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Davenport Besler Corporation Papers

Identifier: MsC0081

  • Staff Only
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Scope and Contents

These papers detail the business operations of the company, rather than the technical side of the business. There are minutes of the board of directors meetings 1927-1952, advertising materials, price lists, patent information, catalogs, letters and telegrams, tax information, employee records, job classification details, financial records, and other such matters that pertain to the operation of the business. There are scrapbooks with newspaper clippings about the plant and the people involved with it and there are some photographs.

Payroll journal inventory number 180 is on the third floor oversized shelves


  • Creation: 1909-1955


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

In 1901, the W. W. Whitehead Company started manufacturing locomotives in Davenport, Iowa. In 1902 they began manufacturing light locomotives. In 1904, the name was changed to the Davenport Locomotive Works. In 1933, the company was reorganized and it became the Davenport-Besler Corporation. During this time the company developed to the point that it was shipping its products around the world. By now, they were also manufacturing snow plows, and had an extensive outside business in grey iron casting, drop forging, and steel hammer forging, as well as steel tank and structural steel work.

In order to handle all this work, the company had on its own premises approximately a mile of standard gauge railroad tracks, doing all of its switching between the various departments with its own locomotive and cars. In the nineteen twenties and thirties, Davenport-Besler developed a diesel locomotive, which enjoyed a wide market in America and abroad.

During World War II, Davenport-Besler manufactured locomotives for the war effort and in November 1943 they were awarded the Army-black "E" Production Award for Excellence in War Production.

An investment group headed by a Davenport businessman, Glenn L Seydel, acquired the company in May 1955. On May 17, 1956, the plant closed down, citing a "highly competitive situation" and the five and one-half month Westinghouse strike which slowed the delivery of parts needed in the factory.


80.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Business records of a liquidated Davenport, Iowa, locomotive manufacturing company.

Physical Access Requirements

Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on "Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials" The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Method of Acquisition

Donated to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1962 by H.A. Arzberger, Former Secretary.

Related Materials

The Historical Construction Equipment Association has a collection on Davenport Bessler Company. Historical Construction Equipment Association 16623 Liberty Hi Road Bowling Green, Ohio 43402 419-352-5616 Fax 419-352-6086

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)