Our Iowa Heritage: The 1880’s in Iowa City.

University Square – Circa 1882 – Oil Painting by Frank Bond.
University Square – Circa 1885 – Picture by Frank Horack.

(M-0006) 1888 – IOWA “Hawkeye State” Allen & Ginter Cigarette Card – Flags of the States and Territories Series.  Allen & Ginter was a Richmond, VA tobacco manufacturing company formed in 1865. In the late 1880s, Allen & Ginter began to release cigarette card sets as promotional items for its cigarette brands. Topics varied from birds and wild animals to American Indian chiefs or flags of the world. Allen & Ginter’s baseball cards were the first of the tobacco era baseball cards ever produced for distribution on a national level.


Notice that the IOWA flag in 1888 looks nothing like it does today. The present Red/White/Blue flag design was adopted on March 12, 1921. Prior to 1921, flag designs in Iowa differed, usually drawing upon artwork used on regiment flags from the Civil War.

(P-0281) 1888. This trading card was issued by the W. Duke and Son’s Co. Tobacco Company as an insert premium in their Honest Long Cut brand of Tobacco and Cigarettes. The front of the card features a portrait of Iowa Governor William Larrabee, the Iowa Coat of Arms, and two scenes from our state (Farming and the Mississippi River near Dubuque).
This card (N133B – from a fairly rare series of cards entitled, “State Governors & Coats of Arms”) is set up like a three panel folder and folded when inserted into a cigarette pack at the factory.  The back of the card is a fantastic historical document from the time. It gives a history up till 1888, a population breakdown based on the 1880 census and gives a map of each state or territory in 1888. 

(P-0314) As long as we’re looking at Tobacco cards, here, from 1910 is Card #62 featuring the State Seal of Iowa from the Helmar Turkish Cigarette T107 Series.

202-1884 U62 - ICWales

(C-0043) Iowa City: The Hub of Holstein Cattle Breeding in the late 1880’s. This postal cover is a letter from Thomas B. Wales and is addressed to “Messrs Powell Bros” of Springboro, PA. The cover features the Holstein Breeders Association of America logo.


(C-0044) This postal cover is a letter from Thomas B. Wales addressed to Professor Laird Johnson, Michigan Ag College (Michigan State University), in Lansing, MI. The cover highlights the Iowa Improved Live Stock BreedersAssociation which was born in 1872 and advertises the upcoming 15th annual convention to be held in Iowa City in December, 1888.

Thomas B. Wales & Brookbank Farm of Iowa City.


For a period of 13 years, 1881 to 1894, Iowa City was home to one of the leaders of the Holstein breeders of the United States. Thomas Beale Wales, Jr. (1839–1922) was a dairy stock breeder who is associated with the history of the Holstein breed of cattle in the United States and inventor of the first recording system for tracking animal pedigree.

Wales first visited Iowa City in the fall of 1880. In late December, 1881, an article describing his farm, Brookbank, appeared in a regional trade publication. A string of adds offering Holstein cattle for sale followed and continued until March 1882 in that publication. Also in 1882, articles began to appear in the Iowa City press extolling the virtues of Holstein cattle for beef, milk, and butter. That same year wales brought forty-five head of Holsteins from Massachusetts by rail. By winter of 1882–1883, Wales was selling a significant number of stock animals in Iowa and nearby, selling eleven bulls and eighteen cows and heifers while retaining fifty five head at Brookbank. There is little doubt the location near a railroad was of importance to a person selling large animals in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and this likely weighed as a factor for Wale’s choice to move to Iowa City. For example, three stock cars were used to bring in 53 head of cattle in 1883. The Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Northern railway spur into Iowa City crossed the north portion of the farm and the region was also served by the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific line. A move to Iowa City situated Wales with rail access in an expanding market for cattle.

Holstein cattle timeline:

1631: The first Holsteins were imported to America. These bloodlines were lost due to crossbreeding.

1850’s: A breeder from Massachusetts, Winthrop Chenery, made his first purchase of Holstein cattle from the captain of a Dutch sailing vessel. He was so impressed with the breed, that he imported seven more Holstein animals.

