/uy"euh weuh/; sometimes /uy"euh way'/, n., pl. Iowas, (esp. collectively) Iowa for 3.
1. a state in the central United States: a part of the Midwest. 2,913,387; 56,290 sq. mi. (145,790 sq. km). Cap.: Des Moines. Abbr.: IA (approved esp. for use with zip code), Ia., Io.
2. a river flowing SE from N Iowa to the Mississippi River. 291 mi. (470 km) long.
3. a member of an American Indian people originally of Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota but now of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas.
4. the Siouan language spoken by the Iowa Indians.

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State (pop., 2000: 2,926,324), midwestern U.S. Bordered by Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota, it covers 56,276 sq mi (145,755 sq km).

Its capital is Des Moines. The Des Moines River flows across the state from northwest to southeast. The Mississippi River forms its eastern boundary, while the Missouri River and the Big Sioux River define portions of its western boundary. The Sauk, Fox, Iowa, and Sioux Indians lived in the region when French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette arrived in 1673. The U.S. acquired Iowa as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Following the Black Hawk War and purchase of eastern Iowa from the Sauk and Fox Indians in the 1830s, white settlement advanced rapidly. Iowa became a territory in 1838 and was made the 29th state in 1846. After the Civil War, railroad expansion drew large waves of immigrants from the east and from Europe. After World War I population growth slowed. Its economy is based on agriculture, and Iowa is a leader in the U.S. production of livestock.

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also called  Ioway 
 North American Indian people of Siouan (Siouan languages) linguistic stock who migrated southwestward from north of the Great Lakes to the general area of what is now Iowa before European contact with the New World.

      Living at the transition point between the territories of the Northeast Indians (Northeast Indian) and the Plains Indians (Plains Indian), the traditional Iowa tribal economy combined hunting with agriculture. The people were semisedentary, living in villages, raising corn (maize) and other crops, and later trading pelts for European manufactured goods. Iowa houses were domed structures, and the people used tepees when hunting or engaging in other mobile activities. Like the Osage and Kansa, Iowa warriors wore their hair in a scalp lock decorated with deer hair. They recognized three grades of battle exploits: participating in a victorious skirmish, killing an enemy, and decapitating an enemy.

      In the mid-18th century the Iowa people were estimated to number 1,100. In 1836 they ceded their lands to the United States and moved to a reservation on what is now the Kansas-Nebraska border. Some were later moved to a reservation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

      Early 21st-century population estimates indicated more than 2,000 individuals of Iowa descent.

Iowa, flag of  constituent state of the United States of America. As a north central state, it forms a bridge between the forests of the east and the grasslands of the high Prairie Plains to the west. Its gently rolling landscape rises slowly as it extends westward from the Mississippi River, which forms its entire eastern border. The state is bounded on the north by Minnesota, on the east by Wisconsin and Illinois, on the south by Missouri, and on the west by Nebraska and South Dakota. Its area is 56,275 square miles (145,753 square kilometres). Iowa, named for the Iowa (or Ioway) Indians who once inhabited the area, was admitted as the 29th state of the Union on Dec. 28, 1846. Des Moines has been the capital since 1857.

      The popular image of Iowa—one of corn (maize) and hogs, flat prairies, and conservative people—is not altogether incorrect, but it masks both a subtle variety and the fact that Iowa and its people are very much in a middle position economically, politically, and geographically. With 90 percent of its total land area devoted to farming, Iowa is a major breadbasket of the United States and of the world. In addition, a large part of its industry is directly related to agriculture, and the rural population is still considerable. Iowans are strongly Republican in most years, but they exhibit a lively independence when they feel that the times dictate a different tack. Iowa has not shared the full benefits that have accrued from economic and demographic expansion elsewhere in the nation. Economic downswings that have afflicted other regions affect Iowa to the extent that they involve agriculture.

Physical and human geography

The land
  Iowa's (Iowa) terrain and rich soils are the products of the continental ice sheets that periodically covered the state during the Pleistocene epoch, between about 1,600,000 and 10,000 years ago. Glacial drift deposited by the earliest ice sheets filled the preglacial stream valleys, and little evidence of them remains.

