In 1857, coal was being mined from the McCready bank, a site along Bear Creek four miles west of Ottumwa. In 1868, Brown and Godfrey opened a drift mine four miles northwest of town. By 1872, Brown and Godfrey employed 300 men and had an annual production of 77,000 tons. In 1880, the Phillips Coal and Mining Company opened a mine two miles northwest of town.
As the home of Twin Galaxies, Ottumwa was proclaimed the “Video Game Capital of the World” by a mayoral decree issued on November 30, 1982 by Ottumwa Mayor Jerry Parker. The city’s proclamation was recognized by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley. In connection with this proclamation, the city hosted the first North American Video Olympics in the fall of 1982.