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2. What are the Iowa history benchmarks?

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.

1. The Physical Landscape 10. Religion
2. Native Americans 11. Agriculture and rural life in the early 20th century
3. European contacts 12. Urbanization
4. Pioneer Life on the Prairie 13. Technological change in the early 20th century
5. Providing a Government 14. Business and Industry in Iowa
6. Transportation 15. World War I and its impact
7. The Civil War 16. Depression and WWII
8. Settlers from Many Lands 17. Post-war Adjustments, 1955-Farm Crisis of 1980sa  
9. Education 18. Transition to the 21st Century, Farm Crisis to 2002

1      The Physical Landscape

  1. Through the study of rocks and other natural features, geologists are able to create a history of Iowa's physical characteristics.
  2. Several glaciers covered Iowa at various times in the ancient past.
  3. Iowa's rich topsoil is a product of the thick grasses that have lived and died on the prairies for centuries.

2      Native Americans

  1. 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.
  2. The first Iowans used the earth's resources for food, clothing, and shelter.
  3. 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.
  4. The Meskwakis, one of the most enduring Iowa tribes, still live on their settlement near Tama.

3      European Contacts

  1. The French, English and Spanish claimed large sections of land in North America at various times during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
  2. The land area of present-day Iowa became part of the U.S. in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.
  3. Several exploring parties were sent to the lands west of the Mississippi to assess the possibilities for settlement.
  4. 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.

4      Pioneer Life on the Prairie

  1. Most pioneer settlers came to Iowa from the eastern United States and Europe.
  2. Iowa land was surveyed by the government and sold at auctions held by government land officers.
  3. For most settlers, living on the prairie meant a change in farming and household practices.
  4. Pioneer raised or made most of the items they needed for daily life.
  5. Pioneer families developed a sense of social community and interdependence by sharing work and social events.

5      Providing a Government

  1. A region cannot arbitrarily become a state on its own.  It must first be a district and a territory before it becomes a state.
  2. Iowa's territorial and state capitals were moved from Burlington to Iowa City to Des Moines.
  3. Iowa became a state on December 28, 1846.
  4. As Iowa's population grew, counties were set up to provide for local government.
  5. Iowa's first constitution of 1846 was replaced by a new constitution in 1857.
  6. Two political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have influenced politics in Iowa for 150 years.

6      Transportation

  1. 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 their livelihoods.
  2. The major means of commercial transportation - steamboat, stagecoach, and railroad - developed significantly during the 19th century.
  3. Each of these means of transportation had positive and negative aspects, and each helped Iowa develop economically.
  4. 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.

7      The Civil War

  1. Iowa was created as a free state according to the Missouri Compromise, and most Iowans were glad slavery was prohibited in Iowa.
  2. Iowans helped slaves escape to freedom by working on the underground railroad.
  3. Although no Civil War battles were fought in Iowa, many Iowans were directly involved in the Civil War.
  4. 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.
  5. Some Iowans, known as Copperheads, were actively opposed to the Civil War.

8      Settlers from Many Lands

  1. 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.)
  2. People immigrated to Iowa for many reasons, including 'push-pull factors' and events related to World War I.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Society.
    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.
  1. 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.

9      Education

  1. As soon as the first settlers arrived in Iowa, schools were set up for the education of children.
  2. Early Iowa schools were scheduled to accommodate the needs of children from farm families.
  3. Later high schools and academies were built to meet the needs of older students.
  4. Around 1900 some schools began to consolidate to offer better educational programs.
  5. The State of Iowa and many religious groups set up colleges and universities.

10  Religion

  1. Many of Iowa's early religious groups were closely tied to cultural or nationality groups that settled n Iowa.
  2. Catholic and Protestant Christians were the dominant religious groups on the Iowa frontier.
  3. 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.
  4. Activities of religious groups provided cohesiveness for Iowa's early communities.
  5. Iowa's religious groups have been active in many social causes.

11  Agriculture and rural life in the early 20th century

  1. Corn and hogs were Iowa's main farm products following the Civil War.
  2. Farm work varied with the seasons and required cooperation among families and neighbors.
  3. Many technological advances began to profoundly affect farm production and farm life.
  4. After 1920 farmers faced two decades of economic difficulty.

12.  Urbanization

  1. Immigrants and rural migration swelled Iowa cities after the Civil War to work in factories.
  2. Labor unions played an important role for many Iowa factory workers.
  3. New trades and services developed to meet the needs of city families.

13   Technological change in the early 20th century

  1. Technological advances of the 20th Century had a profound impact on life in Iowa.
  2. The telephone saved rural Iowans both time and money as cooperative companies were formed across the state.
  3. The automobile, being fast and dependable, facilitated social and economic development as Iowans' individual mobility increased, allowing new businesses to flourish.
  4. Electricity not only benefited agriculture and business but also provided many new time-saving conveniences for the home.

14  Business and Industry in Iowa

  1. Iowa's first industries, such as lumber milling, grain milling, and coal mining, depended on local natural resources. 
  2. The development of railroading was pivotal to the tremendous growth of Iowa industry after 1870.
  3. Factory work opened new opportunities for Iowa women to work outside of the home.
  4. As part of a global economy, Iowa's manufactured products are distributed throughout the nation and the world.

15  World War I and its impact

  1. In the early years of WW I, Americans attempted to be neutral and avoid entering the war.
  2. On April 6, 1917, America entered WWI by declaring war on Germany.
  3. Iowans participated in the war by sending soldiers, purchasing war bonds, and producing large amounts of agricultural products.  Women played important new roles.
  4. On the Iowa home front, anti-German sentiment was rampant.  Many people thought it was patriotic to remove any suggestion of German culture.

16  Depression and WWII

  1. Following WW I, farm prices steadily fell, causing economic depression and hardship for many Iowans.
  2. 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 buildings.
  3. Despite the economic hardships, many technological advancements occurred during the depression, making motion pictures, radio, and automobiles accessible to more people.
  4. Both men and women took on new roles after WW II.
  5. 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.

17.  Post-war Adjustments, 1955-Farm Crisis of 1980s

  1. 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.
  2. Social controversies brings about adjustments in civil rights (gender, race) and moral issues (alcohol, gambling).
  3. Declining population in rural areas had a major impact on rural communities, school systems, and politics ' aging, out-migration, school consolidation.
  4. Iowa's agricultural transition to the 21st century brings changes in corporate farming, farm crisis of the 80s, and farm foreclosures.

18. Transition to the 21st Century, Farm Crisis to 2002

  1. New environmental challenges (water pollution, prairies, wetlands, erosion) increase awareness and activism.
  2. While Iowa has traditionally been a heavily Republican state, today both the Republican and Democratic parties are strong.
  3. Iowans have pioneered in the development of agricultural processes, computers, and the exploration of outer space.
  4. Iowans today are part of the world community southeast Asian, Hispanic, Bosnian, Sudanese, and Somalian refugees and immigrants, international trade, technology.

Copyright 2008 Iowa History Online.
Malcolm Price Laboratory School
Lynn Nielsen, Project Director
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA