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The first known European explorers to document Iowa were Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet who traveled the Mississippiq River in 1673 documenting several Indian villages on the Iowa side. The area of Iowa was claimed for France and remained a French territory until 1763. The French, before their impending defeat in the French and Indian War, transferred ownership to their ally, Spain. Spain practiced very loose control over the Iowa region, granting trading licenses to French and British traders, who established trading posts along the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers

Iowa was part of a territory known as La Louisiane, and European traders were interested in lead and furs obtained by Indians. The Sauk and Meskwaki effectively controlled trade on the Mississippi in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Among the early traders on the Mississippi were Julien Dubuque, Robert La Salle, and Paul Marin. Along the Missouri River at least five French and English trading houses were built before 1808. In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte took control of Louisiana from Spain in a treaty.

After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Congress divided the Louisiana Purchase into two parts -- the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. Iowa was placed under United States jurisdiction of the Territory of Indiana.

The U.S. encouraged settlement of the east side of the Mississippi and removal of Indians to the west. Trade continued in furs and lead, but disease and forced population movement decimated Indian cultures and economies. A disputed 1804 treaty between Quashquame and William Henry Harrison that surrendered much of Illinois to the U.S. enraged many Sauk and led to the 1832 Black Hawk War. As punishment for the uprising, and as part of a larger settlement strategy, treaties were subsequently designed to remove all Indians from Iowa.

The Sauk and Meskwaki were pushed out of the Mississippi valley in 1832, and the first American settlers officially moved to Iowa in June 1833. Primarily, they were families from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia.

On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa. President Martin Van Buren appointed Robert Lucas governor of the territory.

The remaining Indians were pushed out of the Iowa River valley in 1843, and out of Iowa altogether in 1846.

On 28 December 1847 a part of Iowa Territory became the 29th state of the Union as the State of Iowa.

Many Meskwaki later returned to Iowa and settled near Tama, Iowa; the Meskwaki Settlement remains to this day. In 1856 the Iowa Legislature passed an unprecedented act allowing the Meskawki to purchase the land; Indians were not usually permitted to do so. The Ho-Chunk were removed from Iowa in 1850, and the Dakota were removed by the late 1850s. Western Iowa around modern Council Bluffs was used as a way station for other tribes being moved west, including the Potawatomi.

Iowa supported the Union during the Civil War, voting heavily for Abraham Lincoln, though there was a strong antiwar "Copperhead" movement among settlers of southern origins and among Catholics.




In the first years of the existence of Iowa the heraldic devices of La Louisiane werd valid there


The Seal of Iowa Territory



The writings of Mr. Parvin, to which it is alluded in the Annals of Iowa of 1915, are in the main as follows :


Territorial Seal of Iowa.


A. B. F. Hildreth, Esq., Editor of the Bt. Charles Intelligencer:

Dear Sir:—I have, this winter, received from three different parts of the State requests to furnish an account of the "Great Seal of the State of Iowa." You, with many others, have doubtless observed, that while all commissions and documenta issued from the Executive Department of the State Government bear an impression called "The Great Seal of the State of Iowa," upon the maps of the country, all collections of State Seals, and even the recent large and valuable Report of the State Geologist, has as its "coat of arms" the "Great Seal of the Territory of Iowa." Whether this be the result, in the first two Instances cited, of ignorance or not, I am unahle .to say. In the last case cited, I know that Prof. Hall selected the "Territorial" seal from his own good taste, with the "advice and consent" of Gov. Lowe, who, with every other gentleman of refinement, cannot but regret the bad taste that conceived and adopted the conglomerate devices of our present "Great Seal." The description of these seals is not so much sought after as their history. "The Great Seal of tbe Territory of Iowa'" originated with the Hon. Wm. B. Coaway, first Secretary of the Territory of Iowa, and was engraved by Mr. Wm. Wagner, of York, Pennsylvania. At the request of tbe Legislative Council, Mr. Conway addressed to that branch of the Legislative Assembly a communication, of which the following is a copy, extracted from page 45 of the Journal of the Council:

* ***** *

This communication was referred to a committee who reported the following resolution, which was adopted, viz: "Resolved, That the seal submitted to the Council by the Secretary of the Territory, be adopted by the Council as the 'Great Seal of the Territory of Iowa.'"


