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Welcome to Iowa

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Iowa State Flag
Iowa State Flag
Iowa State Seal
Iowa State Seal
Iowa Location
Iowa Location


Iowa is the 29th state of the United States, having joined the union on December 28, 1846. The U.S. Post Office abbreviation for the state is IA. The official (long) name of the state: "State of Iowa."

The state is named for the Native American Iowa people.

State nickname The Hawkeye State
Capital Des Moines
Largest City Des Moines
Governor (2004) Thomas Vilsack
Official languages  
- Total
- % water
Ranked 26th
145,743 km2
- Total (2000)
- Density
Ranked 30th
Admittance into Union
- Order
- Date

December 28, 1846
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
40°36'N to 43°30'N
89°5'W to 96°31'W
- Highest
- Mean
- Lowest
320 km
500 km

509 meters
335 meters
146 meters
ISO 3166-2 US-IA
State motto Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain
State song "The Song of Iowa"
State bird Eastern Goldfinch
State flower Wild Rose
State rock Geode
State tree Oak
Honorary Ship USS Iowa



Marquette and Joliet Find Iowa Lush and Green

In the summer of 1673, French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette traveled down the Mississippi River past the land that was to become the State of Iowa. The two explorers, along with their five crewmen, stepped ashore near where the Iowa river flowed into the Mississippi. It is believed that the 1673 voyage marked the first time that white people visited the region of Iowa. After surveying the surrounding area, the Frenchmen recorded in their journals that Iowa appeared lush, green, and fertile. For the next 300 years, thousands of white settlers would agree with these early visitors: Iowa was indeed lush and green; moreover, its soil was highly productive. In fact, much of the history of the Hawkeye State is inseparably intertwined with its agricultural productivity. Iowa stands today as one of the leading agricultural states in the nation, a fact foreshadowed by the observation of the early French explorers.

The Indians

Before 1673, however, the region had long been home to many Native Americans. Approximately 17 different Indian tribes had resided here at various times including the Ioway, Sauk, Mesquaki, Sioux, Potawatomi, Oto, and Missouri. The Potawatomi, Oto, and Missouri Indians had sold their land to the federal government by 1830 while the Sauk and Mesquaki remained in the Iowa region until 1845. The Santee Band of the Sioux was the last to negotiate a treaty with the federal government in 1851.

The Sauk and Mesquaki constituted the largest and most powerful tribes in the Upper Mississippi Valley. They had earlier moved from the Michigan region into Wisconsin and by the 1730s, they had relocated in western Illinois. There they established their villages along the Rock and Mississippi Rivers. They lived in their main villages only for a few months each year. At other times, they traveled throughout western Illinois and eastern Iowa hunting, fishing, and gathering food and materials with which to make domestic articles. Every spring, the two tribes traveled northward into Minnesota where they tapped maple trees and made syrup.

In 1829, the federal government informed the two tribes that they must leave their villages in western Illinois and move across the Mississippi River into the Iowa region. The federal government claimed ownership of the Illinois land as a result of the Treaty of 1804. The move was made but not without violence. Chief Black hawk, a highly-respected Sauk leader, protested the move and in 1832 returned to reclaim the Illinois village of Saukenauk. For the next three months, the Illinois militia pursued Black Hawk and his band of approximately 400 Indians northward along the eastern side of the Mississippi River. The Indians surrendered at the Bad Axe River in Wisconsin, their numbers having dwindled to about 200. This encounter is known as the Black Hawk War. As punishment for their resistance, the federal government required the Sauk and Mesquaki to relinquish some of their land in eastern Iowa. This land, known as the Black Hawk Purchase, constituted a strip 50 miles wide lying along the Mississippi River, stretching from the Missouri border to approximately Fayette and Clayton Counties in Northeastern Iowa.

