Our Iowa Heritage: 1846 Iowa – A Field of Dreams.

U.S. Map in 1845 (with Iowa shown as a state – which occurred in 1846).
Click here to read more about Iowa’s drive to statehood in 1844.

The first American settlers officially moved to Iowa in June 1833 (The Black Hawk Purchase). Primarily, they were families from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia who settled along the western banks of the Mississippi River, founding the modern day cities of Dubuque, Burlington, and Davenport. On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa. President Martin Van Buren appointed Robert Lucas governor of the territory, which at the time had 22 surveyed counties and a population of 23,242.

Click here for a complete timeline on Iowa’s “territorial” history (1803-1838).

Iowa Statehood – 1846 – A State Constitution.

The Senate Chamber – Iowa City

Almost immediately after achieving territorial status, a clamor arose for statehood. After a dismal failure to achieve statehood in 1844, the people of Iowa Territory requested from the territorial governor, James Clarge, that an updated proposed constitution for statehood be written. A second Iowa Territorial convention gathered in Iowa City in May 1846 and approved this State Constitution on May 18, 1846. The Governor signed it on Sept 9, 1846.


Original U.S. Congress Govt. Document – Dec 15, 1846 – Constitution of the State of Iowa. This 18-page publication was then read to the U.S. House by Augustus C. Dodge on December 15, 1846.

On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union when President James K. Polk signed Iowa’s admission bill into law.

Iowa – A Field of Dreams.

The 29-Star Flag. When Iowa joined the Union on December 28, 1846, the U.S. Flag “officially” added a 29th star on July 4, 1847. In 2000, the USPS issued a series of flag stamps and this is the version of the 29-star flag used. Prior to the 48-star flag designed in 1912, there was no set pattern for arranging stars on the American flag. The flag shown above is the 29-star flag in the House Chamber of Old Capitol in Iowa City.

Take a look at those early years when Old Capitol was the New Capitol.

Once admitted to the Union, Iowa set its direction to development and organized campaigns for settlers and investors, boasting the young frontier state’s rich farmlands, fine citizens, free and open society, and good government.

1850 – Sectional map of the state of Iowa, compiled from the United States surveys also exhibiting the internal improvements, distances between towns & villages, lines of projected rail roads &c. &c.; drawn and published by Guy H. Carleton, Dep. Sur. U.S.

As described by author N. Howe Parker in his classic, Iowa As It Is (1855) . . .

The fertility of the soil in Iowa is unsurpassed—not merely by that of her kindred States — not merely in our Union – but throughout the world! The black loam that over lies her prairies, and which varies in depth from eighteen to forty-eight inches, forms an inexhaustible storehouse of fecundity and agricultural wealth . . .This may sound incredible — fabulous; and yet, Iowa, the youngest of the States, has been the granary of that Union, and supplied from her own stores the exhausted markets of the East and South. Such are the inducements Iowa holds out to the farmer, coupled with a promise to return him, for immeasurably less labor than would be required in the East, an unsurpassable abundance of any and every article which the zone we live in is capable of producing.

But again: to the manufacturer she also cries come! She invites him to behold for himself her immense coal regions, and examine the qualities of the coal; to roam, hand in hand with the farmer, over the vast mineral tracts; and while he admires the richness of the mines, to let the farmer wonder at the phenomenon of an exceedingly fertile soil, spread out upon the immense beds of lead. Nor is this all. — The abundance of first-rate water-power, and the amount of building-stone everywhere to be found, offer such advantages to the energetic manufacturer as he may elsewhere seek in vain. These facts have but recently reached the East – and see with what avidity men of capital are hastening to test these boasted resources. And still the field is open – still the coffers of the earth are full,and he may help himself who will.

(M-0037) Map No. 2. Sketch of the Public Surveys in Iowa. An original surveyor’s map of Iowa as filed in Dubuque on October 21, 1852 by George B. Sargent, Surveyor General. Click here for more information.
1855- Map of Iowa exhibiting the townships, cities, villages post offices, railroads, common roads & other improvements by Edward Mendenhall.

Click here to read more about Iowa and the early maps that helped settlers find their way across this beautiful land.

1857- An Updated State Constitution – A New State Capital.

The House Chamber – 2nd floor of the Iowa State House.

In November 1856, delegates from around the state of Iowa were elected to a third constitutional convention, with the assignment of revising the original constitution. Two other conventions had been held in Iowa City – the first in 1844 (an unsuccessful bid at statehood), and the second in 1846, which, as you know, resulted in statehood. In January 1857, this constitutional convention convened in Iowa City, meeting the the House Chamber (above), and over the next two months hammered out a constitutional rewrite.

Once the constitutional convention finished their work, the paperwork was then sent to the floor of the Iowa Senate (above), where on March 5, 1857, it was approved. That new constitution was then ratified by the people of Iowa on August 3, 1857 by a majority of only 1,630 votes. And on September 3, 1857, upon proclamation of Governor James W. Grimes, a new State Constitution went into effect. And it’s this 1857 constitution, with its forty-eight amendments, that is still in effect in Iowa today.

The Constitution of Iowa (1857) – 1) This replica of the original, handwritten 1857 Constitution of the State of Iowa rests on an original desk in the House Chamber of Old Capitol today. The original constitution is in the Secretary of State’s office in Des Moines. 2) (BH-038) 1907 Pocket Version Deluxe Morocco published by: The State Historical Society of Iowa – Edited by B.F. Shambaugh with a 12-page historical introduction. Take an inside look at the House Chamber of Old Capitol here.


That same year (1857), the State Capital, first in Burlington (1838-1840), then Iowa City (1840-1857), moved to Des Moines, where a new capitol building opened in 1886.

Click here to read more about the move of the state capital from Iowa City to Des Moines.

On December 28, 2021 – Iowans celebrate our 175th Anniversary of Statehood! Happy Birthday Iowa!
Click here to visit our 175th Statehood Anniversary page.
Click here to look at more December 28th celebrations over the years.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Iowa, Wikipedia

29-star US flag and 1857 Iowa Constitution pics – Facing East and Facing West – Iowa’s Old Capitol Museum, Linzie Kull McCray & Thomas Langdon (2007) University of Iowa Press, p 43, 45.

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