Registration deadline extended to April 15 for weeklong rider, weeklong non-rider, and vehicles passes!

Waterloo Fun Facts

  • 22 July, 2020
  • Andrea Parrott

Since we aren’t traveling to Waterloo this week for RAGBRAI XLVIII, we gathered some fun facts and interesting tidbits for you. From the Grout Museum to The Creature from the Black Lagoon to the Silos and Smokestacks Natural Heritage Area, Waterloo has something for everyone.

Waterloo Fun Facts

Julie Adams, actress in Creature from the Black Lagoon (and more) is from Waterloo

Waterloo was originally known as Prairie Rapids Crossing. The town was established near two Meskwaki American tribal seasonal camps alongside the Cedar River. It was first settled in 1845 when George and Mary Melrose Hanna and their children arrived on the east bank of the Red Cedar River (now just called the Cedar River). 

The name Waterloo supplanted the original name, Prairie Rapids Crossing, shortly after Charles Mullan petitioned for a post office in the town. Since the signed petition did not include the name of the proposed post office location, Mullan was charged with selecting the name when he submitted the petition. Tradition has it that as he flipped through a list of other post offices in the United States, he came upon the name Waterloo. The name struck his fancy, and on December 29, 1851, a post office was established under that name. The town was later called the same, and Mullan served as the first postmaster from December 29, 1851 until August 11, 1854. 

On June 7, 1934, bank robber Tommy Carroll had a shootout with the FBI when he and his wife stopped to pick up gas. Accidentally parking next to a police car and wasting time dropping his gun and picking it back up, Carroll was forced to flee into an alley, where he was shot. He was taken to Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, where he soon died. 

The National Cattle Congress is held in Waterloo every September. 

Waterloo was home to the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, the first company to manufacture and sell gasoline powered farm tractors. They were famous for the immensely popular “Waterloo Boy” tractor, a predecessor to (and later purchased by) John Deere tractors.  

Waterloo was also home to the Maytag-Mason Motor Company which manufactured Maytag automobiles from 1910 to 1915. The company’s founder was Frederick Louis Maytag I, who is better known for his development of the Maytag washing machine company. 

Waterloo is home to Hawkeye Community College 

Notable Places in Waterloo 

At the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum

  • Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) preserves and tells the story of American agriculture and its global significance through partnerships and activities that celebrate the land, people, and communities of the area. SSNHA is one of 49 federally designated National Heritage Areas and is an Affiliated Area of the National Park Service. 
  • Waterloo Center for the Arts
    The permanent collection at the WCA includes the largest collection of Haitian art in the country, Midwest Regionalist art (including works by Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton), Mexican folk art, international folk art, American decorative arts, and public art. 
  • Grout Museum District
    The District consists of the Grout Museum of History & Science, Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, Rensselaer Russell House Museum, Snowden House and the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. Established in 1932, the district started with an endowment set up in the will of Henry W. Grout. The district is a nonprofit educational entity that is active in engaging the students and all people from the surrounding communities. It is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. 
  • The Grout Museum of History and Science, the first museum which would grow into the museum district, was displayed for many years in the building that was the local YMCA. The current building was completed and opened to the public as a not-for-profit museum in 1956. 
  • The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum was opened in November 2008 at a cost of $11 million, funded in part by a citizens’ grassroots campaign. 
  • The Rensselaer Russell House is at 520 W. 3rd Street. Built in 1858, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Rensselaer and Caroline Russell built the house utilizing Italianate architecture in 1861 for $5,878.83. 
  • The Carl A. and Peggy J. Bluedorn Science Imaginarium opened in 1993 and provides both interactive exhibits and formal demonstrations in various fields of science. 
  • The Snowden House is a two-story brick Victorian era house listed on the National Register of Historic Places was built in 1875. The house was once used as the Waterloo Woman’s Club.  