Today, Iowa is still home to one Indian group, the Mesquaki, who reside on the Mesquaki Settlement in Tama County. After most Sauk and Mesquaki members had been removed from the state, some Mesquaki tribal members, along with a few Sauk, returned to hunt and fish in eastern Iowa. The Indians then approached Governor James Grimes with the request that they be allowed to purchase back some of their original land. They collected $735 for their first land purchase and eventually they bought back approximately 3,200 acres.

Iowa's First White Settlers

The first official white settlement in Iowa began in June 1833, in the Black Hawk Purchase. Most of Iowa's first white settlers came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. The great majority of newcomers came in family units. Most families had resided in at least one additional state between the time they left their state of birth and the time they arrived in Iowa. Sometimes families had relocated three or four times before they reached Iowa. At the same time, not all settlers remained here; many soon moved on to the Dakotas or other areas in the Great Plains.

Iowa's earliest white settlers soon discovered an environment different from that which they had known back East. Most northeastern and southeastern states were heavily timbered; settlers there had material for building homes, outbuildings, and fences. Moreover, wood also provided ample fuel. Once past the extreme eastern portion of Iowa, settlers quickly discovered that the state was primarily a prairie or tall grass region. Trees grew abundantly in the extreme eastern and southeastern portions, and along rivers and streams, but elsewhere timber was limited.

In most portions of eastern and central Iowa, settlers could find sufficient timber for construction of log cabins, but substitute materials had to be found for fuel and fencing. For fuel, they turned to dried prairie hay, corn cobs, and dried animal droppings. In southern Iowa, early settlers found coal outcroppings along rivers and streams. People moving into northwest Iowa, an area also devoid of trees, constructed sod houses. Some of the early sod house residents wrote in glowing terms about their new quarters, insisting that "soddies" were not only cheap to build but were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Settlers experimented endlessly with substitute fencing materials. Some residents built stone fences; some constructed dirt ridges; others dug ditches. The most successful fencing material was the osage orange hedge until the 1870s when the invention of barbed wire provided farmers with satisfactory fencing material.

Transportation: Railroad Fever

As thousands of settlers poured into Iowa in the mid-1800s, all shared a common concern for the development of adequate transportation. The earliest settlers shipped their agricultural goods down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, but by the 1850s, Iowans had caught the nation's railroad fever. The nation's first railroad had been built near Baltimore in 1831, and by 1860, Chicago was served by almost a dozen lines. Iowans, like other Midwesterners, were anxious to start railroad building in their state.

In the early 1850s, city officials in the river communities of Dubuque, Clinton, Davenport, and Burlington began to organize local railroad companies. City officials knew that railroads building west from Chicago would soon reach the Mississippi River opposite the four Iowa cities. With the 1850s, railroad planning took place which eventually resulted in the development of the Illinois Central, the Chicago and North Western, reaching Council Bluffs in 1867. Council Bluffs had been designated as the eastern terminus for the Union Pacific, the railroad that would eventually extend across the western half of the nation and along with the Central Pacific, provide the nation's first transcontinental railroad. A short time later a fifth railroad, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific, also completed its line across the state.

The completion of five railroads across Iowa brought major economic changes. Of primary importance, Iowans could travel every month of the year. During the latter ninetieth and early twentieth centuries, even small Iowa towns had six passenger trains a day. Steamboats and stagecoaches had previously provided transportation, but both were highly dependent on the weather, and steam boats could not travel at all once the rivers had frozen over. Railroads also provided year-round transportation for Iowa's farmers. With Chicago's pre-eminence as a railroad center, the corn, wheat, beef, and pork raised by Iowa's farmers could be shipped through Chicago, across the nation to eastern seaports, and from there, anywhere in the world.

Railroads also brought major changes in Iowa's industrial sector. Before 1870, Iowa contained some manufacturing firms in the eastern portion of the state, particularly all made possible by year-around railroad transportation. Many of the new industries were related to agriculture. In Cedar Rapids, John and Robert Stuart, along with their cousin, George Douglas, started an oats processing plant. In time, this firm took the name Quaker Oats. Meat packing plants also appeared in the 1870s in different parts of the state: Sinclair Meat Packing opened in Cedar Rapids and John Morrell and Company set up operations in Ottumwa.

