Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Iowa

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Plate II. IOWA, one of the north-western States of the American Union. Its boundary lines are—on the S. and N. the parallels 40° 36' and 43° 30' of N. lat., on the E. the Mississippi river, and on the W. the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers. The south-eastern corner projects slightly below the parallel of 40° 36', the boundary following the Des Moines river down to its mouth. The neighbouring States are—Minnesota on the north, Wisconsin and Illinois on the east, Missouri on the south, and Nebraska and Dakota on the west. The length of the State from north to south is about 200 miles, and its greatest breadth from east to west 300 miles. Its area is 35,228,800 acres, or 55,045 square miles.

The State lies entirely within the prairie region of the Mississippi valley, and has a level or undulating surface. Its mean height above the sea is 925 feet,—ranging from 500 in the south-east to 1700 in the north-west. About 24,600 square miles of the area rise less than 1000 feet above sea-level.

The surface presents very little relief. A broad elevation (1700 feet at the north boundary, and decreasing gradually southwards) separates the waters of the Mississippi from those of the Missouri. The position of this “divide” is, for the most part, near the western border of the State, giving to the branches of the Mississippi long courses and an easy fall, while those of the Missouri have comparatively short courses and a rapid fall. Near their sources, these branches, both of the Mississippi and Missouri, flow in broad, shallow valleys. Farther down their courses, however, bluffs develop, and increase gradually in height, while the valleys in general become narrower. The bluffs bordering the valley of the Mississippi, range in height from 200 to 400 feet, the valley between them being usually from 4 to 8 miles in width, although in a few places, as at Dubuque, they close in upon the river on both sides. On the Missouri, the bluffs range from 200 to 300 feet in height, enclosing a bottom land 5 to 12 miles in width.

Rivers and Lakes.—The Mississippi and Missouri are the only navigable rivers. They have ample depth of water for all purposes of inland navigation. At two points upon the former river, indeed (at Rock Island and near Keokuk), there are rapids which at low water form partial obstructions to navigation; but at high water steamers can run them in either direction. A canal is now being made to facilitate the passage of the lower or Des Moines rapids, and works are projected for the improvement of the upper or Rock Island rapids. The other rivers are the Upper Iowa, Turkey, Maquoqueta, Wapsipinicon, Iowa, Cedar, Skunk, or Checauqua, and Des Moines, flowing into the Mississippi, and the Chariton, Nodaway, Grand, Nishnabotany, and Little and Big Sioux, flowing into the Missouri. None of these streams are navigable. A few small lakes are found in the north-west, on or near the divide between the two great rivers. The area of swamp and marsh surface is proportionally small, and is rapidly diminishing.

Forests.—As in most of the prairie region of the Mississippi valley, there is in this State but little forest, the timber being confined to the bottom lands of the streams and the faces of the bluffs. The commonest trees are the oak, elm, cotton wood, black walnut, hickory, maple, and linden. Upon the bluffs is found a sparse growth of pines and red cedar.

Geology.—The geology of tho State is remarkably simple; excepting in the north-western quarter, where the formations are so covered with Quaternary drift as to be unrecognizable, there is from north-cast to south-west a succession of belts, from the Lower Silurian to the top of the Carboniferous, varying in breadth and extending north west and south-east. The Silurian occupies but a com paratively small area in the north-eastern corner. A strip of Devonian follows, 40 to 50 miles in width, extending from Davenport on the Mississippi north-west ward to the northern boundary. The south-western half of the State is overlaid by the different members of the Carboniferous formation, with here and there fragments of Cretaceous beds, which have survived the enormous erosion to which the surface has everywhere been subjected.

Minerals.—It is estimated that about 7000 square miles are underlaid by the Coal-measures. Within this area coal beds of workable thickness and quality have been found at Fort Dodge, Moingona, Des Moines, and Oskaloosa, where they are being extensively worked. The coal is bituminous, no anthracite having been found in the State. The north-eastern part of Iowa is included within the great lead region of the Upper Mississippi; and, although the palmy days of the mines of that region are over, the product is yet very important. The ore, which is galena, is found in pockety deposits in the limestones of the Silurian formation. These deposits vary immensely in size, and in general extend to no great depth, and therefore cannot be relied upon for permanence.

