top of page

Iowa History Daily: February 21 - Diamond Jo Reynolds

Iowa History Daily: On February 21, 1891, important Mississippi River steamboat tycoon Joseph “Diamond Jo” Reynolds died. A true American entrepreneur, Diamond Jo helped develop Iowa’s transportation network during the Gilded Age.

By the time Diamond Jo arrived to open a grain business in McGregor, Iowa, during 1860, he already had a history of business success in milling and tannery businesses. Faced with stiff competition for getting his grain shipped on the Mississippi, Diamond Jo decided to enter the steamboat business. His first boat, the “Lansing” proved a success and led to his decision to build a 242-ton sternwheeler named the “Diamond Jo.”

Over the 1860s and 1870s Diamond Jo grew his fleet and acquired a shipyard near Dubuque to become one of the dominant shipping concerns between St. Louis and St. Paul on the Mississippi River. Commonly called the “Diamond Jo Line,” the steamboats represented opportunities to Iowa grain farmers shipping to external markets.

In addition to shipping and railroads, Diamond Jo also invested in railroad grain elevators to directly purchase from farmers throughout the state. Diamond Jo acquired an estate valued between eight and ten million dollars (roughly $2.5 billion in 2023) by the time of his death in 1891. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


bottom of page