The Civil War

By 1860, Iowa had achieved statehood (December 28, 1846,the 29th state), and the state continued to attract many settlers, both native and foreign-born. Only the extreme northwestern part of the state remained a frontier area. But after almost 30 years of peaceful development, Iowans found their lives greatly altered with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. While Iowans had no battles fought on their soil, the state paid dearly through the contributions of its fighting men. Iowa males responded enthusiastically to the call for Union volunteers and more than 75,000 Iowa men served with distinction in campaigns fought in the East and in the South. Of that number, 13,001 died in the war, many of disease rather than from battle wounds. Some men died in the Confederate prison camps, particularly Andersonville, Georgia. A total of 8,500 Iowa men were wounded.

The Political Arena

The Civil War era brought considerable change to Iowa and perhaps one of the most visible changes came in the political arena. During the 1840's, most Iowans voted Democratic although the state also contained some Whigs. Iowa's first two United States Senators were Democrats as were most state officials. During the 1850s, however, the state's Democratic Party developed serious internal problems as well as being unsuccessful in getting the national Democratic Party to respond to their needs. Iowans soon turned to the newly emerging Republican Party; the political career of James Grimes illustrates this change. In 1854, Iowans elected Grimes governor on the Whig ticket. Two years later, Iowans elected Grimes governor on the Republican ticket. Grimes would later serve as a Republican United States Senator from Iowa. Republicans took over state politics in the 1850s and quickly instigated several changes. They moved the state capital from Iowa City to Des Moines, they established the University of Iowa and they wrote a new state constitution. From the late 1850s until well into the twentieth century, Iowans remained strongly Republican. Iowans sent many highly capable Republicans to Washington, particularly William Boyd Allison of Dubuque, Jonathan P. Dolliver of Ft. Dodge, and Albert Baird Cummins of Des Moines. These men served their state and their nation with distinction.

Another political issue facing Iowans in the 1860s was the issue of women's suffrage. From the 1860s on, Iowa contained a large number of women, and some men, who strongly supported the measure and who worked endlessly for its adoption. In keeping with the general reform mood of the latter 1860s and 1870s, the issue first received serious consideration when both houses of the General Assembly passed a women's suffrage amendment in 1870. Two years later, however, when the legislature had to consider the amendment again before it could be submitted to the general electorate, interest had waned, opposition had developed, and the amendment was defeated. Finally, in 1920, after both houses of the United States Congress passed the measure and it had been approved by the proper number of states, woman's suffrage became a reality for American women everywhere.

Iowa: Home for Immigrants

While Iowans were debating the issues of women's suffrage in the post Civil War period, the state itself was attracting many more people. Following the Civil War, Iowa's population continued to grow dramatically, from 674,913 people in 1860 to 1,194,020 in 1870. Moreover, the ethnic composition of Iowa's population also changed substantially. Before the Civil War, Iowa had attracted some foreign-born settlers, but the number remained small. After the Civil War, the number of immigrants increased. In 1869, the state encouraged immigration by printing a 96-page booklet entitled Iowa: The Home of Immigrants. The publication gave physical, social, educational, and political descriptions of Iowa. The legislature instructed that the booklet be published in English, German, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish.

Iowans were not alone in their efforts to attract more northern and western Europeans. Throughout the nation, Americans regarded these new comers as "good stock" and welcomed them enthusiastically. Most immigrants from these countries came in family units. Germans constituted the largest group, settling in every county within the state. The great majority became farmers, but many also became craftsmen and shopkeepers. Moreover, many German-Americans edited newspapers, taught school, and headed banking establishments. In Iowa, Germans exhibited the greatest diversity in occupations, religion, and geographical settlement.

