Kuempel clock kits were once made in Guttenberg

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This "Kuempel Clocksters" clock was recently donated to the Lockmasters House Heritage Museum. It measures approximately 5½ inches tall. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

A small mantel clock in a wooden case was recently donated to the Lockmaster's House Heritage Museum by Ken and Mickey Strader of rural Guttenberg. The clock face bears the wording "The Kuempel Clocksters, Guttenberg, Iowa." 

Research in the archives of The Gutttenberg Press sheds some light on the history of the piece. Reuben Kuempel, owner of the Kuempel clock business, was born in Guttenberg in 1890 and graduated from Iowa State University in Ames in 1913 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He served in the Navy during World War I and later returned to his hometown to establish the Kuempel Chime Clock Company. The business was located at the south end of what is now the parking lot of St. John's Lutheran Church.

Throughout the Depression Reuben Kuempel and his family were active members of the Guttenberg community. 

Early in the 1940s, the family moved to the Twin Cities, and during World War II he went to work for the Minneapolis-Honeywell firm in the war effort. Following the war he moved his company to Excelsior, Minn.  

The company specialized in producing chime clock kits so that wood-working hobbyists could make their own grandfather clocks. Kuempel designed the kits while in Guttenberg, and they remained popular for decades. The kits contained the clock movements and case, and were shipped to customers all over the world. 

Kuempel died in Minneapolis in 1970, and his obituary noted that in addition to operating the clock business in Guttenberg, he served on the local school board and helped secure the location of Highway 52 through Guttenberg.

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