      The Illinoian (Illinoian Glacial Stage) ice sheet covered a small area of southeastern and extreme eastern Iowa, and in so doing it diverted the Mississippi and created a valley along its western front that can still be seen. Some 20,000 to 25,000 years ago the Wisconsin (Wisconsin Glacial Stage) ice sheet moved southward in a lobe that ended at about the site of the present city of Des Moines. The Des Moines lobe began its final retreat about 13,000 to 14,000 years ago. Accompanying the last two stages of glaciation were extensive deposits of windblown silt, or loess, which in the western portion of Iowa were derived from the glaciation of the Great Plains to the west. As the ice sheets retreated, tremendous quantities of drift carried by the melting waters were deposited in the valleys. These various deposits form the basis of the Iowa landscape and make up the parent materials of the present soils.

Relief, drainage, and soils
      The most varied relief anywhere in Iowa is in the northeastern part of the state, which was covered by the earliest ice sheets. There tributaries of the Mississippi cut deeply into the underlying bedrock. The Mississippi bluffs stand 300 to 400 feet (90 to 120 metres) above the valley, and the network of tributaries creates a scenic and hilly landscape.

      Most of the state is underlaid by pre-Illinoian drift, which has been eroded for at least a few hundred thousand years by a relatively dense network of streams. Lakes or swamps that were left by the ice have long since been drained by natural erosion, and the result is a rolling landscape of great uniformity throughout most of the state. Near the Missouri River valley on the western border, the loess was piled 80 to 100 feet over the underlying drift surface, producing a line of bluffs 100 to 200 feet high. The highest point in the state, 1,670 feet (509 metres) above sea level, is in the northwest. The broad, flat uplands—which form the popular image of Iowa—are found mainly in the Des Moines lobe, a gently sloping, poorly drained drift plain that covers 12,300 square miles (32,000 square kilometres) in the central and north central portions of the state. Most of Iowa's lakes are in the northwestern part of this lobe.

      Most of the soils of Iowa, formed under prairie vegetation, are thick, dark in colour, and rich in organic matter and minerals. Only in the rough northeast and along the dissected river valleys of the south and southeast are there lighter-coloured and less-fertile forest soils.

      Iowa's climate reflects the state's position deep in the interior of the continent. Winters are cold, with January temperatures averaging about 14° F (−10° C) in the northwestern section and 22° F (−6° C) in the southeast. Snowfall is light compared with the amount received in states to the east and north. Summers are warm and more humid, with daytime temperatures averaging 74° F (23° C) in July but varying from region to region. Maritime tropical air masses from the Gulf of Mexico bring frequent thunderstorms, with precipitation in June four times that of the winter months. Precipitation ranges from less than 28 inches (710 millimetres) in the northwest to more than 35 inches in the southeast.

Plant and animal life
      Countless species of wildflowers once covered the prairies; and, though most of Iowa's virgin timber was cut long ago, almost 1,500,000 acres (600,000 hectares) are still forested. The only native evergreen is the red cedar, once found in profusion along the Cedar River. The state's streams are well stocked with dozens of species of fish, and trapping of muskrat and raccoon for furs is still widespread. The ring-necked pheasant—imported early in the 1900s—and quail are the major game birds, replacing the nearly extinct wild turkey. Small animals and a variety of other birds are also found.

Settlement patterns
      Although Iowa is not a featureless plain, the relative homogeneity of physical characteristics has led geographers and other social scientists to use the state as an example of large-scale uniformity. Quarter sections of 160 acres formed the basis of much of the original settlement pattern. Consequently, farmsteads and the smaller towns generally are evenly spaced in the form of a grid, and most of the roads in the state follow a north–south or east–west line. Farmhouses amid the square or rectangular patterns usually have a row of trees serving as a windbreak and providing shade from the midcontinental sun. The largest city, Des Moines, is sited approximately in the middle of the state, above the Red Rock Reservoir of the Des Moines River. The other large cities are on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers at the western and eastern boundaries or on the Cedar River in the east.

The people
       Iowa was settled largely by immigration from states lying directly to the east of it and from northwestern Europe. Until 1850 the southern third of Iowa received many settlers from the border states of the South, particularly Kentucky; but the influx from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and the New England and Middle Atlantic states was more important in the northern area. Settlers from Europe took on greater significance after 1850. The single most numerous group came from Germany, but Britain and Ireland were well represented. In the later years of the century, many Scandinavians settled throughout the western and central parts of the state. By 1915 there were few foreign-born people in southern Iowa, except Croatians and Italians in the coalfields and Dutch near Pella. The larger of Iowa's cities, particularly those on the Mississippi, attracted a variety of groups.