Iowa also attracted many other people from Europe, including Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Dutch, and many emigrants from the British Isles. After 1900, people also emigrated from southern and eastern Europe. In many instances, immigrant groups were identified with particular occupations. The Scandinavians, including Norwegians, who settled in Winneshiek and Story Counties; Swedes, who settled in Boone County; and Danes, who settled in southwestern Iowa; were largely associated with farming. Many Swedes also became coal miners. The Hollanders made two major settlements in Iowa, the first in Marion County, and the second in northwest Iowa.

Proportionately far more southern and eastern immigrants, particularly Italians and Croatians, went into coal mining than did western and northern Europeans. Italian emigration differed from earlier emigration in that it tended to be male dominated. Typically, the Italian male emigrated with financial support of family or friends. Once in Iowa, he worked in the mines to pay back his sponsors; then he began to save to bring his wife and family from Italy. For two generations, Italian males worked in coal mines scattered throughout central and southern Iowa. Beginning around 1925, however, the Iowa coal industry began to decline. By the mid-1950s only a few underground mines remained in the state.

The majority of blacks who migrated to Iowa during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also worked as coal miners. Before the Civil War, Iowa had only a small black population, but in the 1880s that number increased considerably. Unfortunately, many of the early blacks were hired as strike breakers by Iowa coal operators. In later decades, however, coal companies hired blacks as regular miners

Vast Changes

In 1917, the United States entered World War I and farmers as well as all Iowans experienced a wartime economy. For farmers, the change was significant. Since the beginning of the war in 1914, Iowa farmers had experienced economic prosperity. Along with farmers everywhere, they were urged to be patriotic by increasing their production. Farmers purchased more land and raised more corn, beef, and pork for the war effort. It seemed that no one could lose as farmers expanded their operations, made more money, and at the same time, helped the Allied war effort.

After the war, however, Iowa farmers soon saw wartime farm subsidies eliminated. Beginning in 1920, many farmers had difficulty making the payment for debts they had incurred during the war. The 1920s were a time of hardship for Iowa's farm families and for many families, these hardships carried over into the 1930s.

As economic difficulties worsened, Iowa farmers sought to find local solutions. Faced with extremely low farm prices, including corn at 10 cents a bushel and pork at three cents a pound, some Iowa farmers joined the Farm Holiday Association. This group, which had its greatest strength in the area around Sioux City, tried to withhold farm products from markets. They believed this practice would force up farm prices. The Farm Holiday Association had only limited success as many farmers did not cooperate and the withholding itself did little to raise prices. Farmers experienced little relief until 1933 when the federal government, as part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, created a federal farm program.

In 1933, native Iowan Henry A. Wallace went to Washington as secretary of agriculture and served as principle architect for the new farm program. Wallace, former editor of the Midwest's leading farm journal, Wallace's Farmer, believed that prosperity would return to the agricultural sector only if agricultural production was curtailed. Further, he believed that farmers would be monetarily compensated for withholding agricultural land from production. These two principles were incorporated into the Agricultural Adjustment Act passed in 1933. Iowa farmers experienced some recovery as a result of the legislation but like all Iowans, they did not experience total recovery until the 1940s.

Since World War II, Iowans have continued to undergo considerable economic, political, and social change. In the political area, Iowan experienced a major change in the 1960s when liquor by the drink came into effect. During both the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Iowans had strongly supported prohibition, but in 1933 with the repeal of national prohibition, Iowans established a state liquor commission. This group was charged with control and regulation of Iowa's liquor sales. From 1933 until the early 1960s, Iowans could purchase packaged liquor only. In the 1970s, Iowans witnessed a reapportionment of the General Assembly, achieved only after a long struggle for an equitably-apportioned state legislature. Another major political change was in regard to voting. By the mid-1950s, Iowa had developed a fairly competitive two-party structure, ending almost 100 years of Republican domination within the state.

