It’s not Ohio, for one thing, even though a surprising number of people don’t know the difference. And it’s really quite distinct from Idaho, out in the Rockies further west. It doesn’t even have a big-league sports team.
But thanks to its unique party caucuses for presidential candidates, the Hawkeye State is back making headlines, at least for now. It makes for a big diversion, now that the crops are in.
Here are some quick perspectives.
- Dubuque, the state’s oldest city, grew out of the arrival of Julian Dubuque in 1785, shortly after the Revolutionary War. He was a French-Canadian lead miner working the bluffs along the Mississippi River, and Iowa was still claimed by France.
- Cedar Rapids-based Quaker Oats is the world’s largest cereal company.
- Wright County has the highest percentage of grade-A topsoil in the nation.
- The St. Francis Xavier basilica in Dyersville is the only Roman Catholic basilica in the United States outside of a major metropolitan area. The pope is supposed to hold forth there whenever he’s in the area.
- In key social justice advances, married women received property rights in 1851. Women were allowed to become lawyers in 1869, making Arabella Mansfield the first female attorney in the U.S. “Separate but equal” schools were outlawed in 1868. Prohibitions against same-sex marriage were struck down in 2009, making Iowa the third state to allow gay marriage. On the other hand, the state was also a leader in prohibiting alcohol sales: bars were outlawed in 1851, followed by a strong prohibition law in 1855, and a constitutional amendment in 1882 made Iowa a “dry state.” According to one version, women wanted their men to stay sober. The Women’s Christian Temperance Movement was big in Iowa.
- West Branch native Herbert Hoover was the first U.S. president born west of the Mississippi River. His mother was a Quaker minister.
- Iowa State University is the nation’s oldest land-grant college.
- The device for creating sliced bread was invented by Iowan Otto Frederick Rohwedder in 1912. He wanted his bread to fit into the toaster more neatly.
- The state has the nation’s highest concentration of wind-powered turbines. The towers produce nearly 40 percent of the state’s electricity.
- There are more hogs than humans – 21.2 animals to a tad over three million people.
Ever been to Iowa? What can you add to the list?