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Iowa (IA): State Guide and Fun Facts

When did Iowa become a state?
December 28. 1846

Who were the first Europeans in Iowa?
Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet

First Native American settlers:
Dakota Sioux, Illini, Ioway, Missouria and Otoe tribes

Square Miles:

US Rank:

State Flower:
Wild Rose

State Bird:
Eastern Goldfinch

State Motto:
“Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain”

Capital City

Des Moines
The city that is now Des Moines was first founded by James Allen in 1843 as a fort at the convergence of two rivers. The fort was placed in this location in order to keep Native Americans from taking over the area, however the tribes were driven out of the state only three years later, and so the fort was abandoned. Des Moines became a city in 1851, five years after Iowa became a state. It was named the new capital of the state, which caused a large growth after the Civil War ended in 1865. Within a few decades, the city had become Iowa’s largest.

Today, the city’s economy is focused on a few insurance and financial companies, medical centers and governmental operations (public schools and hospitals).


What is Iowa famous for?

1. Corn
Iowa is home to 52,806 farms that grow corn, with the average farm size at just over 200 acres. Each farm produced an average of 29,100 corn plants per acre and 28,400 ears per acre. While farmers work year round, those in Iowa spend almost $113,664 each year keeping their farms running and growing. After selling the annual crop, each farm nets an average of $31,592 annually. Corn in Iowa is grown for retail and wholesale trades, exports to foreign countries, livestock feed production and ethanol fuel production.

2. Bridges of Madison County
Madison County Iowa is the home of a number of covered bridges that became well known after Robert James Waller wrote the novel The Bridges of Madison County. According to the Madison County website, the area originally boasted 19 covered bridges, most built in the late 19th century. Today, six bridges remain. They are the Roseman Covered Bridge, Holliwell Covered Bridge, Cedar Covered Bridge, Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge, Hogback Covered Bridge and Imes Covered Bridge. Covered bridges were popular during this time because it was actually less expensive to build a roof over bridges to protect the wooden floors than it was to leave the floors open to the elements, which would cause more frequent replacement. Each of the bridges is open to pedestrians for exploration and appreciation of the fine building techniques that allow the structures to stand today.

3. Birthplace of Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States was born in West Branch Iowa in 1874. He was the first man to become president that was born west of the Mississippi River. He spend the first twelve years of his live living in Iowa, first with his parents, who both unfortunately died in 1880 and 1884. He went on to live with his uncle until 1885, when he moved to Oregon to live with another uncle. Hoover was part of Stanford University’s first graduating class. Before becoming president in 1921, he was a geologist and an engineer who traveled the globe working on various engineering and mining projects for a number of companies.

What is Iowa’s economy?

1. Agriculture
Iowa is a leading producer of corn, pigs, soybeans and beef cattle. It is the country’s largest producer of hogs and pigs. Other livestock that are raised to generate revenue in the state include cows for dairy products, turkey, sheep, horses and chickens for their eggs. Other main crops in the state include oats, flax, rye, wheat, apples, cabbages, onions and potatoes.

2. Manufacturing
The primary manufacturing that takes place in Iowa is centered on the food processing industry, primarily meatpackers and canning factories. Other sectors of the food processing industry include those that produce products from corn such as corn oil, corn starch, corn sugar, popcorn and high fructose corn syrup.

3. Services
The services industry in Iowa is driven by wholesale trade of cars and farm equipment. The retail industry is a close second, with the sale of automobiles at dealerships, food at grocery stores and meals at restaurants. The insurance and health care industry is also an important revenue generator in the state. Private hospitals and health care offices, hotels and small retail shops contribute as well.


Iowa Historical Landmarks

1. George M. Verity Towboat
The George M. Verity was built in 1927 in Dubuque, Iowa. However, when the US Government commissioned it to be built, they named it the S.S. Thorpe. The steam powered tugboat worked hard towing barges up and down the Mississippi River from at far south at St. Louis Missouri, to the mouth of the river in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1940, Armco Steel Corporation bought the steam-powered boat and used it on the Ohio River for 20 years. During this time, they renamed the boat after Armco founder, George M. Verity. Just one year after it was retired, the steamboat became a museum to educate visitors on the operations involved in towing barges downstream and upstream.
The boat was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 20, 1989.

2. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Herbert Hoover was the first president elect who hailed from a state west of the Mississippi River. This signified the progress of the United States in its westward expansion. The National Historic Site, located in West Branch, Iowa, is home to a number of buildings. The small two-room cabin where the president was born still remains on the grounds, as well as a replica of a blacksmith’s shop (Hoover’s father was a blacksmith), a one room schoolhouse, and a Quaker meetinghouse that the family frequented, as they were practicing Quakers.

Later additions to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site included the Hoover Presidential Library and the final resting places of the President and First Lady.
The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

3. Merchants’ National Bank
Louis Sullivan was known for his soaring skyscrapers and innovation with the use of steel frame construction in the early 20th century. He was also responsible, however, for a number of smaller less monumental buildings such as a series of banks in the Midwest. Their smaller size, however, did not deter Sullivan from employing the same characteristics that he used on his larger, monumental skyscrapers. His use of ornament on windows, and small cornices are evident in the Merchants’ National Bank, located in Grinnell, Iowa. The roof of the building is dominated by the use of colored skylights, which create a dazzling effect on the interior of the bank.

The bank was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark on January 7, 1976.

Additional Resources

Airports in Iowa

Counties in Iowa

Cities and Towns In Iowa

Chamber of Commerce in Iowa

Zoos in Iowa