Fun, unique facts about Iowa


Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

While you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table this week with family and friends, or recovering from a mountain of food, share some random facts with everyone about the State of Iowa… 

There are many well-known facts for which the great State of Iowa is known. Iowa is the home of famous artist Grant Wood. Iowa is named after the Native American tribe Ioway, who once inhabited the region. 

However, there is some controversy as to where “Iowa” came from. The Ioway called it “Iowa,” which means “beautiful” land. But the Dakota Sioux tribe referred to the Ioway as “Ayuhwa,” which means “sleepy ones.” 

But there are other unique, random facts that make Iowa a great place… 

Jan. 20, 1982. That was the date Ozzy Osbourne, as a member of Black Sabbath, ate a live bat on stage during a concert in Des Moines. 

Iowa is seen as a Mecca for Olympic athletes, especially female gymnasts like Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas. 

Mahaska County seems abundant in woolly mammoth bones. The prehistoric animal once roamed what is now Iowa. 

In 1839, the states of Iowa and Missouri almost went to war over state boundary lines. Two different surveyors produced two different results of where the southern border should lie. Both governors of the states at the time threatened war with militias until the federal government stepped in and declared the states’ official boundaries. The impending conflict became known as the “Honey War” because a Missouri tax collector apparently cut down trees along the border as payment for state taxes. The trees contained the hives of honeybees. 

In 2009, actor Rob Lowe took part in a celebrity PGA golf tournament in West Des Moines. Lowe hit his golf ball and ended up striking and killing a goldfinch, the Iowa state bird. The chances of doing so are 1 in 747 million. 

Iowan Otto Frederick Rohwedder is credited with inventing an automatic bread slicer. (I wonder if Otto is related to Jones County Supervisor Ned Rohwedder…) 

Despite being landlocked, Iowa does have an island: Sabula. The city, with a population of 547, is located in the Mississippi River. It became an island in 1939 with the construction of a lock and dam. It measures 1 mile long and a quarter of a mile wide. 

Iowa is a leader in civil rights. Married women were granted property rights in 1851. Women could practice law in 1869. Iowan Arabella Mansfield became the first female to practice law in the U.S. Eighty-five years before Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), Iowa led the way in desegregating public schools in 1868. In 2009, Iowa became the third state to legalize same-sex marriage. 

Iowa’s hog population (21.2 million) by far out-numbers its human population (3.1 million). 

Preparation Canyon State Park, located in east-central Iowa, was home to Mormons in the 1850s. 

Compared to other states, Iowa had the largest percentage of its male population serve for the Union in the Civil War. When the Civil War broke out, the state had a population of 600,000, of which 76,534 served. 

The famed author of the “Game of Thrones” books, George R.R. Martin, has ties to Dubuque, Iowa. In the late 1970s, Martin spent three years as a journalism and English professor at Clarke College (now Clarke University). Clarke became co-ed in 1979. I was a student at Clarke from 2007-09, majoring in journalism. How cool would it have been to say George R.R. Martin was once my professor? 

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