April 1846 – The First Step Toward Statehood. On April 6, 1846, the voters of Iowa approved thirty-two Iowans from around the state, sending them off to Iowa City to write up a State Constitution. So far, beginning in 1840, there have been three false attempts at statehood, but now, if this Constitutional Convention can get their act together, both the people of Iowa and the United States Senate seem ready to make it all happen.
1846 Iowa Statehood – A Field of Dreams. It’s December 28, 1846 – Iowa statehood is finally achieved. One historian writes: “The fertility of the soil in Iowa is unsurpassed—not merely by that of her kindred States — not merely in our Union – but throughout the world! And still the field is open – still the coffers of the earth are full, and he may help himself who will.” A Constitution is written and Iowa has now become the 29th State in that Union.
February 25, 1847 – SUI Begins With A Bang. Was it just a coincidence? Or was it a heavenly sign of holy confirmation? We report. You decide. On February 25, 1847, the Iowa Legislature, meeting in Iowa City, proclaimed that our state, only 59 days old at the time, would develop a university of higher learning, a place where doctors, lawyers, and other professionals would be trained for service to our state. Within a few hours of that proclamation, the heavens opened and the Marion Meteorite passed over Iowa City before striking the ground with a mighty boom. Let it be. S.U.I. Amen.
SUI – The Early Days 1847-1860. On February 25, 1847 the State Legislature, meeting in the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City, approved the recommendation that the State of Iowa sponsor a new University. While the idea might have sounded very lofty, making the dream into a reality was quite another story. Here’s some of the details behind those first 13 years when the State University of Iowa barely survived!
1848 – Iowa City’s Hum-Dinger of A Bell Story. In the late summer of 1848, all hell broke loose in Iowa City as the recently-dismissed Rev. Michael Hummer climbed into the belfry of the Presbyterian Church, trying to “recover” the bell he believed to be his. While his efforts failed, it left one great story for bell-lovers, Iowa City historians and church-goers alike.
Dear Iowa City – Show Me the Money. Jonas Wescoatt served as Clerk of the District Court in Monroe County, Iowa. In 1849, he wrote to Josiah H. Bonney, Iowa Secretary of State in Iowa City, asking for an $18.59 reimbursement for county expenses. Wescoatt and his brothers went on to become key settlers of both Lucas and Monroe Counties in southern Iowa, but in 1853, while still a county judge, he headed west, hoping to cash in on Gold Fever by bringing a herd of Iowa cattle to California. Read more about these two Iowa pioneers.
An Evening At The Movies – St. Louis – 1849. Between 1846 and 1850, concert houses and opera halls across the country debuted “moving panoramas,” a creative precursor to motion pictures which featured a massive moving canvas as tall as 12-feet high and up to a half-mile long, depicting artistic vistas of the Mississippi River Valley. Henry Lewis, a self-taught artist and entrepreneur, developed one of the most impressive panoramas, debuting it in St. Louis in 1849 before taking it throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe over the next five years. Lewis’ thirteen scenes of Iowa provide iconic views of the Hawkeye State soon after Statehood.
Old Capitol’s Stairway To Heaven. While Iowa’s new capitol building opened for business in 1842, it took another seven years before the second floor was fully accessible. In 1849, a beautiful reverse-spiral staircase was finally completed and with it the most iconic building in Iowa gained not just a flight of stairs but an architectural classic that still amazes visitors today.