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The Middle Land

Dorothy Schwieder

Publication Year: 1996

In this engrossing history of the Hawkeye State, Dorothy Schweider reveals a place of fascinating grassroots politics, economic troubles and triumphs, surprising cultural diversity, and unsung natural beauty. Above all, this is the history of the people of Iowa and the lives they have led--the accomplishments of both ordinary and not-so-ordinary Iowans.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xv

In 1996 Iowans celebrate 150 years of statehood. This book tells the story of the settlement and development of the twenty-ninth state admitted to the Union on December 29, 1846. The state's sesquicentennial seems an appropriate time to examine once again the major events and de-...

Part I: The Early Years: Early Populations, Explorations, and Government

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1. Native Americans in Iowa

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pp. 3-20

On July 4, 1838, an elderly Sauk chief addressed a group of white settlers in the small frontier community of Fort Madison. Chief Black Hawk, seventy-one years old and long venerated by his own people, told his audience: "It [the land] is now yours. Keep it as we did. It will produce good crops." ...

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2. Exploration, Early Settlement, and Political Development

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pp. 21-34

In June 1673 a small party of French explorers slipped quietly out of the mouth of the Wisconsin River onto the broad expanse known as the Mississippi. The Frenchmen were the first Europeans to gaze upon a vast new land that lay far beyond English settlement on the eastern seacoast or French settlement in New France. The excursion party, headed by Louis Jolliet and accompanied by Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette, had orders to explore the Mississippi River to its end. ...

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3. Pioneers on the Prairie

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pp. 35-52

On June 1, 1833, hundreds of eager settlers crossed the Mississippi River to take up land in eastern Iowa. Their arrival marked the beginning of permanent white settlement here, and for the next forty years Iowa would become home to hundreds of thousands of people from all over the nation and from Europe. ...

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4. Economic Development in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 53-65

Throughout the nineteenth century Iowa witnessed rapid economic growth. Although railroad building was of paramount importance, economic expansion proceeded on many levels. Soon after initial settlement in any area, towns appeared and quickly became centers of economic activity for surrounding areas. Within communities, craftsmen and professionals set up shop, ready to serve both town and countryside. ...

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5. Iowans and the Civil War Era

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pp. 67-82

On April 12, 1861, the shelling of Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the Civil War. Although Union and Confederate troops would fight no battles in Iowa, sparing the state any physical devastation, like all Americans, Iowans were profoundly affected by the conflict. Though the war itself deserves considerable attention, the preceding thirty years must also be considered, as these...

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6. Cultural Diversity: Immigrants and African Americans in the Hawkeye State, 1883-80

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pp. 83-106

During its first fifty years of settlement, Iowa attracted a small but growing number of African Americans from the South, and emigrants from numerous European countries. Although many of the latter group located in cities in the Northeast, a sizable number traveled into the nation's heartland, settling in large numbers on the rolling prairies of the Midwest. ...

Part II: The Middle Years: Economic and Social Maturation, Cultural Conflict, and Political Development

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7. Religious and Educational Institutions in Iowa: Establishing the Foundations

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pp. 109-131

From territorial days to the present, Iowans have been particularly proud of their schools and churches. In the nineteenth century newly arrived settlers, many coming from northeastern states with ties stretching back to New England, displayed a zeal for establishing educational and religious institutions; immigrants also moved quickly to establish religious organizations. ...

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8. A Home First and a Business Second: Agriculture and Farm Life in the Middle Years

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pp. 133-152

Of Iowa's many industries, only agriculture has affected the state totally, visible in every county during every decade of the state's existence. To Iowans even today, agriculture and Iowa often seem synonymous. Agriculture's dominant position within the state, however, has not prevented it from experiencing cycles of boom and bust; in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1980s, the state's farm families suffered disastrous depressions. ...

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9. Town Life in the Middle Land

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pp. 153-170

In their studies of state history, historians of Iowa have tended to emphasize agricultural development while paying little attention to life in Iowa towns. Certainly in the period before the Civil War that approach seems justified, given the importance of initially settling the land. But by the 1870s town life was becoming increasingly visible. ...

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10. Urban Life in the Hawkeye State

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pp. 171-184

Although Iowa has never contained cities the size of Minneapolis or Omaha, smaller urban areas developed in the state. Though not major metropolises, cities such as Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport would experience the full range of problems associated with urban development, including the need to provide adequate housing, install proper sanitation measures, and maintain public order. ...

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11. Cultural Diversity

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pp. 185-209

Between 1880 and 1920 Iowa would become home to a growing number of European immigrants and a more slowly expanding minority population. The number of immigrants arriving in the Hawkeye State would reach a peak in 1890; thereafter, fewer immigrants would arrive, and most would be from southern and eastern Europe rather than from western Europe and the British Isles. ...

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12. Social, Economic, and Political Issues in Iowa

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pp. 211-229

The diverse cultural backgrounds of Iowans, so evident in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, would produce various ways of thinking and various modes of behavior. This diverse mentality would be particularly evident in regard to social and political issues. ...

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13. Economic Development: Iowa's Industries and Industrial Workers

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pp. 231-251

In the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Iowa's image in the world was that of a rural state where pastoral scenes abounded. Within the state, however, a diversified economy was getting under way. From the beginning of settlement, vital developments had been taking place that would serve as prerequisites and vital support systems for industrial expansion. ...

Part III: The Recent Years: Depression, War, and a Balanced Economy

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14. The 1930s: A Time of Trial

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pp. 255-273

In 1932, an Iowa State College professor wrote: "Nature has never treated the farmer more generously, yet our economic system could hardly treat him worse."'1 That terse statement aptly summed up the predicament facing rural Iowans in 1932. Although Iowa farmers harvested their largest corn crop ever, many faced agricultural ruin because of low prices and large debts. ...

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15. World War II and the Years Beyond

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pp. 275-295

When the Japanese carried out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Americans had little indication they would face almost four long years of war. Nor did Americans realize that the war would serve as a major economic and social divide between the world they knew in the late 1930s and the world they would come to know in the years beyond. ...

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16. Iowa in the Sixties and Seventies

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pp. 297-314

In the 1960s and 1970s Iowans would leave behind the difficult days of the fifties and move into an era with a greatly improved economy. Agriculture would recover early in the sixties, and by the next decade many farm families were experiencing robust times. Because agriculture was (and is) the engine that propels other sectors of the economy, including manufacturing and retail trade, those areas also enjoyed prosperity. ...

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17. Iowa: The 1980s and 1990s

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pp. 315-325

By the mid-1990s Iowans could reflect on dramatic changes within their state during the previous decade and a half. Beginning in the early eighties, the state would experience a devastating farm crisis that would speed along the trend toward fewer and fewer farms, as well as the further decline of many medium- and small-town economies. ...


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pp. 327-352

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A Note on Sources

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pp. 353-355

IN THE 150 YEARS since statehood, a variety of studies have been published on Iowa history. In the nineteenth century, county histories predominated; in the first half of the current century, multivolume histories appeared; and during the post-World War II era, Iowa historians began to publish an increasing number of monographs covering many topics. ...


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pp. 357-381

E-ISBN-13: 9781587296765
E-ISBN-10: 1587296764
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587295492
Print-ISBN-10: 1587295490

Page Count: 398
Publication Year: 1996

Edition: 1