What if Iowa never came to be? Imagine that: A cartographical donut-hole smack in the center of the United States, and every human on the planet scuttering around it as if it were some livid Sarlacc Pit. We’re pretty lucky that on the walk from New York to California, so many people stopped before dysentary got the best of them and settled down in the most fertile soil on the continent. Although its presence seems mostly irrelevant in pop culture today, Iowa directly or indirectly influences societal progress, for better or worse. Here are 10 of Iowa’s top influences in pop culture throughout history.
1. King Kong
The alleged eighth wonder of the world is a prestigious title indeed, even if it is imaginary. Everybody knows who King Kong is, and his character's popularity has spawned a over 15 spinoffs and sequels, including a blockbuster production directed by Peter Jackson. Lesser known is Iowa born Ernest B. Shoedsack, a man who directed the film. Shoedsack was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and ran away from home to California, where he became a professional filmmaker.
2. Iowa Creates First Digital Computer
In 1939, Iowa State Professor John Atanasoff and his graduate student Clifford Berry invented the original digital computer. If they had not, somebody would have indeed created another device of the same function, but alternate in form, and would have consequently altered the evolution of computer technology indefinitely.
Slipknot has its roots in Des Moines, Iowa nearly 20 years ago, and almost all of its long list of members have been Iowan. This Grammy-winning band is known for their an aggressive style of metal music, and anyone who has dealt with the Iowan weather could understand where their emotions stem from.
4. Helping Win World War II
Not only was Iowa providing a large amount of the 1940s food supply, Iowa born chemist Donald L. Campbell and his team of scientists developed a chemical process that converts crude oil to high-octane fuel. This allowed more fuel to be used in US aircrafts, allowing us to win the battles amongst the clouds against the Axis war planes.
5. The Ringling Circus!
Five of the seven Ringling brothers, Albert, Alfred, Charles, Otto, and John, were all born and raised in Iowa. Their circus got its start with the brothers performing juggling tricks and acrobatics in town halls across Wisconsin. After several tours they became world famous, and joined forces with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The collaboration is still doing shows today.
6. Maytag Aplliances
Maytag Appliances is a huge name, and you have likely owned one of their products, or perhaps have only seen their ads. It was founded by Frederick Louis Maytag in his home town of Newton, Iowa. After becoming one of the larger companies in the appliance industry, it was acquired by the Whirlpool Corporation in 2005.
7. The Sounds of Weezer
Iowa native Brian Bell joined up with Weezer in 1993, and has been supplying his multi-instrumental skills to their repertoire ever since. Weezer had many songs top the Modern Rock Charts, such as "Beverly Hills," and The Blue Album went triple platinum. They are still making music today.
Nylon is a 20 billion dollar industry. It's used in ropes, clothing, 3D printing, as filaments, and much, much more. Now a giant, nylon has humble Iowa beginnings; Wallace Carothers, and Iowan chemist, invented nylon in 1935. Unfortunately, he did not think it was as big a success as we know it today, and he killed himself two years later.
9. Johnny Carson: The Late Night Legend
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson ran for 30 years, and had over two thousand episodes. He is unrivaled in viewership among late night hosts. He spent many hours on television, and his presence kickstarted the careers of big names such as David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, and Joan Rivers.
10. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Buffalo Bill was born William Frederick Cody in Le Claire, Iowa, back when it was still a territory. He fought for the Union during the Civil war, and then created his WIld West Show that toured across the world. He was a global phenomenon that popularized cowboy culture everywhere, and his presence changed the face of that culture forever.
That’s no small list of accomplishments. Iowa has been making important contributions to the world for centuries. If you enjoyed this article, share it! We might just make another one….