1938 – Iowa Celebrates Our Territorial Centennial.

Here is an official 1938 Statewide Territorial Centennial Iowa Road Map – celebrating Iowa’s 100th Anniversary of its admission to the country as a U.S. Territory.

Read more about Iowa – A Guide to the Hawkeye State – a 583-page book produced by FDR’s WPA program and released in 1938 in time for the Iowa Territorial Centennial Celebration.

(P-0001) In 1938, the United States Post Office issued a new commemorative postage stamp honoring Iowa’s 100th Anniversary of Becoming a U.S. Territory. Interestingly, the 3-cent stamp featured a beautiful etching of the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City, but the stamp was released – First Day of Issue – in Des Moines!

(S-0006) (S-0063) Here are a plate bock and a full sheet of the Iowa Territorial Centennal stamp.

(C-0121) (C-0122) (C-0123) (C-0257) These are First Day Covers – postmarked August 24, 1938 in Des Moines.

(C-0128)1938 Iowa State Fair Territorial Centennial Celebration. The new Iowa stamp was first issued at the 1938 Iowa State Fair. Read more about The Iowa State Fair here.
(C-0068) Iowa Territory 100th Anniversary and The Railway Post Office. The Burlington Railroad offered Iowa State Fair-goers an exhibit with a postal station operating out of a RPO train car. Click here to read more about RPO’s.

One clever stamp collector – Al Burns in Holton, Kansas – knew his Iowa history, and decided to get the story straight by having his first day covers postmarked in Iowa cities that were more actively involved with our Territorial history than Des Moines! These three covers are very rare indeed. While Des Moines was picked as the First Day of Issue City for the Iowa Territorial Centennial Stamp issued on August 24, 1938, these three cities in eastern Iowa really had more significance. Fortunately, Al got these three covers postmarked in Dubuque, Burlington, and Iowa City on that same day! After buying his stamps in Des Moines – at the State Fair – he had a little bit of driving to get to all three cities on August 24th – but well worth the effort!

(C-0018) Dubuque – Iowa’s oldest settlement (1788 – 1833). The first permanent settler in Iowa was French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque. When he arrived in 1788, the Meskwaki (Sauk and Fox) tribe occupied the region which included an abundant amount of lead mines. On June 1, 1833, the land Julien Dubuque had worked so hard to develop was opened up for settlement by the United States Government under the Black Hawk Purchase Treaty. It was in 1837, when the community was officially chartered, when the city was named after its founding citizen. Click here to read more about Dubuque and its role in shaping early Iowa.
(C-0019) Burlington – Iowa’s first Territorial capitol (1838 -1841). In 1837, Burlington was designated the second territorial capital of the Wisconsin Territory (Belmont, WI was the first). In 1838, when Iowa became a separate U.S. Territory, Governor Robert Lucas selected Burlington as the first capital. The Legislature convened in November 1838, at Zion Church. The Council had 13 members, the House had 26. In one of its first actions, the legislature decided to relocate the capital to a more centrally located setting, choosing Johnson County as that place. (M-0005) Below – the good people of Burlington celebrated with this One Wooden Nickel – commemorating Burlington’s 100th Anniversary of being Iowa’s first Territorial Capitol in 1838. Click here to read more about Burlington and its role in shaping early Iowa.
(C-0020) Iowa City – Iowa’s second Territorial capitol and first State capital (1841 -1857).  In May 1839, the Territorial Legislature sent out a team to select a location for the new capital in Johnson County. The commission consisted of Chauncey Swan, John Ronalds, and Robert Ralston. They chose the permanent site for the capital indicating the place by a slab driven into the ground about where the Old Stone Capitol at Iowa City now stands. At this time, the only building in sight from the spot where the stake had been driven was a half-finished log cabin. By the end of July, the town was already laid out, and a map had been drawn. People began to buy lots at Iowa City in August. Log cabins and frame houses seemed to spring up overnight. Plans for the capitol moved rapidly ahead. Governor Lucas issued a proclamation changing the capital from Burlington to Iowa City on April 30, 1841. Click here to read more about Iowa City and its role in shaping early Iowa.
(C-0294) Another stamp collector – J.R. Madera in Chicago – wanted to make sure he got an Iowa City postmark, so here is his rare cover – postmarked the next day – on August 25, 1938 – one day after the stamp’s first day of release in Des Moines. Unlike Al Burns, he waited overnight before driving from Des Moines to Iowa City!

(L-0109) Here’s a very rare collectible featuring the 1938 Iowa Territorial Centennial stamp on a First Day Cover that was sent personally to a friend in New Jersey by the U.S. Postmaster General James A. Farley. Farley had quite the reputation when he served as Postmaster during much of the Roosevelt presidency (1933-1940). He is credited with saving the U.S. Post Office during the depression years but also made a name for himself as a politician who regularly used his position for much personal gain. Read more about Farley and the N.R.A. stamp issued in Nira, Iowa in 1933.

(S-0043) 1938 – Iowa Territorial Centennial Exposition in Council Bluffs.  In the midst of the Great Depression, Iowa choose to celebrate our Iowa Territorial Centennial by sponsoring an Exposition (Fair) in Council Bluffs. From August 7 through September 5, tens of thousands gathered to see the many exhibits in Dodge Park. Fair organizers worked with the WPA to invest $75,000 into the project, leaving the city with new public buildings after the Exposition closed.

Click here to read more about how WPA projects in Iowa helped battle the Depression.


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

James A. Farley, Wikipedia


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