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Iowa History Daily: April 13 - Iowa Highway Commission Rolls Out

Iowa History Daily: On April 13, 1904, eager Iowans taking to the dirt roads of the state necessitated the creation of the Iowa Highway Commission. Tasked with building, maintaining, and regulating roads, the IHC paved the way for today’s Iowa Department of Transportation.



The initial growth of the Iowa Highway Commission focused on road planning and construction. As Iowans started to utilize ever greater numbers of automobiles, the state worked consistently to build out a highway and road system to accommodate drivers. 



Following an act of the 46th General Assembly responding to a need to regulate traffic with an ongoing rise in the popularity of the automobile, Governor Clyde L. Herring signed a bill on May 7, 1935, creating a 53 person safety patrol. Forming a safety school to train the new officers, a call went out for candidates to apply. Over 3,000 applications arrived, and 100 applicants meeting stipulations of 20-20 (uncorrected) vision and measuring over 5’10” tall arrived for training at Camp Dodge north of Des Moines. Drawn from around the state, many of the trainees already served in local law enforcement before joining the new state organization.



John Hattery, the former Story City Sheriff, was selected as Chief, while E.A. Conly (Marshalltown) and J.H. Nestle (Carroll) served as Assistant Chief. A Maryland State Police Officer oversaw the training of men on procedures, driving maneuvers, and shooting the standard-issue 4” barrel Colt .38 Special. By July, 50 officers, as well as their commanding officers, headed out onto Iowa’s highways decked out in a uniform featuring khaki jodhpur breeches and blouses, black ties, visored caps, and knee-high black boots. The fleet featured 37 cars and 12 motorcycles, and the patrolmen made $100.00 a month to work twelve-hour shifts. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar




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