Ackley and the story of John Washington Rath

(From the Library of Congress photo collection on Rath Packing.) “Between 1891 and 1985, the Rath Packing Company grew from a small local business into the ninth largest meat packing company in the United States. By 1950, the Waterloo plant was the largest single-unit packing house in the world.

An Ackley banker and industrialist wrote a huge chapter of hog industry history here in America.

Hardin County’s John Washington Rath (1872-1951) served as the first president of the Rath Packing Company in Waterloo. This is pork month and a good time to recall him.

He was born Feb. 26, 1872 in Ackley and lured to Waterloo back in the days the meat packing industry was just imagining itself.

Rath attended business college in Chicago then returned to Ackley to work in his brother’s bank. He came to Waterloo in 1891 and, with his cousin, E.F. Rath, founded the Rath Packing Co. that same year. John W. Rath served as president from 1898 to 1943.

He was chairman of the board of directors from 1943 to 1950.

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