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History

Bettendorf lies in the area of the original Wisconsin Territory and was purchased from the Sauk and Fox Indians in the Black Hawk War of 1832. The original town on the site was named Lillienthal, after an early tavern and dance hall owner. The city was renamed Gilbert in 1858, honoring Elias Gilbert, who originally platted the town. At that time, the predominately German residents were farmers, skilled laborers or small business operators.

At the turn of the century, William and Joseph Bettendorf proposed to the townspeople that they would move their iron wagon business there if the city would purchase the old Gilbert farm for them as a location for their factory. Donations were solicited from the residents and, in a pioneering example of economic development, the land was provided, the factory was built, and hundreds of jobs were created. In January of 1903, the town of 440 residents petitioned for incorporation, requesting the name be changed to Bettendorf, honoring the brothers whose factory was so important to the early development of the city.

Two generations later, another major development made its impact felt. Following a nationwide search, The Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) chose a site on the Mississippi River adjacent to Bettendorf for

construction of the world’s largest rolling mill. The site was chosen for its access to skilled labor, cost-effective energy supply and efficient transportation access. This remarkable facility was built along a mile of riverfront property and helped stimulate in Bettendorf a period of steady growth and development, which has sustained itself to the present day.

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