The John C. Kaiser Company was founded by John C. Kaiser in 1928. John Kaiser was born on a farm in Louisburg, Wisconsin in 1899. He left the farm in his twenties to pursue other interests. He joined a painting company called Hillig that was working in southwestern Wisconsin. Bernard Hillig was a noted decorator and a gratuate of the Fine Arts Academy of Copenhagen. Hillig and Company traveled throughout the mid-west doing church decorating and John Kaiser learned the art of decorating during his years with the Hillig company as well as working with several well known Dubuque painting firms including the New burg company, a large commercial painting company, and Dubuque Altar Company.
In the early spring of 1927 he married Eileen H. Bernsden, an accomplished young concert violinist from Dubuque, in Ludington, Michigan, and came back to Dubuque and started his own company. The company officially began on July 1, 1928. The John C. Kaiser Company grew the next 20 years doing all types of decorating and painting work. The company had its office building at the corner of Dodge and Alpine streets that was purchased by John Kaiser in 1944. The building was not only the company bookkeeping office but also was the corner store that provided a place for Mary Ellen his oldest daughter to work part time while going to school.
In 1951, the Kaiser Company purchased a building at 68 Main Street in Dubuque and expanded into a retail paint and wallpaper store as well as an expanded decorating studio. John Ganshirt who married John Kaiser’s oldest daughter came into the business. Ganshirt was a chemist and Loras College instructor and brought a new dimension to the company. This period of the company saw large painting projects, including the Julien Dubuque Bridge, St. Mary’s Church of Dubuque, St. Anthony’s Church of Dubuque as well as many smaller church projects and decorating jobs including the 5 Flags Theater Restoration and the Dubuque Court House.
The paint manufacturing activities of the company also began during this period. The trademark registered to the company endures as the company logo, although the manufacturing of paint is no longer done. John Kaiser’s two grandson’s David and Scott both worked at the business. David, after his Navy service and Scott both during and after school. David moved to California and Scott continued at the business learning all facets of a quality decorating business as well as bringing new generation skills to the business.
John Kaiser died in 1980 and John Ganshirt became president of the corporation. In 1985 the company purchased the property at 700 Cedar Cross Road, its current location. The retail and manufacturing part of the business was discontinued shortly thereafter, so the company could focus primarily on church decorating.
John Kaiser’s youngest grandson, Scott, became president in 1996 and continues the family tradition of the finest quality decorating in the Midwest. Under Scott Ganshirt’s watch, one of the largest decorating church projects in the Midwest, the Basilica at Dyersville was completed. The John C. Kaiser Company continues as the premier decorating firm, exhibiting skilled techniques and high quality workmanship in keeping with the traditional art of decorating, carrying on the old world skills and employing modern technology to ensure the enduring craftsmanship and standard of excellence started nearly three quarters of a century ago.