Our Iowa Heritage: Iowa Celebrates: The Sesquicentennial.

Sesquicentennial. A big word that simply means 150th anniversary. Iowa celebrated three Sesquicentennial events in the latter part of the 20th century (1988-1989-1996), and each event was marked with special USPS postal releases…

Sesquicentennial Celebration #1 – Iowa Territory 1838-1988.


1988 Iowa Territory Sesquicentennial Postcard. Issued in 1988 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Iowa Territory. In 1988, Burlington was the logical city chosen to celebrate the event since it was Iowa’s first territorial capital (1838). Read more about Burlington’s heritage here.

(L-0085) 1988 Iowa Territory Sesquicentennial – First Day of Issue Ceremony Presentation Card with Iowa Territorial postcard inside (below)– Postmarked July 2, 1988 in Burlington, Iowa.

Sesquicentennial Celebration #2 – Iowa City 1839-1989.

(P-0258) (P-0261)

1989 Iowa City Sesquicentennial Celebration – On May 4-5-6, 1989, Iowa City celebrated its 150th birthday (1839-1989). The Iowa Territorial and America the Beautiful postcards (above), both issued in 1988, were used for the special Iowa City – 150th Anniversary postmark.

On May 4, 1989, The Iowa City Press Citizen published a special Sesquicentennial edition which included a multiple-page overview of Iowa City’s rich heritage. Click here to read more…

Sesquicentennial Celebration #3 – State of Iowa 1846-1996.

On December 28, 1995, the Iowa Statehood Sesquicentennial (1846-1996) celebration began with a debut program held in Iowa City. This kicked off a whole year of Sesquicentennial celebrations around the Hawkeye State, with Stamp Day being celebrated in Dubuque on August 1st, and everything concluding on Statehood Day – December 28, 1996 with a 150th birthday party in Des Moines.

(S-0049) (C-0171) 1996 Iowa Statehood Sesquicentennial  First Day of Issue: August 1, 1996  City: Dubuque, Iowa.  Click here to read more about Dubuque’s heritage, Iowa oldest city.

(L-0086) This rare postal cover has Iowa history covered – being postmarked in Dubuque (Iowa’s oldest city), Burlington (Iowa’s first territorial capital), Iowa City (Iowa’s first state capital), Des Moines (Iowa’s state capital), and Anamosa (home of Grant Wood – the artist).

The Iowa Sesquicentennial commemorative stamp (issued in two formats – sheet and booklet) features a rendering of the painting, Young Corn, by Iowa native and renowned American artist, Grant Wood. The work, completed in 1931, depicts the countryside in the Amana Colonies area of Iowa, and the warm, rich colors reflect Wood’s respect for the American farmer. The painting was commissioned by the Cedar Rapids Public School District, where Wood had been both a student and a teacher.

(C-0170) 1996 Sesquicentennial Cover featuring Iowa stamps from the past.

(C-0165-C-0169) (C-0172-C-0176) 1996 First Day Covers featuring other Iowa-related stamps: Herbert Hoover & The National Grange (honors the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Grange, a major farmer’s organization which has pioneered support for rural free delivery, and vocational agriculture), Father Marquette & the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Utah Centennial (the Mormon Trek trail, from Nauvoo, IL to Salt Lake City ran through Iowa City in 1846-1847), and the 4-H Clubs (Johnson County/Iowa City 4-H has a long history, dating back to 1918). 


1846-1996 – Iowa Celebrates its 150th Anniversary with two special license plates!

Here’s a RARE COLLECTIBLE from the Sesquicentennial…

(C-0282) On August 2nd, 1996, The Sesquicentennial Committee put together a limited number (192) of Binder Sets – made up of 99 different covers – each one postmarked in one of Iowa’s 99 county seats. Quite a rare find!

On December 28, 2021 – Iowans celebrate our 175th Anniversary of Statehood! Happy Birthday Iowa! Click here to visit our 175th Statehood Anniversary page…

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

Our One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary, Iowa City Press Citizen, May 4, 1989, p 37-64, May 5, 1989, p 1

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