1870’s: There was enough interest among breeders in the United States to form organizations for recording pedigrees and maintaining an official herdbook. The first herd book was published in 1872 by the Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle and contained the pedigrees of 128 Holstein animals.

1885: The Association of Breeders of Thoroughbred Holstein Cattle and the Dutch Friesian Association of America merged to form the Holstein-Friesian Association of America.

1885-1894: The first Holstein-Friesian Association office was in Iowa City, Iowa, the home of the first Secretary, Thomas B. Wales.


Holstein-Friesian Cattle of the Brookbank Herd. Iowa City, Iowa. circa 1886 – commissioned by Thos. B. Wales Jr., Iowa City, Iowa; G. Palmer, artist; printed by J. Ottmann, Lithographing Co., New York, In the collection of the Library of Congress.

While in Iowa, Wales lived on a farm on the east edge of Iowa City, a place he named Brookbank. The name was appropriate. Wales selected an area of 220 acres that straddled the south fork of Ralston Creek. The property stretched east from Muscatine Road to the point the road turns east and then extended another half mile. The north boundary of the farm was the road that ran along the alignment of current day Court Street. The house reportedly was a block long and half a block deep, with a large barn, all located at what is today Garden and Friendship Streets (just blocks from our present home on Catskill Court).

In another interesting cover set from Thomas Wales, Secretary, this beautiful etched cover is addressed to a potential customer in New Jersey. Postmarked in Iowa City in August 1886, the enclosed sale flyer has a treasure-trove of items for sale through the Association.

1888-garden & friendship

Read more: www. timweitzel.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/thomas-b-wales-jr-and-the-brookbank-herd/

202-1889 212-LFRosscover

(C-0045) With Iowa City being the home to some of the largest breeders of Holstein cattle in the US, here’s an interesting postal cover to C. H. Wooddell from L. F. Ross of Iowa City, featuring a beautiful cachet for his business: Breeder of Red Polled Cattle.


The name of Ross’s breeding farm in Iowa City was Mount Prospect Farm. By 1904, Ross had apparently sold his farm to A.R. Ohl and Sons. Above is a flyer found in a 1904 publication advertising Mount Prospect Farm located 1 mile southeast of Iowa City.


(C-0046) 1891 Business Letter – dated March 4, 1891 in Iowa City.  Here’s an interesting business letter to Mr. Jasper M. Clark from L. F. Ross – Importer and Breeder of Red Polled Cattle.

Here are some other Postal Covers from Iowa City in the late 1880’s…

(C-0047) To Helen in Keokuk – February 27, 1888.

(C-0232) A sweet 4-page letter to Mary Jane Howell (niece and nephew in Flat Ridge, Ohio – Guernsey County) from Aunt in Iowa City – July 26, 1888.  Here are some highlights (with corrected spelling!)…

You said your husband joined the church and I hope you have too. We must choose and trust a better world than this – it helps us to bear our troubles and trials. We have something to hope for here-after.

Corn looks well, oats and hay good. We have all of our hay but wheat not worth cutting. Miny and Charley was at our house a day or two ago. Says she has a fine garden and will have plenty of apples for fall and winter. Put up two quarts of raspberries and will have some blackberries to put up.

I got two letters from Martin and Jenny’s – they are doing well in California. We talk of going. I think it would do me good to take such a visit and stay about two years and rest our bones.

Will please forgive your uncle for not writing. He doesn’t right too well. Mary Jane, I am afraid you work too hard – a woman’s work never makes a man stick. Good bye – a kiss for all and two for the babies. Your Aunt. write soon.

We’ll close this page dedicated to the 1880’s with this ad from The Iowa City Daily Republican (September 22, 1881) for the Rock Island Railroad. The primary way to travel in and out of Iowa City.

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

University Square painting-1882, Frank Bond, Facing East and Facing West – Iowa’s Old Capitol Museum, Linzie Kull McCray & Thomas Langdon (2007) University of Iowa Press, p viii

Click here to go on to the next section…

Click here for a complete INDEX of Our Iowa Heritage stories…

Click here for a complete INDEX of PEOPLE-PLACES-THINGS…

Click here for a complete INDEX of stories listed CHRONOLOGICALLY…

Click here for a numerical INDEX to all of the U.S. postage stamps, postal cards, and coins in our collection…