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Industrial Iowa: 1939

September 1939. "Factory buildings in Des Moines, Iowa." Photo by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

September 1939. "Factory buildings in Des Moines, Iowa." Photo by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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The Story of F W Fitch

The Story of F W Fitch - The Shampoo King and the Peacock Vanity names Boone, and not Madrid, as the place where Fred Fitch started his company.
The building, to be seen in the above picture seems to be the Main Building of the F. W. Fitch Company Historic District. I suppose the Exile Brewery is housed in another of the former Fitch plant buildings.

No. 84

Was built by Alco. She's beautifully presented for a switch engine - someone's pet loco, or normally a passenger terminal switcher?

F.W. Fitch, the Shampoo King

The shampoo and soap products made in the F.W. Fitch Co. factory in Des Moines were famous in this era - advertised in Life magazine, and on national radio networks. The company, which Mr. Fitch founded in Madrid, Iowa, was the sponsor of the Fitch Bandwagon music program (and later, Bandwagon Mysteries) on NBC radio. F.W. Fitch was also somewhat litigious, taking the IRS all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court twice during the 1940s, once over taxation of income from an alimony trust he set up when he separated from his wife, and once in challenging the company's excise taxes. The IRS won both times. After World War II, the company's revenues could not keep up with its expenses, and it sold out to Grove Laboratories, which sold out a decade later to Bristol Myers. The Exile Brewery is one of the building's proud occupants.

Almost the same view

The Fitch building is there but mostly hidden. The building to the right of the Fitch building is there. The white tower of the Meredith building is there.

On the Tootin' Louie

We get a picture of a mixed freight consist behind Minneapolis & St. Louis 0-6-0 loco #84 (no builder information that I can find on her, but there's a nice portrait here). It's moving west out of town at the bend of the Raccoon River, on the modern-day Iowa Interstate line toward Van Meter, De Soto, Atlantic, and Council Bluffs.

Minnie & Louie

Minneapolis & St. Louis No. 84 will still be kicking in 1963, hauling coal around the Midland Electric Co. power plant at Middle Grove, Ill.

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