Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


William W. Copeland, prominent in commercial, financial, and political circles of Burlington, has since 1887 been connected with the active business life of the city. This is an era in which the small tradesman plays very little part in the public life of a community, for the traffic of the country is managed by large concerns, but the promising feature in the business conditions of the day is that the clerk of today may be the merchant of tomorrow, controlling interests of magnitude having important bearing upon the business life and prosperity of his community. Such has been the career of Mr. Copeland, whose foresight, sound judgment, and unfaltering enterprise have taken tangible form in his rise from a humble clerkship to the ownership of an extensive commission house.

Born in Mifflin, Juniata county, Pa., Oct. 7, 1856, he is a son of John M. and Katherine (Hartmann) Copeland. The family, of English lineage, was founded in Pennsylvania at an early day in its settlement, the grandfather, Willis Copeland, being one of the pioneers of that State. He spent his entire life there, following the occupation of farming, and John M. Copeland, the father, was born and reared in the Keystone State, still making his home in Mifflin, where for many years he has been employed as storekeeper by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. He served the Union cause in the Civil War, and gives his political allegiance to the Democratic party, by which he was elected to the office of treasurer for Juniata county in 1888. His wife, born in the same locality, is a daughter of William Hartmann, of German descent, and the family were members of the Lutheran church.

William W. Copeland was educated in the public schools of Mifflin, and was reared upon a farm, where he remained until sixteen years of age, when he ventured into the field of commercialism, securing a position as clerk in a general store. His ready adaptability was soon manifest, and he eagerly availed himself of every opportunity to master the principles of mercantile life. When twenty-one years of age he engaged in business on his own account in Mifflin, Pa., purchasing a stock of new goods and opening a general merchandise store, in which he met with success from the beginning; but believing that there was a still wider field in the Middle West, he came to Burlington, Iowa in 1887. For a short time he traveled for the Standard Oil Company, but soon engaged in the commission business in Burlington, under the firm name of Copeland & Martin, this relationship continuing until 1903, when Mr. Copeland purchased his partner's interest, becoming sole proprietor of a large fruit and commission business, hardly excelled in volume in the Middle West. His location is at the corner of Front and Valley Streets, where he occupies a large building, with railroad tracks passing in front, thus enabling him to unload direct from the car to the house. He carries on a wholesale business exclusively, and largely handles his goods in car-loads, receiving from and shipping to all parts of the United States. He employs a number of traveling men who sell to the trade in Iowa and adjoining States, and the business has been gradually expanded from a small nucleus to its present extensive proportions — this gratifying result being achieved through the ability and watchful care of Mr. Copeland. Not confining his attention alone to the commission business, Mr. Copeland has become well known in financial circles in connection with the Merchants National Bank, of which he has served as director for several years. He is also one of the founders of the Clinton Copeland Candy Company, which was incorporated in 1898, when he was elected its first president, in which position he has since served. This has likewise been a successful enterprise, and the company erected a commodious and well-equipped factory in 1905. Employment is furnished to about seventy-five people, and the business has become one of the leading manufacturing enterprises of Burlington.

Mr. Copeland is a leader in Republican circles, and yet is not a politician in the common acceptance of that term. Deeply interested in politics from the point of view of the business man and citizen, his opinions carry weight in the councils of the party. Despite his undoubted influence, he has never been a candidate for office here, although while in business at Mifflin, Pa., he was appointed postmaster at that place, his being one of the first appointments made during the Garfield administration, and held the office until the election of President Cleveland, when he resigned. On the organization of the Burlington Water Company in this city two directors were appointed by the mayor to represent the municipality in its board of directors, and Mr. Copeland was first appointed by a Democratic mayor to this position, which he now holds under a Republican incumbent. In 1903 he was elected a director of the Burlington Hospital, and on the expiration of his term was re-elected in 1905. His membership in the Commercial Exchange of Burlington dates from its organization, he having served for a time on its land site committee; and in February, 1905, he was elected its president. Fraternally, he is connected with Malta Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and is deeply interested in all that pertains to the material, political, social, and intellectual progress of his adopted city.

Mr. Copeland was married Dec. 25, 1879, to Miss Mary A. Miller, of Burlington, a daughter of Henry Miller. They have one son, John R. Copeland, who is now connected with the Clinton Copeland Candy Company. Mr. and Mrs. Copeland attend and support the Congregational church, of which Mrs. Copeland is a member, and they occupy a fine home at 405 South Tenth Street. It is such men as Mr. Copeland, men of strong intelligence and marked enterprise, that have made Burlington a commercial and industrial center of the Middle West, and as the architect of his own fortune he has also builded wisely and well.


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