      Several ethnic and religious groups—an example is the Czech population of Cedar Rapids—are still present in Iowa. Among several experiments in communal living, the only survivors of the first years of pioneer hardship are the Amana Colonies, a religious group originally from Germany that migrated to Iowa from Buffalo, N.Y., in 1855. This group changed to a corporation in 1932 and has been successful in maintaining its integrity while modifying its economy to fit the times. The strong religious and social traditions of the Amish groups living south of Iowa City and near Independence have come into conflict with modern society over state education laws. Mormons (Mormon) fled through Iowa on their way to Utah to escape persecution in New York and Illinois, and one large group remained behind at Lamoni, in southern Iowa. Quakers were important in the Springdale–West Branch area east of Iowa City in the mid-19th century. This area was an important link in the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape from the South before the Civil War. John Brown often visited Springdale, and President Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch of Quaker parents. West Branch is the site of the Hoover Presidential Library.

      The only notable immigration into Iowa during the 20th century has been that of blacks to the larger urban centres, particularly Des Moines and Waterloo. Despite state and national civil rights laws, most blacks are concentrated in the decaying urban areas. Most Indians moved westward after federal land purchases in the 19th century, but some returned to purchase a small reservation—the Mesquakie Settlement—near Tama.

      Most of Iowa's population is Protestant (primarily Lutheran and Methodist), because major immigration was from northwestern Europe. Roman Catholics are strong in the northeast, in the Dubuque area, and in the larger cities. In its outlook southern Iowa is more fundamentalist; this had such social ramifications as the prohibition of liquor by the drink until 1963.

      Iowa's population is evenly distributed, a factor that, together with the relative uniformity of the state's physical conditions, has made Iowa an excellent location for the testing of geographic and economic theories. Among the largest cities are Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo, and Dubuque. Most of the remainder of the population lives in scattered, evenly spaced small towns or in dispersed farmsteads. The rural population has declined since the mid-20th century, and Iowa overall experienced population loss in the 1980s.

The economy
      The state attempts to aid industrial development and improve the economic situation in Iowa in a number of ways, particularly through trade missions and the activities of the Department of Economic Development. Corporate income taxes contribute a small part to revenues. The government's debt is low, and the overall labour picture is relatively bright. Unemployment rates and work stoppages tend to lag behind national trends. Iowa ranks at about the median for the United States in family income, but this is largely due to the fraction that is derived from agriculture. The cost of living is generally less than that in metropolitan centres of the East and Far West but above that of the South and Southwest.

      The popular image of Iowa as an agricultural state is entirely correct. Iowa's agriculture is based on corn and soybean production and on the feeding and selling of animals. Iowa ranks among the top states in the nation in total value of all livestock, in hogs, and in cattle and calves. It is also one of the top three states in value of agricultural exports. The fertile land often produces crop surpluses that contribute to depressed farm prices, a persistent problem in the 20th century.

      Iowa is located on the western fringe of the American manufacturing belt, and, although its manufacturing, trade, and service sectors exceed farming in income, much of the former is devoted to food processing or to the manufacture of agricultural machinery. In only a few instances does Iowa contribute significantly to the national economy in areas not related to agriculture. The production of electronic materials in Cedar Rapids, household appliances in Newton, refrigeration equipment in Amana, tires in Des Moines, writing instruments in Fort Madison, and rolled aluminum in Bettendorf are a few exceptions. Exploitation of mineral resources, except for portland cement and gypsum, plays a relatively minor role in the state's economy.

      In the 1920s Iowa developed an extensive rural road system designed for the low population density. It now has an excellent system of surfaced roads. The amount of the state's network of railroad track in active use has decreased over the years, and many Iowa towns have lost all railroad service. The state also has more than 240 public airports. Inland waterway traffic is important along the Mississippi River, and a channel nine feet deep runs up the Missouri to Sioux City.

Administration and social conditions
      Iowa's constitution at the time of admission in 1846 proved to be unsuitable, and a second version was drafted and ratified in 1857. This remains the fundamental law of Iowa, though it has been amended numerous times. The constitution provides for a separation of governmental powers into executive, legislative, and judicial components.

      In the executive branch the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, secretary of agriculture, and attorney general are elected for four-year terms; all are eligible for an unlimited number of terms. A number of commissions, boards, and departmental executives are appointed by the governor, though most employees of the state departments are under a civil service system. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission investigates charges, holds hearings, and gives decisions on complaints of discriminatory practices in public accommodations, housing, employment, and education.

