Dubuque and Iowa were on the forefront of railroad development in the United States in the middle part of the nineteenth century. John Plumbe Jr. was the first person to propose a Transcontinental Railroad. Delegate to the U.S. Congress George Wallace Jones proposed the idea to the U.S. House of Representatives. Upon hearing of the proposal one U.S. Congressman suggested we might just as well build a railroad to the moon.
The Dunleith & Dubuque Bridge Company was headed by president William Boyd Allison and was responsible for the building and operations of the railroad bridge across the Mississippi River between Dubuque, Iowa and Dunleith (present day East Dubuque), Illinois. The original bridge was constructed by Andrew Carnegie and the Keystone Bridge Company.
Dubuque railroad men include engineer John Plumbe Jr., U.S. Senator George Wallace Jones (D-IA), Platt Smith, Esq., bankers Fred. Jesup and his brother Morris Ketchum Jesup, J.P. Farley, Congressman William Boyd Allison (R-IA), engineer Roswell B. Mason, and many others.
National railroad barons were also closely tied to Dubuque including steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, Congressman Oakes Ames of the Central Pacific Railroad and name-sake of Ames, Iowa; chief engineer Grenville Dodge of the Union Pacific Railroad; railroad baron John I. Blair; banking brothers James and Theodore Roosevelt; E.H. Harriman, J.P. Morgan, Stuyvesant Fish, and other American giants of the nineteenth century.