1946 – Iowa Celebrates 100 Years Of Statehood.

Click here to read more about Iowa Statehood in 1846.

In the early 1940’s, Iowans began the conversation about how we, as a state, should celebrate our 100th anniversary as the 29th State in the Union. With WWII raging, many wondered if a celebration of any kind was appropriate – much less needed.

In 1943, the State Legislature approved the formation of a nine-member committee to oversee the idea of a centennial celebration. Below is just a small portion of this committee’s on-going conversation with Iowans over the next three years.

Of course, as the war ended (1945), Iowans were much more open to the idea of a big celebration, and from everything we’ve read, there were plenty of opportunities given in numerous locations around the state throughout 1946.

(S-0042) (S-0064) The biggest “official” celebration, of course, was tied in with the release of the U.S. Post Office’s new 3-cent commemorative postage stamp honoring Iowa’s Centennial.

(P-0280) Here’s a rare “official” public announcement post card from the U.S. Post Office Department in Washington DC announcing the August 3, 1946 stamp release in Iowa City.

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(P-0190) And – here’s an interesting promotional postcard from the Washington Stamp Exchange pre-selling their Artcraft etched First Day postal covers as designed for the upcoming release of U.S. #942 Iowa Statehood stamp in Iowa City on August 3, 1946.
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A huge crowd gathered on August 3, 1946 for Iowa’s big Stamp Day!
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(C-0141) Iowa Statehood Centennial. This stamp commemorates the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s addition to the Union. (C-0140) (C-0138)

The stamp release date of August 3rd – instead of December 28 – Iowa Statehood Day – was picked for two reasons. First, the Iowa Centennial Commission believed that there would be a bigger statewide celebration associated with a summer 1946 release versus waiting until the end of the year. Secondly, they reasoned that since Iowans had adopted their new constitution on August 3, 1846, the date did have some historical significance.

As it turned out, the committee was right – for when it was all said and done, the U.S. Postmaster announced that the First Day of Issue ceremony in Iowa City sold more commemorative stamps than any previous U.S. release, outside of the commemorative produced for the 1939 New York World’s Fair!

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(C-0139) Iowa Statehood Centennial Stamp. This is a beautiful First Day Cover featuring the special cachet developed by the Iowa City Stamp Club.
(C-0139) this First Day Cover insert card featured historical data about The Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City.
(C-0252) The Steamboat Iowa and Steamboat Bill (William J.) Petersen celebrated Iowa Statehood with this special postal cover.
(C-0144) Iowa City and the State University of Iowa hosted the First Day of Issue Stamp Day in 1946. SUI will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1947. Read more here.
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(P-0002) This show card is a beautiful souvenir of that special Stamp Day in Iowa City – August 3, 1946. I attended a Stamp Day in West Branch when the U.S. Post Office issued its Herbert Hoover commemorative stamp in 1965. Click here for more details.

(L-0108) Here is an official 1946 Statewide Centennial Iowa Road Map – celebrating Iowa’s 100th Anniversary of its admission to statehood.

As it is with most celebrations, there are special ways people choose to remember. The Iowa Centennial Committee created other small items (see above & below) that included the “official” Iowa Centennial logo.

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(M-0055) (M-0018) (M-0020) (M-0019) Iowa Centennial commemorative plaque, button, coin, and sticker.

Of course, another important part of the big celebration in 1946 was the U.S. Mint’s decision to release a commemorative 50-cent piece honoring Iowa’s Centennial…

(M-0017) The Iowa Centennial Half Dollar was authorized on August 7, 1946, with a maximum mintage of 100,000 pieces, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s statehood. The obverse design of the coins features the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City, while the reverse features the State Motto adapted from the Iowa State Flag.

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At the present time (2021) the average cost of a 1946 Iowa half-dollar in mint condition can range from $150 – $300.

(M-0060) The Iowa half-dollars were distributed by the Iowa Centennial Commission for $2.50 to state residents and $3 to others. The entire authorized mintage sold out, with more than 90,000 distributed to residents. 500 coins was set aside for distribution in 1996, and 500 more for distribution in 2046. In 1996, the coins were offered for $500 each in special holders. Sales were very slow, however, since the offering price was far above the market price for uncirculated pieces. Who knows how much the State will charge in 2046?

(L-0106) On July 15, 1946, the Iowa House of Representatives meeting in Des Moines had a presentation from eight different representatives – an overview called Iowa Centennial – 100 Years of Progress. A 32-page booklet was produced that gave a complete overview of the day’s proceedings.

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(M-0058) 1946 – Old Capitol Silver Round, (M-0059) Silver Spoon and (M-0060) Commemorative Half-Dollar. Below (M-0133) Gold-Plated Old Capitol Spoon.

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

Iowa Statehood Centennial, The Annals of Iowa, Volume 24, Number 3 -Winter 1943, pp 237-241

Photo – Des Moines, Iowa. State capitol in background, John Vachon, May 1940, Library of Congress

Iowa Centennial Commemorative Coin Legislation, August 7, 1946, US Mint


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