Alexander Levi – Dubuque’s Man Of Firsts. In 1833, Iowa’s first Jewish settler found a new home in Dubuque. Over the next sixty years, Alexander and Minette Levi set many firsts – 1) their daughter was the first Jewish child born in Iowa (1848), 2) they became founding members of Iowa’s first synagogue (1856), 3) A Frenchmen, Alexander became the first foreigner naturalized (U.S. citizenship) in Iowa (1837); all while becoming one of Dubuque’s most highly-respected couples.
The Book That Gave Iowa Its Name. In 1835, a 27-year old Tennessee lieutenant traveled up and down the Des Moines River valley with a Regiment of U.S. Dragoons. Their assignment was to map out this uncharted prairie the Sauk and Fox tribes called kiowa (this is the place). The expedition was a success, but it wasn’t until Albert Lea, that soldier from Knoxville, published his notes in book form when Americans united around the name Iowa when describing this beautiful land west of the Mississippi River.
Albert Lea’s 1835 Map of Iowa. When Lieutenant Albert Lea published his descriptive book (1836) about his travels across the uncharted prairie lands of the Des Moines River valley, he also included a large hand-drawn map, neatly folded and stored in the back of the book. This map gave early settlers a clearer picture of the opportunity that awaited them in this land Lea called The Iowa District.
John Plumbe – Engineering a Railroad to the Moon. In 1836, a visionary came to Dubuque, believing the best future for America would be achieved thru a coast-to-coast railway system. His first step was to convince Congress to finance a set of tracks from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. But in 1838, legislators just weren’t buying it, telling Plumbe that it would be easier to convince people to build a railroad to the moon! Too bad no one believed him…because his dream was fulfilled by 1869.