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Rath Packing Company


Sycamore and Elm Streets

Rath Packing Company was founded in Dubuque. When the original plant was destroyed by fire, Waterloo citizens persuaded John and E. B. Rath to relocate in Black Hawk County, the center of the state's hog raising area. The Rath Packing Company operated at this site from 1891-1985. The original Rath building cost $25,000. In 1891, the company employed 22 workers and purchased $101,000 worth of livestock. To produce ham (a Rath specialty) back then, the meat was soaked in huge vats of brine for 45 to 80 days and then smoked.

Employment at Rath grew to 5,270 by 1940 and 6,500 in 1952. By 1952, Rath operations included 150 buildings in Waterloo and other parts of the country. The firm remained in the Rath family until 1960.

The Rath Packing Company faced difficult years during the 1970 - 1980s. With a decline in the national meat packing industry, the company went bankrupt in 1985, closing its doors and dealing a significant damaging blow to the economy of the area.

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Last updated Wednesday, June 23, 2004

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