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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
But, for now – let’s give a tip of the old hat to Iowa City – State Capital of Iowa!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.