Climate.—The climate resembles in its essential features that of the rest of the prairie States, excepting that towards the west the aridity of the atmosphere and the decreased rainfall characteristic of the great plains begin to be perceptible. The annual rainfall ranges from 24 to 44 inches, with an average of about 36 inches, the south eastern portion receiving the greatest amount, and the western part the least. The mean annual temperature ranges from 42° to 52° Fahr., the summer mean from 66° to 79° and the winter mean from 14° to 27° showing a difference between the summer and winter temperatures of 52°. The highest single observed temperatures have been 95° to 105°, and the lowest 18° to 33° below zero, an extreme range of about 125°. The south-eastern portion has the mildest and most equable temperature, as well as the greatest rainfall. Northward and westward the temperature becomes lower and extremes greater.

Soil.—The soil is extremely fertile, whether drift, bluff, or alluvial. The drift, whose name explains its origin, covers the greater part of the State. It is a dark loam, 1 to 2 feet in depth, and of almost inexhaustible fertility. The bluff soil or loess occupies the country bordering upon the valley of the Missouri. It is supposed to be a subaerial deposit, brought by the prevalent westerly winds from the plains of Nebraska and Dakota, and deposited here near the borders of the humid region. It has a great depth, reaching 200 feet in some instances, and is everywhere extremely rich. The alluvial soil, found in the valleys and bottom-lands, is the deposit of the streams, and varies in composition with the country which the streams have traversed above. Much of it on the Missouri and its branches is composed of loess, while that on the Mississippi is mainly altered drift deposits.

Agriculture.—The agricultural interest is by far the largest and most important of the State. In the production of Indian corn it ranks second, and of wheat fifth, among the States of the Union. The following table, taken from the report of the department of agriculture, shows the amount of the agricultural products for 1879:—

Number of
 acres under 
each Crop.
Product. Value. Average
 yield per 

Bushels. $ Bushels.
 Indian Corn   4,873,400   185,189,200   44,445,408  38.0   
 Wheat 3,214,400  32,786 880  30,163 930  10.2   
 Rye 23,400  365,040  197,122  15.6   
 Oats 1,034,900  37,256,400  8,568,972  36      
 Barley 195,000  4,290,000  1,930,500  22      
 Buckwheat 8,000  144,000  99,360  18      
 Potatoes 105,700  9,090,200  2,908,864  86      
Tons. Tons.
 Hay 2,314,286  3,564,000  16,180,560  1.54 

The numbers of different classes of live stock were—horses, 778,400; mules, 44,700; milch cows, 724,500; other cattle, 1,370,400; sheep, 454,400; hogs, 2,778,400. In number of horses Iowa ranks as the fifth, of milch cows and other cattle third, and of hogs second, among the States. The average value of cleared farming land in the State in 1879 was $27.30 per acre; of timber land, $39.36. The increased value of the latter is due to the scarcity of forests. The average monthly wages paid to agricultural labourers during the same year was $23.26; average daily wages, on transient employment, $2.01.

Manufactures.—The manufacturing industries have not yet reached a high degree of development. Those branches connected with agriculture have naturally made most advance. The following statistics, from the results of the tenth census (1880), show the condition of these industries.

Number of
Capital. Greatest
number of
 Hands employed 
at any one
time during
the Year.
wages for
a Skilled
for an
Total amount
paid in wages
 during the Year. 
Materials. Products.

