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.
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!
(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.
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.
(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.
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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