at age 24, Howard would use this starting point to develop a manufacturing career that would bring industry and world-wide recognition to Cedar Rapids.

In 1919, Howard and his friend and business partner John Jay purchased a controlling interest in the Carmody Foundry. They renamed the company Iowa Steel and Iron Works with Howard as president. Three years later, John suggested they purchase several buildings on Sixteenth Street NE. They incorporated the former Bertschey Engineering Company as Iowa Manufacturing Company in 1923. Howard and John knew that road modernization was in high demand and their business decision to manufacture paving equipment proved a sound investment.