 Agricultural implements 58   $1,085,530  1075  2.06  1.26  $235,335  $559,861   $1,148,872 
 Boots and shoes 543  477,077  1025  1.76  1.23  253,681  445,443  1,179,811 
 Bricks and tiles 276  474,614  2760  2.08  1.17  370,929  227,637  935,507 
 Carpentering and building 374  531,660  2664  2.06  1.34  536,924  1,197,845  2,175,346 
 Cheese and butter 237  742,633  897  1.50  .95  127,430  1,087,645  1,555,188 
 Flouring and grist mill products  701  7,950,560  3025  2.09  1.14  845,714   16,567,552  21,062,744 
 Lumber, sawn and planed 332  5,035,440  5886  1.88  1.23  1,399,779  3,808,696  6,401,940 
 Printing and publishing 151  1,150,786  1384  2.00  1.17  509,529  525,536  1,431,589 

Communication.—For means of communication and transportation Iowa is dependent almost entirely upon its railroads and its two bounding rivers. It has no canals, if we except the short one around the Des Moines rapids.

In 1880 there were forty-five railroads, working 4779 miles of track, with a total capital stock of $60,000,000, and a funded debt of $44,400,000. The total amount invested in railroads exceeded $100,000,000. The total gross earnings of the companies from passengers, freight, and mails was $5,218,000, of which $1,415,000 or 27 per cent. were net earnings. This is but 2316 per cent. on the capital stock.

Banks.—According to the report for 1880 of the controller of the currency, there were in operation in Iowa 75 national banks, having a capital of $5,837,000, and an outstanding circulation of $4,697,314; 60 State banks and trust companies, with a capital of $2,521,985, holding $6,100,307 of deposits; 245 private bankers, representing a capital of $2,583,754, with deposits amounting to $7,017,806; and 4 savings banks, with a capital of $48,107, having deposits amounting to $208,018.

Administration.—As in the other States, the governmental power is divided among three departments, known as the executive, legislative, and judicial.

The officers of the executive department are the governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, and register of the State land office. All these officers are elected by the people, the term of office being in each case two years. No one is eligible for the office of governor or lieutenant-governor who is less than thirty years of age, or has not been a citizen of the United States and of the State for at least two years. The governor is commander-in-chief of the militia. He has the power of filling vacancies in office in cases for which the law does not otherwise provide, of calling the general assembly to meet in extra session, of vetoing laws passed by the general assembly, and of pardoning persons convicted of any crime excepting treason. The lieutenant-governor is ex officio president of the State senate; and, in the event of the death, resignation, or removal of the governor, he assumes his office.

The legislative department is vested in the general assembly, which consists of a senate and house of representatives. The former consists of not more than 50 senators, who are elected for terms of four years. Each senator must be at least twenty-five years of age, and must be a citizen of the State. The house of representatives consists of not more than 100 representatives. Their term of office is two years. A representative must have attained the age of twenty-one years. The general assembly meets at Des Moines (which since 1857 has been the capital), and holds a regular session once in two years. The judicial department comprises a supreme court and district and circuit courts. Its officers are the judges of the several courts, clerk and reporter of the supreme court, attorney-general and district attorneys, all of whom are elected by the people. The supreme court consists of four judges, whose term of office is six years. The senior in office is the chief justice. The State is divided into a certain number of judicial districts, in each of which are elected every four years a judge of the district and of the circuit court and a district attorney. The latter is the prosecuting attorney for his district.

The representation of the State in the national congress consists of two senators, chosen by joint ballot of the two houses of tha general assembly, and of nine representatives, elected directly by the people of the congressional districts.

The State is divided into ninety-nine counties. Their officers are all elected by the people, and the tenure of office is two years. They are three, five, or seven supervisors (who collectively form a “board of supervisors”), an auditor, a clerk of the district and circuit courts, a sheriff, treasurer, recorder, superintendent of schools, coroner, and surveyor. The board of supervisors have authority over the property of the county, levy State and county taxes, and keep in repair roads and bridges. Each county is divided into civil townships, which are in most cases 6 miles square, corresponding with the congressional or survey townships of the general land system. Each township is under a civil government, administered by three trustees, a clerk, an assessor of taxes, and two or more justices of the peace and constables. All these officers are elected by the people, and all, with the exception of the justices of the peace, whose term is two years, serve for one year only. The trustees are the general managers of the affairs of the township. They are the judges of election, and have charge of fences and roads, and the care of the poor. Cities and towns, when incorporated, are not removed from the jurisdiction of the township officers.

