David F. Ede
Founder and President of Edes Robe Tanning Company
David F. Ede was born in Ontario in 1846. He later moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and made a fortune buying and selling real estate during a land boom, only to lose it investing in grain elevators along the route of the newly completed Canadian Pacific Railroad. Ede then embarked in real estate in Sioux City, Iowa, and recouped his earlier success. He brought these earnings to Dubuque in 1895 and opened the Ede's Robe Tanning Company that year. In April 1896 Ede incorporated the company with William Hockaday and Clifton Trewin with a capitalization of $15,000. Ede located his Dubuque factory propitiously at the corner of Shields and Jones streets near the William Ryan and Son Packing Company (a ready supplier of hides) and the Illinois Central depot (a ready shipping point). His business included tanning hides - primarily horse and cow - and manufacturing fur robes, garments and rugs. "Ede furs are scientifically cut and there is no expense saved that would make them equal to the best furs produced anywhere in the world," a 1911 business gazette stated. "Their stock of furs includes nearly every native and foreign skin in their various grades, thus making it possible to handle a large quantity of repair work with entire satisfaction. Visitors are made welcome to the plant, as the firm takes just pride in showing customers a complete and up-to-date institution, and want them to see how clean and free from things offensive a tannery can be and under what favorable conditions the employees work." In addition to fur tanning and clothing manufacturing, Ede employed taxidermists to mount game trophies. Staffed by some 40 to 60 people, the company grew into one of the largest of its type in the country and eventually established branch plants in St. Paul, Omaha and Sioux Falls. The home office remained in Dubuque, where Ede maintained a high civic profile. Robe tanning was a major industry for Dubuque, and firms such as Ede's and the Dubuque Tanning and Robe Company contributed to make the city a nationally important tanning center. This building is thus historically significant as the site of one of the city's major early 20th century industries. Its architecture typifies factory design of the period and, although altered somewhat, the factory retains a high degree of integrity.
The construction of Edes building in Dubuque began in 1905 and was torn down to make way for a new highway.
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St. Clair Ede
Vice President of Edes Robe Tanning Company
and son of David F. Ede
Post card from Clair to his mother.