1846 Iowa Statehood – A Field of Dreams.

Did You Know? the audio version
U.S. Map in 1845 with Iowa Territory in transition – which occurred in 1846.
Click here for a complete timeline on Iowa’s “territorial” history (1803-1838).

With the signing of the Black Hawk Purchase, the first American settlers officially moved into Iowa in June 1833. Primarily, these were families from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia who settled along the Mississippi River, founding the modern day cities of Dubuque, Clinton (Lyons), Davenport, Muscatine (Bloomington), and Burlington. On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa. President Martin Van Buren appointed Robert Lucas governor of Iowa Territory (see map above), which included much of today’s Minnesota and half of the Dakotas – with 22 counties and a population of 23,242.

(M-0037) Map No. 2. Sketch of the Public Surveys in Iowa. An original surveyor’s map of Iowa as filed in Dubuque by George B. Sargent, Surveyor General. Click here for more information.
The 1846 Territorial Convention met in The Senate Chamber – Iowa City

Almost immediately after achieving Territorial status (1838), a clamor arose for statehood. After a dismal failure to achieve that goal in 1844, the people of Iowa Territory requested from the Territorial governor, James Clarge, that an updated proposed constitution for statehood be written. A second Iowa Territorial Convention gathered in Iowa City in May 1846 and approved a State Constitution on May 18, 1846. The Governor signed it on September 9, 1846.

Take a look at those early years when Old Capitol was the New Capitol.

(L-0002) Original U.S. Congress Govt. Document – Dec 15, 1846 – Constitution of the State of Iowa. This 18-page publication was then read to the U.S. House by Augustus C. Dodge on December 15, 1846.

On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union when President James K. Polk signed Iowa’s admission bill into law.

After Iowa joined the Union on December 28, 1846, the U.S. Flag “officially” added a 29th star on July 4, 1847. Prior to the familiar 48-star flag – which was first used in 1912, there was no set pattern for arranging stars on Old Glory. The flag shown above (left) is the 29-star flag in the House Chamber of Old Capitol in Iowa City – with the 29th star (Iowa) larger than the others. (C-0199) The 29-star flag shown above (right) is yet another version that was used in 1847.

The 29-Star Flag became the official United States Flag on July 4th, 1847. A star was added for the admission of Iowa – December 28th, 1846 – and was to last for only one year. The only President to serve under this flag was James Polk (1845-1849).

Once admitted to the Union, the new State of Iowa set its direction to development and organized campaigns for settlers and investors, boasting the young frontier state’s rich farmlands, fine citizens, free and open society, and good government.

1850iowamap
1850 – Sectional map of the state of Iowa, compiled from the United States surveys also exhibiting the internal improvements, distances between towns & villages, lines of projected rail roads &c. &c.; drawn and published by Guy H. Carleton, Dep. Sur. U.S.

As described by author N. Howe Parker in his classic, Iowa As It Is (1855) . . .

The fertility of the soil in Iowa is unsurpassed—not merely by that of her kindred States — not merely in our Union – but throughout the world! The black loam that over lies her prairies, and which varies in depth from eighteen to forty-eight inches, forms an inexhaustible storehouse of fecundity and agricultural wealth . . .This may sound incredible — fabulous; and yet, Iowa, the youngest of the States, has been the granary of that Union, and supplied from her own stores the exhausted markets of the East and South. Such are the inducements Iowa holds out to the farmer, coupled with a promise to return him, for immeasurably less labor than would be required in the East, an unsurpassable abundance of any and every article which the zone we live in is capable of producing.

But again: to the manufacturer she also cries come! She invites him to behold for himself her immense coal regions, and examine the qualities of the coal; to roam, hand in hand with the farmer, over the vast mineral tracts; and while he admires the richness of the mines, to let the farmer wonder at the phenomenon of an exceedingly fertile soil, spread out upon the immense beds of lead. Nor is this all. — The abundance of first-rate water-power, and the amount of building-stone everywhere to be found, offer such advantages to the energetic manufacturer as he may elsewhere seek in vain. These facts have but recently reached the East – and see with what avidity men of capital are hastening to test these boasted resources. And still the field is open – still the coffers of the earth are full,and he may help himself who will.

1855- Map of Iowa exhibiting the townships, cities, villages post offices, railroads, common roads & other improvements by Edward Mendenhall. Click here to read more about Iowa and the early maps that helped settlers find their way across this beautiful land.
Take a look at what Old Capitol looked like when it was the State Capitol.

From 1846 until 1857, Iowa City was the state capital of Iowa – meaning all state governmental offices were located in the capitol building located on Capitol Square. This, of course, increased Iowa City’s prominence throughout the new state, and was a fulfillment to the dreams of Iowa City’s first settlers. When Chauncey Swan drove that surveyor’s stake into the ground in May 1839 – this is what he and others envisioned.

The Great Seal of Iowa – One of the initial acts of the first General Assembly in 1847 was to create the Great Seal of Iowa. The seal pictures a citizen soldier standing in a wheat field, surrounded by farming and industrial tools, with the Mississippi River, and the Steamboat Iowa in the background. An eagle is overhead holding in its beak a scroll bearing the state motto: “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.” The motto was the work of a three-member Senate committee and was incorporated into the design of the seal at their suggestion. Click here to read more about the creation of the Iowa State Flag.
On July 4, 1839 – at a big Independence Day celebration held where the capitol building will soon rise – young Iowa City pioneer Cyrus Sanders wrote in his diary – envisioning what he hoped would someday occur on the banks of the Iowa River. Read more here.
The House Chamber – 2nd floor of the Iowa State House.
Capitol Square in Iowa City as it appeared on a 1854 map.

But from the very beginning of Iowa Statehood (1846), there were voices calling for the state’s capital to be located closer to the center of the state. By 1857, those voices will prevail…

Click here to read more about the move of the state capital from Iowa City to Des Moines.

But, for now – let’s give a tip of the old hat to Iowa City – State Capital of Iowa!

On December 28, 2021 – Iowans celebrated our 175th Anniversary of Statehood! Happy Birthday Iowa! Click here to visit our 175th Statehood Anniversary page. Click here to look at more December 28th celebrations over the years.

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

Iowa, Wikipedia

Iowa As It Is, N. Howe Parker, Keen and Lee, 1856

29-star US flag and 1857 Iowa Constitution pics – Facing East and Facing West – Iowa’s Old Capitol Museum, Linzie Kull McCray & Thomas Langdon (2007) University of Iowa Press, p 43, 45.


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