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mustang84

Duesenberg's roots in Iowa

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August and Frederik Duesenberg, 1920s

(article by the Des Moines Register)

Two of the world's finest car builders got their start in Iowa. Cars adorned with the Duesenberg name were known for speed, style and luxury.

Frederick Duesenberg was born in Germany in 1876, and August Duesenberg was born there in 1878. They arrived in the United States in 1885. Their widowed mother emigrated with them and four of their siblings. An older brother had already arrived and welcomed his family to a farm at Rockford.

By the late 1890s, the brothers were skilled mechanics, operating bicycle-and-motorcycle shops, Fred in Rockford and "Augie" in Garner. They moved to Des Moines about 1903 and established a shop at 915 Grand Ave.

They built their first car in 1904-05, the Marvel, and in 1906, with backing from lawyer Edward Mason, began producing a two-cylinder model, the Hill Climber, at a plant at East Fifth and Vine streets.

By 1910, Frederick Maytag had taken over the firm, renaming it the Maytag-Mason Corp. and adding four-cylinder models, with production in Waterloo. But the brothers wanted to build race cars, and Maytag dropped his automobile venture, later turning to washing machines. The brothers returned to Des Moines and set up the Duesenberg Motor Co. in 1913.

The company's last move, to Indianapolis, came in 1920. Soon the name Duesenberg was a household word because the brothers' vehicles excelled in races. In 1921, seven of the first 10 finishers at the Indianapolis 500 were Duesenberg racers.

Erret Loban Cord entered the picture in 1926, wanting a sleek, luxurious auto, and the Duesenbergs were just the ones to produce it. The first models delighted customers in 1929; the last model rolled out of the factory in 1937.

The Duesenberg auto was so splendid that Americans labeled anything special or extraordinary a "Duesie" or "doozie."

Fred Duesenberg, who had married Isle Denny, died in 1932 of complications following the crash of one of his cars in Pennsylvania mountains. Augie, whose wife was Gertrude Pike, died of a heart attack in 1955.

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1916 race at the Des Moines Speedway

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Duesenberg team at the Des Moines Speedway, 1915

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Picture of the Maytag auto taking eight people up a fifty percent grade, No other car, regardless of horsepower was able to do this.

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Location of the first Duesenberg office at 915 Grand, torn down and replaced in later years by a parking garage

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The yellow square is the approximate location where the 1904 Duesenberg plant would have formerly stood next to the train station. Much of this area was torn down during Des Moines' urban renewal craze in the 1950s

1932 Duesenberg J

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Edited by mustang84
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The yellow square is the approximate location where the 1904 Duesenberg plant would have formerly stood next to the train station. Much of this area was torn down during Des Moines' urban renewal craze in the 1950s

It looks kind of bleak there. The last time I saw anything that looked that bleak was East Berlin before the wall came down.

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It looks kind of bleak there. The last time I saw anything that looked that bleak was East Berlin before the wall came down.

I took that picture in 2004...since then, they've built the Science Center, a couple new loft buildings, a mixed-use retail building, another loft is under construction, and Polk County is going to be building a courthouse addition in this neighborhood. But even then, there's still a lot of empty surface parking that needs developing. Edited by mustang84
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Someday.... after I'm bored of my seven or eight V16 Cadillacs I'll buy a Duesenberg.

It's on the agenda. :D

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