Our Iowa Heritage: Iowa Celebrates: The 1930’s.

It’s the 1930’s and it’s time to celebrate Iowa’s Territorial 100th Anniversary! 1838-1938.

1938 – Iowa Highway Road Map – Territorial Centennial Edition.

(C-0123) (C-0257) 1938 – Iowa Territory Centennial. Issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Iowa Territory, this stamp pictures the Old Stone Capitol building in Iowa City.

(C-0128) 1938 Iowa State Fair Territorial Centennial Celebration. The 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.

(S-0006) (S-0063) (C-0121) (C-0122) First day of issue was August 24, 1938 at The Iowa State Fair. Read more about The Iowa State Fair here.


Three Postal Covers – Postmarked August 24, 1938 in Dubuque, Burlington, and Iowa City. 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, three cities in eastern Iowa really had more significance in Iowa Territorial history. Fortunately, a wise and historically-aware stamp collector got these covers postmarked in Dubuque, Burlington, and Iowa City on that same day!


(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) One Wooden Nickel – celebrating Burlington’s 100th Anniversary of being Iowa’s first Territorial Capitol -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.

Special 1938 Postal Covers featuring the Iowa Territorial Centennial Stamp.

1938IowaCitycover(C-0124) Postmarked in Iowa City on December 28, 1938 – with cachet celebrating Iowa Statehood – Dec 28, 1846. 

(C-0125) Colorful Cover featuring the Iowa Territorial Centennial and other stamps from the 1930’s – Postmarked in Ottumwa, IA.

In Council Bluffs – another Territorial Centennial Celebration in going on in 1938!

(S-0043) 1938 -Iowa Territorial Centennial Exposition in Council Bluffs – 1938.  In the midst of the Great Depression, Iowa choose to celebrate the 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.

Back in Iowa City – Here’s a souvenir of University of Iowa and Iowa City, Iowa from the 1930’s.


(P-0286) Circa 1930’s – Washington & Clinton Streets – looking east.

Here are some other highlights from the 1930’s around Iowa…

(C-0129) (C-0130) On July 6, 1932, the USPS postage rate for a 1-ounce letter rose from 2-cents to 3-cents. One clever stamp collector in Des Moines, Iowa decided to get a postmarked cover of both the last day of the 2-cent rate (July 5) and the first day of the new 3-cent rate (July 6) and used the 2-cent & 3-cent Washington Bicentennials for his covers. Nice set!
(C-0133) Iowa Statehood Day – December 28, 1933. On the State of Iowa’s 87th birthday (1846 -1933) this cover was postmarked in Des Moines.
1936 784-IowaStatehoodDay
(C-0201) Iowa Statehood Day – December 28, 1936. On the State of Iowa’s 90th birthday (1846 -1936) this cover was postmarked in Des Moines.

Ever heard of Nira, Iowa?

(C-0131) 1933 – NRA – National Recovery Act with a Second Day of Issue in Nira, Iowa. This is the third US postage stamp with a First Day Issue in Iowa. But know that this designation comes with an asterisk. The actual first day of issue for this NRA stamp was in Washington D.C. But, thanks to one clever stamp collector in Iowa, the little town of Nira, Iowa got the honor of being the Second Day of Issue!
Nira, Iowa on the Burlington/Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad Line, just west of Wellman. President Roosevelt personally requested this stamp, which he emphasized must be “issued at once to be most effective” to arouse support for the National Recovery Act. The stamp was produced and placed on sale in just 13 working days. When the stamp was announced, an avid stamp collector in Fairfield, Iowa contacted the US Postmaster, suggesting the First Day of Issue be in Nira, Iowa (38 miles away). President Roosevelt loved the idea (NRA in Nira), but with such short notice, it was decided to release the stamp in Washington DC on August 15, but have a Second Day of Issue in Nira two days later. So on August 17, 1933, thousands of stamp collectors ascended on Nira, a small Iowa community of 20 people!

Now, when it comes to creative stamp collecting, here’s a winner. Chester Beaman (1916-2007) of Kokomo, Indiana got really clever with the 1933 NRA stamp (#732). This 17-year old designed and hand-drew a beautiful postal cover addressed to himself, sending it first to the Postmaster in Beaman, Iowa (postmarked Sept 9, 1933) and then he sent it to the Postmaster on board the USS Chester (postmarked Sept 18, 1933) docked in California. The result? A NRA cover addressed to Chester Beaman, postmarked on the USS Chester and in the small Iowa town of Beaman. Clever indeed! Below is a picture of Chester during his senior year (1933) at Kokomo High School. For a full story on Chester, founding officer of the Kokomo H.S. Philatelic Club, click here. 

(C-0132) A Clever 1933 NRA Cover from Indiana.

Finally, back in Iowa City…

(C-0134) 1937 – Ries Bookstore – 30 Clinton St. Iowa City. John Theodore Ries (1857-1933) and Mary W. (Baker) Ries (1858-1930) moved to Iowa City in 1879 to start the Ries Book Store on Clinton Street, across from the University of Iowa Pentacrest. Their sons, Joseph Elzear Ries (1889-1969) and Clarus C. Ries (1883-1969) ran the store until the 1940-50’s. The University Book Store, which opened in the St. James Hotel, is on the same block as the original Ries Book Store.

Ries Book Stores in 1906
Here’s an ad for Reis Book Store appearing in the 1907 Zion Lutheran Church Year Book.

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