Notable People from Waterloo 

Adam DeVine, star of Workaholics, is from Waterloo

  • Julie Adams, actress in Creature from the Black Lagoon, many other movies and TV series 
  • Michele Bachmann (born 1956), former Minnesota Congresswoman 
  • David Barrett, cornerback for New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals 
  • William Birenbaum (1923–2010), college administrator who served as president of Antioch College 
  • Horace Boies (1827–1923), Governor of Iowa, 1890–1894 
  • Bob Bowlsby, Commissioner, Big 12 Athletic Conference 2012 present; athletic director, Stanford University 2006-2012; University of Iowa, 1991–2005 
  • Jack Bruner, MLB player for Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Browns 
  • Allan Carpenter (born 1917), author of over 150 books 
  • Don Denkinger, Major League Baseball umpire, made famous for “the call” in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series 
  • Adam DeVine, star of TV program Workaholics 
  • Loren Doxey, medical doctor accused of murder in 1909 but never tried 
  • Pearlretta DuPuy (1871–1939), zither player and club leader 
  • Rich Folkers, MLB player for New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers 
  • Travis Fulton, mixed martial arts fighter, most career wins in the history of the sport 
  • Dan Gable, Olympic wrestling champion, multiple NCAA champion from the University of Iowa, and distinguished collegiate coach 
  • John Wayne Gacy (1942–1994), serial killer 
  • Kim Guadagno, First Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey 
  • Mike Haffner, professional football player 

The Sullivan Brothers were from Waterloo

  • Nikole Hannah-Jones, investigative journalist formerly with ProPublica, now staff reporter at The New York Times and 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner for Commentary Writing 
  • Lou Henry Hoover (1874–1944), wife of President Herbert Hoover and First Lady of the United States, 1929–1933 
  • MarTay Jenkins (born 1975), NFL wide receiver and kick returner 
  • Anesa Kajtazovic, Iowa State Representative, youngest woman elected to Iowa Legislature and first Bosnian American member of the legislature 
  • Arthur R. Kelly (1878–1959), architect 
  • Chris Klieman (born 1967), football head coach, Kansas State; born in Waterloo 
  • Bonnie Koloc (born 1946), singer and folk musician 
  • John Hooker Leavitt, banker, state senator, son of Roger Hooker Leavitt 
  • Jason Lewis, born 1955, talk radio host and U.S. Congressman for Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district 
  • Jack Little, songwriter, born in Great Britain, raised in Waterloo 
  • J.J. Moses (born 1979), NFL wide receiver and current Director of Player Engagement for Houston Texans 
  • Charles W. Mullan (1845–1919), Iowa Attorney General 
  • Larry Nemmers, NFL referee 
  • Thunderbolt Patterson, professional wrestler 
  • Joe Pelton, poker player 
  • Don Perkins, running back for Dallas Cowboys 
  • Alfred C. Richmond, retired U.S. Coast Guard commandant 
  • Reggie Roby (1961–2005), punter for University of Iowa Hawkeyes and five NFL teams, three-time Pro-Bowler 
  • Zud Schammel (born 1910), NFL guard for the Green Bay Packers 
  • Sean Schemmel, voice actor 
  • Duane Slick, (born 1961) fine art painter and professor 
  • Tom Smith, football player 
  • Paul Sohl, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral 
  • Tracie Spencer (born 1976), winner of Star Search in 1987 as a singer, recorded music across many genres, acted and modeled 
  • Darren Sproles, running back for NFL’s San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and Philadelphia Eagles 
  • Suzanne Stephens (born 1946), clarinetist 
  • The Sullivan Brothers, five sons who died together on the USS Juneau during World War II 
  • Corey Taylor, vocalist from Slipknot and Stone Sour 
  • Michael Townley, assassin 
  • Mike van Arsdale, mixed martial artist, signed with the UFC 
  • Mona Van Duyn (1921–2004), winner of 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and 1992–1993 U.S. Poet Laureate; born in Waterloo 
  • Emily West (born 1981), country music singer/songwriter, signed with Capitol Records 
  • Nancy Youngblut, actress 
  • Pat McLaughlin (born 1950), Grammy-nominated songwriter and musician, collaborated with John Prine, Dan Auerbach and many others 
  • Bruce B. Zager; Former Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court 

Submit a Comment

Related Articles
Friends of RAGBRAI