In 1868, John and Peter Kahlke, two brothers born in Germany, opened the Kahlke Bros. Boatyard in Rock Island, Illinois. The business, which included building and repairing wooden boats of various types, was soon known up and down the Mississippi River because of the quality work done. The business was passed onto Fred Kahlke and his brother Ed, sons of Peter, who took over the management of the boatyard in 1924. The yard remained opened until Fred's death in 1975, though major building projects ended several decades earlier.
Several notable vessels were built at the Kahlke yard including the W. J. Quinlan (1925) and the Lone Star (1922). The Quinlan, which provided ferry service across the Mississippi River between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa, was a popular attraction: it made trips across the river for 18 hours each day and was also a destination for entertainment as it housed a dance floor, bandstand, bar, and slot machines. Even after it was dismantled in 1945 it lay at the Kahlke boatyard where it was revered as a landmark. It was destroyed in a fire in 1967.