(L-0079) Recently, in the midst of my never-ending search for long-lost Iowa collectibles, I was thrilled to come across a fresh copy of an “official” 1951 Iowa Highway Map, published by the Iowa State Highway Commission.
1951 takes us back seventy years (at the time of this writing) and it’s rather appropriate that I came across this old map when I did – just a week or two before my 70th birthday in July 2021. Yes, I was born in 1951. Click here to read more about the 1950’s in my writings.
Iowa – Empress of Agriculture.
Allow me here to unpack a few details from this beautiful map of my home state – or as the back side says, “Iowa – Empress of Agriculture.”
Keep in mind, my Boller family first came to Iowa in 1853, settling in the southwest corner (Washington Township) of Johnson County, just a few miles north of the farm community of Kalona (which didn’t came into existence until 1879, when the BCR&N railroad came through).
Much, of course, changed across The Hawkeye State between 1853 and 1951. You can view some of the important maps of Iowa used during those 98 years by clicking here.
As you look a bit closer, in 1951, there were no super-highways as we have today. No I-80. No I-35, And, no I-380, I-235, or I-29 as well. Except for some of the larger cities, there were no 4-lane roads. Yes, the Lincoln Highway (Highway 30) was now well-paved and well-traveled, while US 20 and US 34 were also fairly efficient ways to cross the state, but for the most part, paved 2-lane roads were just about the best you could expect when traveling by car.
Let’s look at Linn and Johnson Counties (above) for example. US Highway 218 was the major north-south paved road, while US Highways 30 and 6 were primary ways to travel east-west. US Highway 151 angled from Dubuque to Cedar Rapids, but major parts of State Hwy 1 south of Iowa City were still only graveled roads.
Wayland – Henry County.
Now, let’s look at my 1951 hometown of Wayland, Iowa, in Henry County (above) – population 576 . . . meaning, if no one died on July 10th, I was Wayland-citizen #577! State Rd 92 was the closest paved east-west road, while US 218 (to the east) was the way to go north/south. As we mentioned earlier, State Hwy 1 was gravel and State 78 (east-west) into Wayland was certainly not the best-est of roads.
(M-0124) Back in the day, The Disabled American Veterans Assoc would use these little key chain tokens (above) as a fund raiser. They would obtain your license plate number from state records, make up a couple of these miniature license plate tokens, and mail them to you with the hopes you’d make a donation to DAV. The one above pictures a Henry County (44) – 1951 license plate.
Mt. Pleasant – Henry County.
So, what about Mt. Pleasant (above)? The Bollers moved here from Wayland in 1957.
Yup, there they are: US Highways 34 and 218. Our east/west and north/south roads in and out of town! Click here to read more about these early roads, including the Red Ball Route in Henry County.
Iowa City – Johnson County.
Finally, here’s a peek at Iowa City (above). The Bollers moved here from Mt. Pleasant in 1966.
Wow! 27,018 Hawkeyes in 1951, and the roads are fairly familiar, even with I-80 missing.
So, I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip back to 1951. For me, it’s cool to travel back 70 years to get a feel for what cruising around the Hawkeye State was like back in the day. Though, I’ll quickly admit – it’s sure easier now-a-days when we want to road-trip across the Heartland.