In the economic sector, Iowa also has undergone considerable change. Beginning with the first farm-related industries developed in the 1870s, Iowa has experienced a gradual increase in the number of business and manufacturing operations. The period since World War II has witnessed a particular increase in manufacturing operations. While agriculture continues to be the state's dominant industry, Iowans also produce a wide variety of products including refrigerators, washing machines, fountain pens, farm implements, and food products that are shipped around the world.

Strong Traditions

At the same time, some traditions remain unchanged. Iowans are still widely known for their strong educational systems, both in secondary as well as in higher education. Today, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa continue to be recognized nationally and internationally as outstanding educational institutions. Iowa remains a state composed mostly of farms and small towns, with a limited number of larger cities. Moreover, Iowa is still a place where most people live stable, comfortable lives, where family relationships are strong and where the quality of life is high. In many peoples' minds, Iowa is "middle America." Throughout the years, Iowans have profited from their environment and the result is a progressive people and a bountiful land.

Law and Government

The state capital is Des Moines. The current Governor is Tom Vilsack (Democrat) and the two U.S. Senators are Chuck Grassley (Republican) and Tom Harkin (Democrat). The five U.S. Congressmen are Jim Leach (Republican), Jim Nussle (Republican), Steve King (Republican), Tom Latham (Republican), and Leonard Boswell (Democrat).


Iowa is bordered by Minnesota on the north, Nebraska and South Dakota on the west, Missouri on the south, and Wisconsin and Illinois on the east. The Mississippi River forms the eastern boundary of the state. The boundary along the west is formed by the Missouri River south of Sioux City and by the Big Sioux River north of Sioux City. The topography of the state is gently rolling plains. Loess hills lie along the western border of the state. Some of these are several hundred feed thick. There are few natural lakes in the state, most notably Spirit Lake, Lake Okoboji and West Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa. The point of lowest elevation is Keokuk in southeast Iowa. The point of highest elevation is Hawkeye Point, located in a feedlot north of Sibley in northwest Iowa. Considering the size of the state, there is very little elevation difference.

National parks, etc.

  • Effigy Mounds National Monument
  • Herbert Hoover National Historical Site


The state's total gross state product for 1999 was $85 billion placing Iowa 30th in the nation. Its Per Capita Income for 2000 was $26,723. Iowa's main agricultural outputs are hogs, corn, soybeans, oats, cattle and dairy products. Its industrial outputs are food processing, machinery, electric equipment, chemical products, publishing and primary metals.

  • State income
  • Major industries/products: agriculture,
  • insurance, manufacturing. state taxes

Important Cities and Towns

Population > 100,000 (urbanized area)
Population > 10,000 (urbanized area)
Other Cities


Iowa has a strong emphasis on education, which is shown in standardized testing scores. In 2003, Iowa had the second highest average SAT scores by state, and tied for second highest average ACT (examination) scores in states where more than 20% of graduates were tested. The national office of ACT is in Iowa City, and the ITBS and ITED testing programs used in many states are provided by the University of Iowa.

Colleges and Universities

State universities

  • Iowa State University
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Northern Iowa

Community colleges

  • Clinton Community College
  • Des Moines Area Community College
  • Ellsworth Community College
  • Hawkeye Community College
  • Indian Hills Community College
  • Iowa Central Community College
  • Iowa Lakes Community College
  • Iowa Western Community College
  • Kirkwood Community College
  • Marshalltown Community College
  • Muscatine Community College
  • North Iowa Area Community College
  • Northeast Iowa Community College
  • Northwest Iowa Community College
  • Scott Community College
  • Southeastern Community College
  • Southwestern Community College
  • Western Iowa Community College

Professional business and technical colleges and universities

  • American Institute of Business
  • Allen College of Nursing
  • Hamilton College
  • Kaplan College
  • Mercy College of Health Sciences
  • Palmer College of Chiropractic
  • St. Luke's College of Nursing and Health Sciences
  • University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences
  • Vatterott College

