About Iowa


Midwestern state in the north central United States.

Iowa is bounded by the Mississippi R., across which lie Wisconsin and Illinois (E); Missouri (S); Nebraska and South Dakota, from which it is separated by the Missouri and the Big Sioux rivers, respectively (W); and Minnesota (N).

  • Area, 56,290 sq mi (145,791 sq km).
  • Pop. (2000) 2,926,324, a 5.4% increase since the 1990 census.
  • Capital and largest city, Des Moines.
  • Motto, Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain.
  • State bird, Eastern goldfinch.
  • State flower, wild rose.
  • State tree, oak.

Historically typical of Iowa was the prairie.

Covered a little more than a century ago with grass higher than the wheels of the pioneers’ prairie

Iowa Flag

schooners, or covered wagons, the prairies gave way to fields of corn and other grains. Iowa’s climate is continentalnorthwest winds drive the mercury down below 0 (18) in winter, and in the summer hot air masses bring oppressive heat; there are violent thunderstorms, hail, and occasional droughts.

Iowa became a state in 1846

Ansel Briggs was elected as the first governor. In 1857 the capital was moved from Iowa City to Des Moines. In that same year the state adopted its second constitution. Iowa prospered greatly with the beginning of railroad construction, and the rivalry between towns to get the lines was so fierce that the grant of big land tracts to railroad companies was curtailed by legislative act in 1857. Iowa’s constitution was adopted in 1857. The governor is elected for a term of four years. The general assembly, or legislature, has a senate with 50 members and a house of representatives with 100 members. Iowa is represented in the U.S. Congress by two senators and five representatives.

Agricultural leader

In 1997, Iowa led the nation in the production of corn, soybeans, hogs, and pigs, and ranked in the top 10 in the raising of cattle. Other major crops are hay and oats. Iowa has in recent years taken in the second highest farm income of any state.

Agriculture also benefits the state’s chief industry, food processing, and in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids many factories process farm products. Nonelectrical machinery, farm machinery, tires, appliances, electronic equipment, and chemicals are among the other manufactures. Cement is the most important mineral product; others are stone, sand, gravel, and gypsum. Mineral production is small, however. Communications, finance, and insurance industries are especially important in Des Moines.

*Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003