In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet embarked in two canoes on an expedition to explore the Mississippi River. Marquette was especially useful during the voyage, as he knew several First Nation languages, thus he was able to gather valuable information from local tribes as they made their way through the wilderness. BTW: the word Mississippi comes from the Algonquian language and means Father of Waters.
Once they reached the Big Daddy – June 17, 1673 – these two explorers traveled south all the way to the mouth of the Arkansas River (see map below). On that trip, Marquette and Joliet became two of the first Europeans to ever set foot on the eastern shores of the beautiful land we now call Iowa.
In the early 1700’s, the French attempted to draw up maps of this expansive region they called Louisiana.
(M-0003) Omaha, Nebraska: Iowa Day – September 21, 1898. This rare souvenir pin pictures the Iowa State Building on the Exposition fairgrounds.
The 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was held to further the progress and development of natural resources west of the Mississippi River. Held in Omaha, Nebraska, the exposition opened on June 1, 1898, and ran for five months. More than 4,000 exhibits showcased social, economic, and industrial resources of the American West. The expo wasn’t a financial success overall, but it did revitalize Omaha, a community that had been devastated by drought and depression. Over 2.6 million people attended the expo, which featured the Indian Congress, the largest Native American gathering of its kind. Over 500 members representing 28 tribes camped on the fairgrounds and introduced Americans from the East to their way of life. Reenactments of the explosion of the battleship Maine also fueled patriotism and support for the Spanish-American War.
As we discussed in our earlier post, the first “Iowa-themed” stamps in Our Iowa Heritage collection date back to 1898. In the last chapter we looked at the 4-cent Native American stamp in the nine-set commemorative collection issued in conjunction with the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha. Here, let’s look at the 1-cent, the 2-cent, and the $2 stamps from that same series: honoring Father Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet and The Father of Waters.
(S-0077) A Mississippi River Bridge is featured on the very rare $2 stamp in 1898, and on the 2-center reprint in 1998.
As noted earlier with Father Marquette and explorer Louis Jolliet, much of the early exploration of the “West” was done by the French. In 1682, Rene Robert Cavelier and Sieur de La Salle retraced much of Marquette & Jolliet’s footsteps, claiming all this land of the Mississippi River valley, including Iowa, for the King of France. That explains the French names given to so many cities around the upper Midwest. Cities such as Des Moines, IA, Des Plaines, IL, Joliet, IL, Marquette, WI, and Dubuque, IA are just a sampling of these French names.
But in 1803, the fledgling nation in the east called the United States of America decided to enter into this westward exploration. President Thomas Jefferson made a huge land purchase, paying France $15 million dollars for 530,000,000 acres of uncharted land just west of the Mississippi River. This land was called the Louisiana Territory and included what is today, the State of Iowa. Click here to read more…
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.