Ruins of the Close Paper Mill, 1875


Dublin Core


About twenty men stand in and around the ruins of the Close Paper Mill. A lone smokestack stands tall in the center of the photograph; collapsed stone, wooden planks, and destroyed boilers lay in piles around its base. Coral Mills can be seen standing behind the ruins.

The Iowa City Paper Mill, also known as the Close Paper Mill, was built in 1865 as a way to capitalize on grain straw. Instead of burning the straw, it was decided to make paper from it. The company employed about fifty people, and used four thousand tons of straw yearly. Open both day and night, the mill had the capacity of nine tons of paper per twenty-four hours. The mill operated seven boilers and six water wheels to supply power to the machinery. In 1870, the water power was owned by the paper mill.

The night of July 23, 1875, the paper mill was destroyed by an explosion. One of the boilers, No. 3, shot about 500 feet above the building and fell back into the river, setting off other tanks. Six employees were killed by the blast, their bodies flung a hundred feet or more away from the mill.

This tragedy greatly impacted the Coralville town of 297, as well as the entire county (Lovetinsky et al., p. 13-14; Iowa City Press-Citizen, 1931).


Mr. James


Coralville Public Library. Coralville Digital History Library.


July 1875


Educational use only, no other permissions given.




Coralville, Iowa


Mr. James, “Ruins of the Close Paper Mill, 1875,” Coralville Digital History Library, accessed June 21, 2024,

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