U.S. #838 honors the Iowa territory and pictures the old capitol building in Iowa City.

Iowa Becomes a State

On December 28, 1846, Iowa was admitted as our 29th state.

On June 17, 1673, two French explorers, Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette, became the first white people to arrive in Iowa. They traveled by canoe down the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River, and landed on the Iowa side on June 25th.

U.S. #942 – Iowa is part of the corn belt, where the grain is the predominant crop.

In 1682, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, reached the mouth of the Mississippi River. He claimed the entire region drained by the Mississippi for France. La Salle named the area Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV. However, during the late 1600s to early 1700s, only a handful of missionaries, soldiers, and fur traders visited Iowa.

In 1762, France gave control of the portion of Louisiana west of the Mississippi to Spain. A French-Canadian, Julien Dubuque, received permission from the Fox Indians to mine lead in 1788, near the site of today’s Dubuque. Dubuque was Iowa’s first European settler, and he stayed there until his death in 1810. After Dubuque settled in Iowa, a small number of hunters and trappers also settled there.

U.S. #1661 – The Iowa flag includes the state motto: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.”

In 1800, Spain returned control of western Louisiana to France. Then in 1803, France sold this vast territory to the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. From 1804–06, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the legendary Lewis and Clark Expedition through the area.

U.S. #1967 – The Iowa state bird (eastern goldfinch) and flower (wild rose).

In 1812, Iowa became part of the Territory of Missouri when Louisiana became a state. During the early 1800s, fur companies set up trading posts on the Des Moines, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers. Officially Indian land, Iowa was closed to settlers. When Missouri became a state in 1821, Iowa became part of an unorganized territory.

The U.S. government forced many Sauk and Fox Indians living in Illinois to move to Iowa. One leader, Chief Black Hawk, refused to move. In the Black Hawk War, fought in 1832, U.S. troops defeated Indian forces. After the war, the Indians lost additional territory in Iowa along the Mississippi River. White settlers quickly moved in. In 1834, the region was made part of the Territory of Michigan. Then in 1836, the Territory of Wisconsin was created.

U.S. #3089 – pictures a rendering of Grant Wood’s painting, Young Corn.

On June 12, 1838, the land west of the Mississippi was separated from the Wisconsin Territory and organized as the Territory of Iowa. This land included all of Iowa, most of Minnesota, and two-thirds of North and South Dakota. Burlington served as the first capital until 1841, when it was moved to Iowa City.

Iowa’s territorial governor proposed statehood as early as 1839. However, Iowans opposed statehood, as that would require a tax to pay the salaries of local officials. In 1844, a constitutional convention was held, but disagreement over the state’s boundaries defeated statehood. In 1846, another convention was held, which adopted the state’s present boundaries.

U.S. #3710 pays tribute to Iowa’s ­farms and nature.

In 1846, Iowa approved a state constitution. President James K. Polk signed a bill admitting Iowa as America’s 29th state on December 28, 1846. And the state adopted its present constitution in 1857.

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  1. Not sure what makes DuBuque a ‘French’ Canadian, but not jesuits ~Joliette/Marquette? and what of Frontenac/Champlain/Des Moines? Any chance you got something in your archives on Pierre Radisson, the Norman (French/Canadian/whatever) settled in Kebek who (with MC de Grozeilliers) came here to England in 1600s to meet King Charles so a new company (Hudson) was set up to trade fur (the company still exists today, along with other offshoots like Radisson Hotels, etc). Many thanks for top historical vignettes throughout the year, including this fascinating history about our cousins in Iowa, and long may it continue. GdR

  2. Some of what the doctor mentions sounds familiar but seems that there is more reference to Michigan ,Huron, Quebec and part of Ontario as opposed to the central theme , namely Iowa statehood. As far as Radisson/de Grozeilliers/whatever, check the lyrics of 18th , 19th century version of “We didn’t start the fire”, most recently revised by Billy Joel at the end of the 20th century.

  3. Happy Anniversary Iowa residents! Enjoy your day! Thanks for all the great information regarding Iowa and how it became a state, Mystic. A great read, as usual.

  4. A more than casual fan of Billy Joel (70s/80s), I enjoyed ‘we didn’t start the fire’; something somewhat akin to Madonna’s own later anthology of (USA) heroes. But I cannot quite see the connection Mr Saramak raised with Iowa. As he rightly points out though, the original article was about Iowa, and we all join in their celebrations. Happy 170th! I should have exclaimed.

    Not being a historian, I was quite interested to learn more about Iowa’s history leading to Statehood. All I did (I thought) in my comment was to expand a little on its early development, including the burgeonning fur trade under military rule, and in particular the role of First Nations (for want of a better collective term) in this commerce, stretching from north Canada, across the Ontario lines (south western tip of Lake Superior), down the length of Mississippi River, and eventually reaching New Orleans’ gentry where merchants and land owners flourished under de La Salle’s governorship in Louisiana.

    Smarting from overtaking a declining Spanish empire (colonies) in the 1600s, fledgling France gradually flexed its muscles, gobbling up neighbouring territory in Europe (e.g. Flanders, Rhine valley, etc) starting from the retaking of Normandy (and Picardy, Anjou, etc) — which had been part of Great Britain since 1066 when Willhem the Conq came over here for an extended cup of tea (not to mention the British Crown until 1459).

    One powerful driver was demand for fur trade products (pelts, felt, etc) Europeans could not get enough of, in the name of comfort/fashion (think of all those expensive top hats, etc); and this, ahead of other motivations (e.g., colonisation, religious conversion, etc), was one powerful ‘economics’ short-term policy for French expansion in North America.

    In this web came PE Radisson and Sir MC des Groseilliers, on their return from England — where they met in London with King Charles and his Ministers to Sponsor the creation of Hudson Bay Company, as they traveled back to America — they eventually travelled down to Iowa to negotiate with local/native tribes (Menonemee, Ioways, Foxes) living around Davenport, and as far as Des Moines. My aim was to stimulate discussion on Iowa’s early development to Statehood, spurred by Mystic’s great retracing of USA history through the philatelic record. Season’s greetings. GdR

  5. It has been a pleasure sparring with Dr. Gabriel Des Rosiers. He caught me expressing my sarcasm of his expansion of the topic and handled it quite admirably. He short -changed himself stating that he is not a historian to which I beg to differ and he is truly a scholar. If he can bear one more bit of sarcasm, being that he brought William the Conqueror into this, ” We’re not in Kansas anymore”, or Iowa for that matter. Thank you Doctor and Mystic.

  6. what? no football issue? Again the Indians’ rights are just pushed aside. Nothing new there. Most of the midwest was really naked confiscation of Indian lands. Can’t ever set that right.

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