2. What are the Iowa history
The following benchmarks were drafted under
the leadership of the Board of the State Historical Society of Iowa and
approved in March of 2002. This collection of benchmarks
identifies the content knowledge students of Iowa history should
possess. These benchmarks also provide curriculum developers a
framework from which to work when developing instructional units on
specific periods of Iowa's history.
Benchmarks in Iowa History:
What students should know about the history of Iowa
Please use the links below for navigation
to each section.
- Through the study of rocks and other
natural features, geologists are able to create a history of Iowa's
- Several glaciers covered Iowa at various
times in the ancient past.
- Iowa's rich topsoil is a product of the
thick grasses that have lived and died on the prairies for centuries.
- Archaeologists believe that people first
arrived in what is today Iowa approximately 12,000 years ago.
These people were the ancestors of the American Indians of today.
- The first Iowans used the earth's
resources for food, clothing, and shelter.
- The Federal government tried to control
American Indians through treaties and forced land sales. As a
result, tribes frequently moved into and out of Iowa.
- The Meskwakis, one of the most enduring
Iowa tribes, still live on their settlement near Tama.
- The French, English and Spanish claimed
large sections of land in North America at various times during the 17th,
18th, and 19th centuries.
- The land area of present-day Iowa became
part of the U.S. in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.
- Several exploring parties were sent to
the lands west of the Mississippi to assess the possibilities for
- Iowa became part of the United States in
an orderly process provided by the Federal government, moving through
district and territory status to full statehood in 1846.
Pioneer Life on the Prairie
- Most pioneer settlers came to Iowa from
the eastern United States and Europe.
- Iowa land was surveyed by the government
and sold at auctions held by government land officers.
- For most settlers, living on the prairie
meant a change in farming and household practices.
- Pioneer raised or made most of the items
they needed for daily life.
- Pioneer families developed a sense of
social community and interdependence by sharing work and social events.
Providing a Government
- A region cannot arbitrarily become a
state on its own. It must first be a district and a territory
before it becomes a state.
- Iowa's territorial and state capitals
were moved from Burlington to Iowa City to Des Moines.
- Iowa became a state on December 28, 1846.
- As Iowa's population grew, counties were
set up to provide for local government.
- Iowa's first constitution of 1846 was
replaced by a new constitution in 1857.
- Two political parties, the Democrats and
the Republicans, have influenced politics in Iowa for 150 years.
- Transportation was very important for
Iowa's early pioneers. Not only was it important for people
coming to Iowa, but after arriving, people relied on transportation for
- The major means of commercial
transportation - steamboat, stagecoach, and railroad - developed
significantly during the 19th century.
- Each of these means of transportation
had positive and negative aspects, and each helped Iowa develop
- The railroad was the most important form
of transportation for 19th-century Iowa. It was faster
and more dependable than any other form of transportation. It
greatly assisted new settlers coming to the state and also aided in the
development of new industry.
The Civil War
- Iowa was created as a free state
according to the Missouri Compromise, and most Iowans were glad slavery
was prohibited in Iowa.
- Iowans helped slaves escape to freedom
by working on the underground railroad.
- Although no Civil War battles were
fought in Iowa, many Iowans were directly involved in the Civil War.
- Numerous regiments of Iowa soldiers were
sent to battle, while many Iowa women ran the farms and
businesses. Women also helped with the war effort by sending
supplies to soldiers far from home.
- Some Iowans, known as Copperheads, were
actively opposed to the Civil War.
Settlers from Many Lands
- All Iowans have ancestors who immigrated
to Iowa from other parts of the United States or the world (although
American Indians came a few thousand years before the rest.)
- People immigrated to Iowa for many
reasons, including 'push-pull factors' and events related to World War
- Numerous ethnic settlements with unique
customs and traditions were started in Iowa. Several festivals
featuring the cultural traditions of these ethnic groups are held
annually across the state.
- Communitarian groups that settled in
Iowa developed their own particular cultural norms and lifestyles that
remind us that people of many different points of view have helped to
shape Iowa's unique cultural heritage.
1 The Icarians, a communitarian group,
existed in Iowa from 1855 to 1895.
2 The Society of True Inspiration settled
in Iowa in 1855. The Inspirationists maintained their simple
communal lifestyle until 1930 when they reorganized to form the Amana
3 The Old Order Amish settled in Iowa in
the 1840s. Although a number of Amish groups have appeared over
the years, many living in essentially the same manner as most Iowa
farmers did in 1900.