      The bicameral General Assembly meets every year; longer sessions are held in odd-numbered years, when major budget items are decided. The House of Representatives has 100 members elected for two-year terms, while the Senate has 50 members elected for four-year terms. Both bodies are reapportioned every 10 years to ensure compliance with the “one man, one vote” decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

      The state judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court, which has considerable jurisdiction over the lower courts. The nine members of this body elect their own chief justice. Justices are appointed by the governor, are subject to a confirming popular vote one year later, and after an eight-year term may declare their candidacy for another term. There are 14 judicial districts in the state, with the number of judges varying according to population and caseload. Most larger cities have municipal courts; the others have police and mayor's courts. Justices of the peace are elected in those townships that lack municipal courts.

      Local authority is vested in each county's board of supervisors, under which serve the elected auditor, sheriff, recorder, treasurer, and county attorney. The county government collects municipal, school, county, and state taxes; manages welfare; and operates the road system in cooperation with the State Highway Commission. Municipalities have only those powers that have been specifically granted to them by the General Assembly. This was an issue of considerable contention when the legislature was controlled by rural forces, but after reapportionment in the 1960s the urban-rural discord was reduced. Most of the smaller incorporated towns have a mayor–council form of government, whereas most of the larger cities have a council–manager or commission administration.

      Iowa's political tradition has been Republican. Between 1848 and 1968 only seven Democrats represented Iowa in the U.S. Senate. The Democrats failed to elect a candidate to the governorship until the Great Depression of the 1930s. Disquiet over farm prices, however, has elicited a substantial Democratic vote on several occasions.

      Iowa's first school was opened in 1830. Long known for excellence in education, Iowa ranks above more than half of the other states in expenditure per pupil. The University of Iowa (Iowa, University of) (founded 1847), in Iowa City, is especially noted for the programs in fine arts, and Iowa State University of Science and Technology (1858), in Ames, has shown national and international leadership in the basic sciences, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and related fields. There are also a great number of other public and private institutions of higher learning; nearly all of the latter have religious affiliations.

Health and welfare
      Welfare is managed on the county level, as are many health services, though federal and state funds support these activities. Health facilities are adequate in the larger cities and especially in the University of Iowa medical centre in Iowa City, but rural areas suffer from a lack of hospitals and doctors. Hospitals are being upgraded, often with federal support. Compared with other states, Iowa ranks low in the number of doctors per person, and efforts to lure doctors into rural practice have proved unsuccessful: about two-thirds of the doctors trained in Iowa's medical schools establish their practices in other states.

Cultural life
      A widely dispersed population with small urban centres makes it difficult for Iowans to support many of the cultural amenities that exist in large urban settings. Traveling shows, including theatre and dance, symphonies, and guest artists visit many places in the state each year. The major cultural centres are the universities and colleges. The fine arts are notably supported at the University of Iowa, where the regional painter Grant Wood did much of his work and where the Writer's Workshop enjoys national esteem. Art museums of significance are found in Iowa City and Des Moines. Such towns as Cherokee and Decorah have museums emphasizing the area's presettlement character or the early European settlers, while Davenport, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Dubuque, and Fort Dodge have museums or art galleries.

      In a region generally lacking large urban centres, sporting events furnish much of the cultural life. The University of Iowa has long been one of the national leaders in basketball and gridiron-football attendance. In every college town in the state, football weekends form the centre of the autumn social season. High school basketball and wrestling tournaments evoke great community enthusiasm near the end of the long, cold winters. Outdoor sports of all types are extremely popular, with hunting, fishing, boating, and camping especially prevalent.

      Folk traditions are maintained in the Amana colonies, with their Oktoberfest; in the Dutch community of Pella, with its annual tulip festival; among the Czechs of Cedar Rapids; and in other localities.


      The earliest inhabitants of what is now Iowa (Paleo-Indians) probably occupied ice-free land during the time when the Des Moines lobe was covered by glaciers. The earliest archaeological evidence of settlement, however, dates from around 8,500 years ago. The hunters and food gatherers of this period existed at the subsistence level, enduring the periodic droughts that continue to plague the region today. Even after the advent of sedentary agriculture in western Iowa around AD 800, entire villages occasionally disappeared. In eastern Iowa, effigy mound builders occupied settlements from about 300 to the 17th century. Most of the early Indians were of the Siouan language family, although Algonquian-speaking tribes were important in eastern Iowa after the 17th century, often displacing the western tribes in bloody conflicts. The Iowa (Ioway) tribe was virtually annihilated shortly before the advent of dense white settlement. All the Indian tribes ceded their lands through treaty and purchase in the 1830s and '40s. The last purchase was of Dakota (Sioux) lands in northern Iowa in 1851.