The seal is one Inch and flve-eighths in diameter, and the word "Great" is not upon the seal, notwithstanding the Hon. Secretary in his communication and the Council in their resolution have it prefixed. The devices upon the seals for the Supreme Court, District Courts, Commissioners' Court and Probate Courts were all designed by tbe Hon. Secretary, and were all as appropriate in their several spheres as that of the "Great" seal of the Territory. This latter seal was never adopted by the Legislative Assembly, but by the Legislative Council, the higher branch thereof, which held its sessions in the lower story or basement of the old Zion Church in Burlington. There are some facts connected with the early history of this seal which I must omit, as well as the history of the seal of the State, which latter I will continue in another paper.

Theodore S. Parvin.

Muscatine, Feb. 24th, 1859  [1]


Seal of the State of Iowa.


The legislature of Iowa adopted the State seal on 25 February 1847. The act reads:


“Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa. That the Secretary of State be, and he is, hereby authorized  to procure a seal, whicj shall be the Great Seal of the State of Iowa, two inches in diameter, upon which shall be engraved the following device, surrounded by the words, ´The Great Seal of the State of Iowa´ - a sheaf and field of standing wheat, with a sickle and other farming utensils, on the left side near the bottom; a lead furnace and pile of pig lead, on the right side; the citizen soldier, with a plow in his rear, supporting the American flag and liberty cap with his right hand, and his gun with his left, in the center and near the bottom; The Mississippi River in the rear of the whole, with the steamer Iowa under way; an eagle near the upper edge, holding in his beak a scroll, with the following inscription upon it; “Our liberties we pirze, and ou tights we will maintain.’” [2]


Great Seal of Iowa, 1847


Coloured Version, 20th cent.

The arms


In the seventies of the 19th century an attempt was made to introduce a coat of arms for Iowa. This showed the device of the Great seal on a shield, surrounded by the motto.


Ć See illustration in the head of this article





Iowa State Area Command




Heraldry Image - Crest




That for the regiments and separate battalions of the Iowa Army National Guard:  From a wreath of colors, a hawk's head erased Proper.


The Hawkeye State.


The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of Iowa was approved on 16 October 1922.

Distinctive Unit Insignia


Distinctive Unit Insignia



A gold color metal and enamel device 1 1/16 inches (2.70 cm) in width consisting of an eagle volent proper, carrying in his beak and encircled by a gold scroll bearing the inscription "OUR LIBERTIES WE PRIZE AND OUR RIGHTS WE WILL MAINTAIN" in black letters.  The insignia will be manufactured in pairs.


The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for State Staff and State Detachment, Iowa National Guard on 24 April 1935.  It was redesignated for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Iowa Army National Guard on 5 February 1969.  On 3 July 1969, the insignia was amended to include the method of manufacture.  The distinctive unit insignia was redesignated and amended to include the size of the insignia effective 25 March 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Iowa Army National Guard.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia


Coat of Arms



On a yellow-edged red olla (Mexican water flash) 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm) in width and 2 7/8 inches (7.30 cm) in height overall a yellow hawk's head with blue details of beak and eye resting on a torse of six segments alternately yellow and blue.


The shape of the insignia is a reference to that of the 34th (Red Bull) Infantry Division which was worn by Iowa guardsmen for approximately 50 years.  The hawk's head on the gold and blue torse is adapted from the crest of the Iowa Army National Guard.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Iowa Army National Guard on 5 July 1968.  It was redesignated for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and nondivisional elements of the Iowa Army National Guard on 21 October 1970.  The insignia was redesignated for Headquarters, State Area Command, Iowa Army National Guard on 30 December 1983.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-498)


Indian Tribes


Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa


Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa


Ć See also: American Indians of Iowa



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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-03-20



[1]  ANNALS OF IOWA. VOL. XI, No. 8. DES MOINES. IOWA, JANUARY, 1915. 3D SERIES:   http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3971&context=annals-of-iowa

[2] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. P. 131

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