- Today Iowa continues to be a home for
immigrants from all over the world, including newcomers from Bosnia,
the Sudan, and additional immigrants from Mexico.
- As soon as the first settlers arrived in
Iowa, schools were set up for the education of children.
- Early Iowa schools were scheduled to
accommodate the needs of children from farm families.
- Later high schools and academies were
built to meet the needs of older students.
- Around 1900 some schools began to
consolidate to offer better educational programs.
- The State of Iowa and many religious
groups set up colleges and universities.
- Many of Iowa's early religious groups
were closely tied to cultural or nationality groups that settled n Iowa.
- Catholic and Protestant Christians were
the dominant religious groups on the Iowa frontier.
- Latter Day Saints, often called Mormons,
crossed southern and central Iowa on their way to the West. Some
stayed to become the first white settlers in southwest Iowa.
- Activities of religious groups provided
cohesiveness for Iowa's early communities.
- Iowa's religious groups have been active
in many social causes.
Agriculture and rural life in the early 20th century
- Corn and hogs were Iowa's main farm
products following the Civil War.
- Farm work varied with the seasons and
required cooperation among families and neighbors.
- Many technological advances began to
profoundly affect farm production and farm life.
- After 1920 farmers faced two decades of
- Immigrants and rural migration swelled
Iowa cities after the Civil War to work in factories.
- Labor unions played an important role
for many Iowa factory workers.
- New trades and services developed to
meet the needs of city families.
Technological change in the early 20th century
- Technological advances of the 20th
Century had a profound impact on life in Iowa.
- The telephone saved rural Iowans both
time and money as cooperative companies were formed across the state.
- The automobile, being fast and
dependable, facilitated social and economic development as Iowans'
individual mobility increased, allowing new businesses to flourish.
- Electricity not only benefited
agriculture and business but also provided many new time-saving
conveniences for the home.
Business and Industry in Iowa
- Iowa's first industries, such as lumber
milling, grain milling, and coal mining, depended on local natural
- The development of railroading was
pivotal to the tremendous growth of Iowa industry after 1870.
- Factory work opened new opportunities
for Iowa women to work outside of the home.
- As part of a global economy, Iowa's
manufactured products are distributed throughout the nation and the
War I and its impact
- In the early years of WW I, Americans
attempted to be neutral and avoid entering the war.
- On April 6, 1917, America entered WWI by
declaring war on Germany.
- Iowans participated in the war by
sending soldiers, purchasing war bonds, and producing large amounts of
agricultural products. Women played important new roles.
- On the Iowa home front, anti-German
sentiment was rampant. Many people thought it was patriotic to
remove any suggestion of German culture.
Depression and WWII
- Following WW I, farm prices steadily
fell, causing economic depression and hardship for many Iowans.
- Because of high unemployment during the
1930s, the federal government responded with work programs that not
only provided jobs but also developed Iowa's roads, parks, and public
- Despite the economic hardships, many
technological advancements occurred during the depression, making
motion pictures, radio, and automobiles accessible to more people.
- Both men and women took on new roles
after WW II.
- The impact of events around the world
was felt by Iowans as the state emerged from the Depression, entered
the WW II era, and moved into the atomic age.
Post-war Adjustments, 1955-Farm Crisis of 1980s
- Changes in transportation lead to a rise
in the interstate highway system, the decline of railroads, relocation
of highways, and impact on communities and the economy.
- Social controversies brings about
adjustments in civil rights (gender, race) and moral issues (alcohol,
- Declining population in rural areas had
a major impact on rural communities, school systems, and politics '
aging, out-migration, school consolidation.
- Iowa's agricultural transition to
the 21st century brings changes in corporate farming, farm
crisis of the 80s, and farm foreclosures.
Transition to the 21st Century, Farm Crisis to 2002
- New environmental challenges (water
pollution, prairies, wetlands, erosion) increase awareness and
- While Iowa has traditionally been a
heavily Republican state, today both the Republican and Democratic
parties are strong.
- Iowans have pioneered in the development
of agricultural processes, computers, and the exploration of outer
- Iowans today are part of the world
community southeast Asian, Hispanic, Bosnian, Sudanese, and Somalian
refugees and immigrants, international trade, technology.
Iowa History Online.
, Project Director
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
, Cedar Falls, IA