Iowa, state, United States: Statehood, Railroads, and Reform Movements
Statehood, Railroads, and Reform Movements
Iowa became a state in 1846, and 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. Two years earlier the state's first railroad line was completed between Davenport and Muscatine along the eastern border. Before and during the Civil War, Iowans, generally owners of small, independent farms, were naturally sympathetic to the antislavery side, and many fought for the Union. The Underground Railroad, which helped many fugitive slaves escape to free states, was active in Iowa, and the abolitionist John Brown made his headquarters there for a time.
Iowa's farmers prospered after the Civil War, but during the hard times that afflicted the country in the 1870s they found themselves burdened with debts. Feeling oppressed by the currency system, corporations, and high railroad and grain-storage rates, many of Iowa's farmers supported, along with other farmers of the West, the Granger movement, the Greenback party, and the Populist party. The reform movements had some success in the state. Granger laws were enacted in 1874 and 1876 regulating railroad rates, but these laws were repealed in 1877 under pressure from the railroad companies. By the end of the 19th cent., times improved, and the agrarian movements declined. Farm units grew larger, and mechanization brought great increases in productivity.
Sections in this article:
- Notable Iowans
- Modern Iowa
- Statehood, Railroads, and Reform Movements
- Territorial Status
- European Incursions into Native Lands
- Government and Higher Education
- Facts and Figures
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