Construction on U.S. Lock and Dam #19 began in 1910, and when completed in 1913, it was the largest electricity generating plant in the world. Lock 19 is on the National Register of Historic places.
The locks are 1200 feet long and 110 feet wide, with a lift of over 38 feet and large enough to handle a full-length fleet of barges. Major commodities moved include grain, aggregate, petroleum, coal and chemicals. The present lock was put into operation in 1957 at a cost of $13.5 million dollars. It is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Power House and spillways are owned and operated by AmerenUE, a privately owned utility company.
Historic photos of the construction of the lock and dam are on display at the Keokuk Area Convention & Tourism office - 429 Main Street, Keokuk Iowa. Tours of the Lock & Dam are not available but a panoramic view of the lock and dam, the Mississippi River, the George M. Verity Museum and Victory Park can be seen from the Observation Deck, the former Keokuk-Hamilton bridge.