Value of Property.—The preliminary results of the tenth census (1880) show the following figures regarding the wealth, debt, and taxation of the State:—

Assessed valuation of real estate $296,254,342
Assessed valuation of personal property  101,268,422
Total assessed valuation 397,522,764
Amount of State tax 827,305
Amount of county tax 4,280,091
State debt in 1879 545,435
Bonded debt of counties 2,607,211
All other debt of counties 325,165

Judging from returns of true valuation of real estate from a few counties, scattered over the State, the true valuation of real estate must be not far from $900,000,000. It is impossible to make an estimate of the true valuation of personal property.

Education.—The State is divided into school districts, each civil township constituting one, with such incorporated cities and towns as may so elect. The support of the educational system is derived from the proceeds from all sales of State lands, 5 per cent. of all proceeds from sales of land belonging to the general Government within the State, a county tax of not less than 1 mill nor more than 2½ mills on the dollar, and a district tax of not more than 1½ per cent. upon the assessed valuation of the property within the school district. Besides these, there are several other minor sources of revenue. The amount of the school district tax for 1880 was $3,704,465, and the county tax for schools, $409,110, giving a total taxation for support of schools of 4,113,575. The total valuation of school property is estimated at 12,197,396. The total school district debt, all which is bonded, is $1,125,138. The schools are graded, and classified as primary, intermediate, grammar, and high schools. The law permits a high school in each county.

The State supports one university, located at Iowa City. It comprises academical, normal, medical, and law departments. The State also supports a school of agriculture and the mechanical arts, located near Ames, in Story county. There are also several colleges supported by religious denominations, the greater number of them belonging to the Methodists, theological seminaries, and a college under the direction of the Norwegian Luther Synod.

Population.—The inhabitants of the State in 1880 numbered 1,624,620, a gain of 36 per cent. on the number of 1870. The following tables show the growth of the population since 1840, and give details of its distribution in 1870 and 1880:—

White.  Coloured.  Total. Increase
 per cent. 

 1840  42,924  188  43,112  ... 
1850 191,881  333  192,214  346 
1860 673,779  1069  674,913  251 
1870 1,188,207  5813  1,194,020  77 
1880  1,614,510   9953   1,624,620  36 

1880.  Percentage.  1870.  Percentage. 

 Males 848,234  52  625,917  52½ 
 Females 776,386  48  568,103  47½ 
 Natives  1,363,132  84   989,328  83   
 Foreigners  261,488  16  204,692  17   

The density of the population is 30 inhabitants per square mile. Excluding the cities of 10,000 inhabitants and upwards (the urban population), this density is reduced to 27.

The principal cities of the State, with their population in 1880, are as follows:—

Des Moines 22,408
Dubuque 22,254
Davenport 21,834
Burlington 19,450
Council Bluffs 18,059
Keokuk 12,117
Cedar Rapids 10,104
Clinton 9,052
Ottumwa 9,004
Muscatine (estimated)  8,294

History.—Iowa was originally a part of the Louisiana purchase. In 1834 all that part of the United States lying west of the Mississippi river and north of Missouri, including the present area of Iowa, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Territory of Michigan, and two years later the Territory of Wisconsin was created, including what is now Iowa. In 1838 Iowa itself was made a Territory, and on December 28, 1846, it was admitted to the Union as a State. At the time of the Louisiana purchase, this region was occupied by the Sioux, Sac and Fox, and Iowa tribes of Indians. The first white settlements within the State were made along the Mississippi in 1833,—Fort Madison, Burlington, and Dubuque being the first points occupied. From these points settlement spread westward, and the growth of the Territory and State has from that time been rapid and steady. (H. G.*).