JOHN CARL HUBINGER (1851-1907)
HUBINGER, JOHN C., manufacturer, millionaire and public benefactor, is one of the most remarkable men of this country; a Napoleon in business affairs, a man of destiny, through his own indomitable will, tireless energy and brilliant genius he has built up a magnificent structure on a financial foundation as solid as the rock of Gibraltar.
Mr. Hubinger was born in New Orleans, La., forty-six years ago, and is the son of John F. Hubinger, who was born in Bavaria, in 1828, and still survives, as well as his mother, who is a native of France.
It will this be seen that Mr. Hubinger, having been born in Louisiana, is a Creole, a term peculiar to the state, and having the same significance as Buckeye to those born in Ohio, or Nutmegs to those who first saw the light of day in Connecticut.
At the age of 4 his family moved north and at Falmouth, Ky., young Hubinger received in the public schools the first and only educational training he ever received from any school system; this experience covered about four years of study, and he applied himself so closely that he got a fair foundation, which he has since built on by private study and observation, until to-day he can be considered a well informed man outside of business matters, in which he excels.
His career has been an eventful one, full of exciting incidents, and it is a remarkable fact that he was 30 years of age before he amassed his first thousand dollars, having innumerable ups and downs in life, but never despairing and always aggressive.
It would require a volume the size of this to recount a history of his life from the time he started out to earn a living up to the present time when he controls millions of business interests, and is at the zenith of his usefulness. We will not attempt anything more than a passing notice of such facts as will interest his friends.
Of an inventive turn, he secured several patents which he sold to more or less advantage, and tried innumerable schemes at one time or another, succeeding at times and losing at others his little capital, through the boldness of his methods.
The idea of Elastic starch came to him years ago, when he acted as agent for a starch concern, and he had it constantly in mind, eventually arriving at the secret which he holds alone to-day, and which has make Elastic starch the most popular in the market.
In connection with his two brothers he founded the Elastic Starch company, at New Haven Conn., under the name of The J. C. Hubinger Bros.' Co., and at a later period opened another factory at Keokuk, Iowa, where he subsequently amassed a large fortune and became known as one of the most enterprising and public spirited citizens in the state.
In the west his interests are colossal, as well as the ventures which he has made successful; among his holdings being large tracts of real estate, improved and unimproved, in different parts of the western country.
He is owner of the Keokuk street railway system, the electric light plant and system, the Mississippi Valley Telephone company, capitalized at $2,225,000. This takes in a large number of cities in that section, and is the most dangerous and largest competitor of the Bell Telephone company in America, having over 10,000 telephone subscribers.
A man of rare executive ability, he finds time to personally direct the policy of all the enterprises in which he is interested, and at the same time to evolve many more brilliant schemes of a local nature, all of which are put through in a practical and successful way.
The magnitude of his transactions almost surpass belief; in the starch business they dispose of about 25,000,000 packages each year, the legitimate profits from which are enormous, and in other ways he handles not less than $3,000,000 annually.
His liberality is the marvel of the country in which he is known, and at his palatial home, overlooking the historic Mississippi river, he and his charming wife dispense a boundless hospitality to those fortunate enough to be their guests. All the luxuries and benefits that wealth can procure are there supplied, and an atmosphere of culture and refinement pervade the entire establishment.
Mr. Hubinger's family consists of himself, wife and four children, and while fond of promoting large enterprises, he is still fonder of the home circle and there spends all of his time that is not taken up by business cares.
-- Gue, B. F. Biographies and portraits of the progressive men of Iowa Des Moines : Conway & Shaw, 1899. Pages 256-257.
Born in March 1852 in New Orleans, LA.
Moved to Falmouth, KY, then to Keokuk, IA.
First jobs: laborer for Tim Ford, a railroad contractor; also a broom maker.
Moved to New Haven, CT.
Developed "Elastic" laundry starch in 1871, and sold it door to door by bicycle.
Joined by his two brothers, he founded the J.C. Hubinger Bros. Co.
Married Sadie Watts July 16, 1884.
Moved back to Keokuk in 1887 (1885?)
Established first Keokuk factory at 208 Main sometime after August 1887.
Built mansion on Grand Ave. Across the street was Hubinger Park.
Built a telephone exchange at Sixth and Blondeau; expanded during the 1890's.
Owner of the Keokuk Electric Railway System, the Electric Light and Power plant,
the Mississippi Valley Telephone Company, and many other investments.
Second marriage to Viola Miller in June 1896.
In 1900 business was so successful, he reopened the J.C. Hubinger Co. factory
on Bank St., introducing "Red Cross" and "Hubinger's Best" brand starches.
In the following years, however, the company went downhill as the use of
starch in clothing went out of style.
Died in near-poverty January 27, 1908 in a boarding house on High St.
Was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Keokuk, IA.
The Hubinger family sold the Keokuk starch factory in 1926; today, the
Hubinger company produces a wide variety of corn products including
starch, oil and syrup.
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