From territory to statehood
      The first Europeans to reach Iowa were probably the French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette in 1673. Permanent white settlement, however, did not take place until the early 1830s, though Spanish land grants were occupied in the late 1700s, principally to exploit the lead-mining potential around the site of Dubuque. In the interim, both pioneers and Indians moved through the area exploring or hunting. The combined French and Indian history can be seen in geographic names throughout the state: for example, Des Moines, Dubuque, and Le Mars; Ottumwa, Keokuk, and Onawa.

      The area that includes the modern state of Iowa was included in the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, and during the War of 1812 a U.S. garrison was driven from Fort Madison on the Mississippi River. Following the purchase of eastern Iowa from the Sauk and Fox Indians in the 1830s, U.S. settlers rapidly moved in to till the land. The Territory of Iowa was established in 1838, with a population of 23,242. In 1846 Iowa was admitted to the Union as part of a compromise between the slaveholding South and the free North. By 1860 there were nearly 675,000 people in the state, and with the construction of railroads the frontier was pushed farther westward. The population of Iowa more than tripled during the 1850s, and the Spirit Lake Massacre in 1857 marked the final instance of Indian hostility in the state. The years immediately prior to the Civil War were Iowa's frontier days, however, with lawlessness, vigilantes, and lynchings accompanying the unsteady beginnings of a settled society.

      Iowa was deeply involved on both sides of the issues that led to the Civil War, to which the state contributed more troops in proportion to its population than any other state. No battles were actually fought in Iowa, though a Confederate guerrilla raid from Missouri occurred in 1864.

Economic stabilization
      The end of the Civil War, railroad expansion, and the removal of the Indian threat opened the prairie to settlement by massive waves of immigrants from states to the east and also from Europe. By 1900 claims to the land had filled the state, and the population showed a slight decline in the decade that followed. The wide use of barbed wire permitted diversified agriculture, and the draining of wetlands began the development of an efficient agricultural production that often threatened the financial stability of the state with too plentiful a harvest. Corn was the basis of Iowa's agriculture from the beginning, nearly all of the crop being fed to livestock.

      World War I created short-term demands for maximum production and high prices, and since then the state has had recurring agricultural surpluses, low prices, and high land values. The various economic panics and depressions of the 19th and 20th centuries were only temporary impediments to this pattern of growth. In the past century Iowa politicians have appeared most prominently on the national scene when farm crises have been major issues.

      The last significant case of exploitation of natural resources occurred in the coalfields of southern Iowa, beginning in the mid-19th century and reaching its peak in the first two decades of the 20th century. Most of the coal was quickly exhausted, however, and the miners moved on, leaving behind decaying towns and a deteriorating landscape.

      After World War I the population growth of Iowa slowed. Attempts were made to entice industry into the state to diversify the economy, as animal feeding had diversified agriculture half a century before. Such attempts were not entirely successful, and Iowa's economy has continued to be governed by fluctuations in agricultural markets.

Neil E. Salisbury

Additional Reading
Federal Writers' Project, Iowa: A Guide to the Hawkeye State (1938, reprinted as The WPA Guide to 1930s Iowa, 1986), is still quite useful and is the only comprehensive guide to the background of many localities in the state. H.L. Nelson, A Geography of Iowa (1967), surveys the state's agriculture, physical resources, manufacturing, commerce, and cities; while Wayne I. Anderson, Geology of Iowa: Over Two Billion Years of Change (1983), analyzes the important natural resources, as well as the geologic processes that have formed the state. DeLorme Mapping Company, Iowa Atlas & Gazetteer (1998), provides topographic maps. Virgil J. Vogel, Iowa Place Names of Indian Origin (1983), combines geography and local history. Tom C. Cooper and Nyla Sherburne Hunt (eds.), Iowa's Natural Heritage (1982), examines the state's natural history. Stephen Wilbers, The Iowa Writers' Workshop: Origins, Emergence, & Growth (1980), traces the development of this creative writing program. The Iowan (quarterly) focuses on to the land, people, and history of Iowa. Marshall McKusick, Men of Ancient Iowa: As Revealed by Archeological Discoveries (1964), discusses historical Native Americans and their culture, movements, and artifacts. Overviews of state history include Cyrenus Cole, Iowa Through the Years (1940), a political treatment; Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa (1974, reissued 1987); and Joseph Frazier Wall, Iowa: A Bicentennial History (1978). Hubert H. Wubben, Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement (1980), studies Iowa's Democrats during the Civil War. Annals of Iowa (quarterly) provides scholarly articles on social and political history.Neil E. Salisbury Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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