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Iowa's Capitol: Iowa Time Machine July 4 (1838 & 1886)

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On July 4, two major moments for state government in Iowa occurred. In 1838, the federal government organized Iowa Territory out of lands formerly included in the Wisconsin Territory. On July 4, 1886, construction workers completed the Iowa State Capitol Building in downtown Des Moines.

The original Iowa Territory, organized in 1838, encompassed 194,000 square miles, including the current state and parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. An initial territorial capital at Burlington served for the first few years before moving to Iowa City in 1841. Significantly, Fort Snelling in the modern-day Twin Cities stood in Iowa during the territorial era. Following the close of the conflict, commonly known as the Black Hawk War, treaties dispossessed Iowa’s Indigenous peoples while the American population grew. Growing from an initial 10,531 population recorded in 1836, by the time of the 1840 census, over 43,000 people had emigrated to the eastern portion of the territory. Robert Lucas served as the first territorial governor, and the territory grew to become the 29th state admitted into the United States on December 28, 1846.

Eleven years after statehood, the Iowa Legislature moved the capital west to a more central location. In 1858, the state government moved into a temporary home, and plans for an elaborate capitol building started to come together. In 1870 the General Assembly set aside $1.5 million for construction and put together a commission to oversee the project.

Although Governor Samuel Merrill laid an initial cornerstone in 1871, defective construction materials caused the initial foundation to crumble.  A second cornerstone, laid on September 29, 1873, marked a new era in the project’s construction. By January 17, 1887, the building proved ready for dedication after crews completed construction on July 4 of the previous year. Audits concluded $2,873,293.59 went into the project. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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