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Vintage Photos of Cedar Rapids
from a Family Photo Album
Circa 1900-1920

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Quaker Oats Plant Photo #1       Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Quaker Oats Plant Photo #2

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ABOVE, the Quaker Oats Plant, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. BELOW, the railroad bridge, and across the river, Hamilton Farm Machinery, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. According to the 1882 History of Western Iowa, published by Western Publishing Company: "Porter Hamilton, of the firm of Hamilton Bros., dealers in farm machinery and lumber, was born in Ill.; moved to Cedar Rapids, Ia., in 1872; thence to Mapleton in the autumn of 1877, and engaged in his present business. During 1881, his sales of farm machinery amounted to $25,000."

Hamilton Farm Machinery & Railroad Bridge, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

An Unknown Explosion & Fire
Possibly the American Cereal Co. (now Quaker Oats)
Fire of March 7, 1905?

The photos below are unlabelled, but based on comparison with previously published photos it seems likely they were taken following the 1907 American Cereal Company fire. Around 7:30 p.m. on the night of March 7, 1905, there was an explosion in the mill grinding room on the fifth floor of the cleaning house of the American Cereal Company, the largest cereal mill in the world. Winds quickly spread the flames to the south end of the bridge, 60 feet in the air, which connected the cleaning house with Elevator A to the north, despite the fact that the strong wind was coming from the northwest. More than 100 out-of-town fire fighters were called in to help, but by midnight it was apparent that the entire mill would be completely destroyed. A wooden saloon building across the avenue from Elevator D, and next to the Cedar Rapids central fire station and the Cedar Rapids Creamery, became key to containing the fire and preventing it from destroying all of downtown Cedar Rapids. More than 100 volunteers assisted the fire fighters by forming a bucket brigade to carry water and wet down the Limback & Jeffrey lumber yard and the street railway plant, located to the west across Third Street. Fortunately, when Elevator D collapsed a little after midnight, it fell inward, and the flames did not spread to the saloon building. Downtown Cedar Rapids was safe!

The mill was a total loss, with estimated damage of $1,500,000. Only $900,000 was covered by insurance. No one was killed except one passerby who happened to be walking by the cleaning house when it exploded. Other cities tried to persuade American Cereal to rebuild elsewhere, but about ten days after the fire company President Robert Stuart announced the mill would be rebuilt in Cedar Rapids.

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Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Explosion/Fire Photo #1     Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Explosion/Fire Photo #2

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Explosion/Fire Photo #3     Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Explosion/Fire Photo #4

Photos all contributed by Catherine Larson Banning, March, 2014.

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