… All those people who have been living on the lands between the great rivers have been fighting, struggling, laboring, laughing, and growing in culture and wealth throughout the years…
…There is no other region that has been continually producing so much resource to feed the world…Iowa, often neglected as a treasure…
When they think of Iowa, many people think of a land that houses huge farms and tiny cities whose residents are the kind of people that seem to come straight from The Music Man by Meredith Wilson. And yes, it is true, Iowa belongs to the most important U.S. farming states as it produces around 20 percent of America’s corn supply, and it contains one-fourth of the nation’s richest farmlands.
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Yet Iowa is more. It is also leading the nation in manufacturing tractors, cereals, and washing machines, to mention a few items. Iowa also boasts one of the best-known American writing schools (the University of Iowa), and the state has produced quite a few famous authors and artists such as Grant Wood (the painter from Anamosa).
Iowa is sometimes also called the ‘Hartford of the West’ due to the many insurance companies that are headquartered there, and the state experiences rapid growth in the service and manufacturing industries. Iowa is also the Birthplace of Herbert Hoover, the first U.S. president who was born west of the mighty Mississippi River.
Quick Facts about Iowa
– Iowa was the first state to produce a 1 billion dollar harvest from 1 single crop.
– Producer of the first tractor (the ‘traction machine’).
– Houses the largest tractor plant in the world at Waterloo.
– The first mechanical washing machine was manufactured in Iowa.
Iowa brief history
In 1673, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette became the first European explorers to get a glimpse at present-day Iowa when they marveled at the high cliffs that are surrounding the Mississippi River.
The French subsequently were claiming the area and Joseph Des Noyelles, a French explorer, was forced to fight with the Saul and Fox Indians in the year 1735, at a location where the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers meet. France turned its claims to territories west of the Mississippi River (including Iowa) over to the Spanish in 1762.
Julian Dubuque, another French explorer, founded a settlement that he named after himself on the Mississippi River at Catfish Creek, and he started to mine for lead which was plentiful around in the area. Spain then secretly gave the Louisiana Territory back to France in 1800, and the ‘Louisiana Purchase’ of 1803 made that Iowa became United States territory.
Explorer Zebulon Pike then flew the U.S. flag over Iowa in 1805, and the cliff near McGregor was named after Pike, Pike’s Peak, though it is less famous than the peak in Colorado that also bears his name.
the ‘Western Engineer’ was the first steamboat to reach the Council Bluffs area on the Missouri River in 1819, and in the 1830s, Iowa and Missouri were so loudly disputing a region that the honey trees in that area became priced in a way that the states nearly came to blows in the so-called Honey War.
Iowa became the former Louisiana Territory’s first free state on December 28th, 1846, and then things went fast. The first state fair was held in 1854 at Fairfield, then in Iowa City at the University of Iowa in 1855, and the following year in the state’s new capital Des Moines.
The bridge that was built between Rock Island and Davenport in 1856 was the first bridge to span the Mississippi River. John Brown, a notorious abolitionist, stayed for a while in Tabor where he helped slaves with escaping to freedom via the ‘Underground Railroad’. The town in southwestern Iowa played a crucial role during the 1850s as a key center for the anti-slavery movement.
A prominent role was played by Iowa Civil War troops at the Battles of Wilson’s Creek’ (August 20th, 1861) and Luka (September 19th, 1862), and Council Bluffs became the Central Pacific Railroad’s eastern terminus in 1869, and the first college football game played west of the Mississippi occurred in 1889 between the University of Iowa and Grinnell College. During the 1890s, Independence was becoming a leading center for harness racing.
During World War I, Merle Hay (a serviceman from Iowa) was among the first Americans that got killed during that war, and in World War II, some 260,000 Iowa residents served while almost 8,400 gave their lives.
During the 1980’s many Iowa farmers got into problems due to increasing production costs, dropping prices, and over-extended debt, but fortunately during the 1990’s they saw an upturn.