Independent colleges and universities

  • Briar Cliff University
  • Buena Vista University
  • Central College
  • Clarke College
  • Coe College
  • Cornell College
  • Divine Word College
  • Dordt College
  • Drake University
  • Emmaus Bible College
  • Faith Baptist Bible College
  • Graceland University
  • Grand View College
  • Grinnell College
  • Iowa Wesleyan College
  • Loras College
  • Luther College
  • Maharishi University of Management
  • Morningside College
  • Mount Mercy College
  • Northwestern College
  • Simpson College
  • Saint Ambrose University
  • The Franciscan University
  • University of Dubuque
  • Upper Iowa University
  • Vennard College
  • Waldorf College
  • Wartburg College
  • William Penn University

Professional Sports Teams

The Minor League baseball teams are:

  • Iowa Cubs
  • Cedar Rapids Kernels
  • Burlington Bees
  • Chariton A's (collegiate summer)
  • Clinton LumberKings
  • Swing of the Quad Cities
  • Waterloo Bucks (collegiate summer)

The Minor League hockey teams are:

  • Iowa Stars
  • Cedar Rapids Roughriders
  • Waterloo Black Hawks
  • Des Moines Buccaneers
  • Sioux City Musketeers

The Minor League soccer teams are:

  • Des Moines Menace

U.S Senators from Iowa

(Seat 1):

  • Chuck Grassley, Republican, 1981–present
  • John Culver, Democrat, 1975–1981
  • Harold E. Hughes, Democrat, 1969–1975
  • Bourke B. Hickenlooper, Democrat, 1945–1969
  • Guy M. Gillette, Democrat, 1936–1945
  • Richard Louis Murphy, Democrat, 1933–1936
  • Smith W. Brookhart, Republican, 1927–1933
  • David W. Stewart, Republican, 1926–1927
  • Albert B. Cummins, Republican, 1908–1926
  • William B. Allison, Republican, 1873–1908
  • James Harlan, Republican, 1867–1873
  • Samuel J. Kirkwood, Republican, 1865–1867
  • James Harlan, Free Soil and Republican, 1855–1865
  • Augustus C. Dodge, Democrat, 1848–1855

(Seat 2):

  • Tom Harkin, Democrat, 1985–present
  • Roger Jepsen, Republican, 1979–1985
  • Dick Clark, Democrat, 1973–1979
  • Jack R. Miller, Republican, 1961–1973
  • Thomas E. Martin, Republican, 1955–1961
  • Guy M. Gillette, Republican, 1949–1955
  • George A. Wilson, Republican, 1943–1949
  • Clyde L. Herring, Republican, 1937–1943
  • L.J. Dickinson, Republican, 1931–1937
  • Daniel F. Steck, Democrat, 1926–1931
  • Smith W. Brookhart, Republican, 1922–1926
  • Charles A. Rawson, Democrat, 1922–1922
  • William S. Kenyon, Republican, 1911–1922
  • Lafayette Young, Democrat, 1910–1911
  • Jonathan P. Dolliver, Republican, 1900–1910
  • John H. Gear, Republican, 1895–1900
  • James F. Wilson, Republican, 1883–1895
  • James W. McDill, Republican, 1881–1883
  • Samuel J. Kirkwood, Republican, 1877–1881
  • George G. Wright, Republican, 1871–1877
  • James B. Howell, Republican, 1870–1871
  • James W. Grimes, Republican, 1859–1869
  • George W. Jones, Democrat, 1848–1859

Iowa caucus

The state gets considerable attention every four years because of its presidential caucus, a gathering of voters which, along with the New Hampshire primary a week later, has become the starting gun for choosing the two major-party candidates for U.S. president. The caucus, held in January of the election year, involves people gathering in homes or public places and choosing their candidate, rather than casting secret ballots, as in done in a primary or election.

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