Spring floods seem to be an annual tradition along the Mississippi River. It has always been more a question of “how badly will it flood this year?” rather than “will it flood this year?”

This circa 1867 photo by Samuel Root labeled “High Water” shows a spring flood in Dubuque from the early days of photography. The image shows a view of the Pacific House, a boarding house and hotel first listed as located on the corner of Iowa and Jones streets, according to Dubuque City Directories. It has also been listed at First Street and the railroad tracks. The flood waters seen here are coming from the area now known as the Ice Harbor. Today, Highway 61 runs through where these buildings once stood, and Iowa and Jones Streets no longer intersect.

Pacific House touted 18 sleeping rooms, a dining room, and a bar. Boarding houses were used by farm families, workers, and others who came to town. Often boarding houses had stables where travelers’ horses could rest and eat.

Samuel Root became a well-known daguerreotypist in New York before coming to Dubuque in the late 1850s. Daguerreotypes were one of the earliest forms of photography, created by using silver plates and mercury vapor to produce images.

The Society’s collection of Samuel Root photos was donated by John Rider Wallis in 1964. Wallis was a local businessman and helped found the Dubuque County Historical Society.