There are so many things that they don’t teach you in history class. Like the fact that Iowa used to be home to giant sloths! You would think that should have come up sometime, right?! Apparently it wasn’t important enough for the books… But giant sloths aside, there are so many more interesting pieces of Iowa history most of us don’t know about. So, if you’re in the mood for a little history lesson, listen up, because here are 12 unusual things about Iowa history that you won’t learn in school…
1. Iowa's name may have come from a joke.
There are two possible stories as to how Iowa got its name. The first, and most popular, story says that Iowa's name comes from the Native American tribe that once lived there, the Ioway. The word "Iowa" meant "beautiful" in their language. Another story told by members of the Ioway Nation, who now inhabit Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, will tell you that Ioway is the French spelling of Ayuhwa, a name meaning "sleepy ones" given to the tribe as a joke by the Dakota Sioux.
2. Iowa used to be a cold, wet tundra.
Around 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, Iowa looked much different than it does today. During the Paleoindian Period, Iowa was a cold, wet tundra, covered by coniferous and deciduous forests. There was almost no prairie land, and much of the area was covered by a glacier system.
3. They actually thought the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs landed in Iowa.
The Manson Crater near Manson was originally thought to have been the asteroid impact that caused the dinosaur extinction. The crater was later found to have hit 74 million years ago, so before the extinction. The crater is the largest in the country.
4. One time, Estherville got hit by a 500 pound space rock.
Estherville wasn't technically hit, but on May 10, 1879, the 455 lb. meteorite landed just five miles from the area, and left a 15 ft. hole in the ground. Apparently the impact was enough to break windows and shatter china cabinets. Parts of the meteorite are now on display at the Smithsonian.
5. Ozzy bit off a bat's head in Iowa.
Remember when Ozzy bit off a bat's head? Yeah, that was in Iowa... After a concert in Des Moines on January 20, 1982, he bit into what he thought was a fake bat, but he got a little surprise when the bat turned out to be real. Hey, it's an easy mistake to make, okay?
6. The music died in Iowa.
After a concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake on February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly's plane crashed into a field near Clear Lake, killing him and everyone aboard. That day will forever be referred to as the "Day the Music Died."
7. John Dillinger robbed a bank in Iowa.
On March 13, 1934, notorious American gangster John Dillinger and his crew robbed the First National Bank in Mason City, making away with $52,000. If you don't know who John Dillinger is, go watch Public Enemies, which is the story of his life and an amazing movie.
8. Then a month later, Bonnie and Clyde also robbed a bank in Iowa.
Iowa banks must have been notorious for their rob-ability because on April 16, 1934 (only a month after another bank in Iowa was robbed by John Dillinger), infamous crime couple Bonnie and Clyde robbed the First National Bank in Stuart, Iowa.
9. Jesse James robbed the first train in the west right here in Iowa.
On July 21, 1873, the notorious outlaw Jesse James and his gang robbed the first train in the West, in Adair, Iowa.
10. The first mosque in the country was built in Iowa.
In 1934, the first mosque built in the United States was erected in Cedar Rapids. It is now known as the Mother Mosque of America.
11. And the first female lawyer was from Iowa.
In 1869, Iowa became the first state to allow women to join the bar, which led to Iowa having the first female attorney in the U.S.: Arabella Mansfield.
12. Oh yeah, and we had giant sloths living here.
I promised you giant sloths didn't I?! Probably the coolest piece of history in Iowa was the giant sloth. About 10,000 years ago, three giant sloths died in what is now southwest Iowa. These 7 ft. tall giant sloths can now be seen at the Museum of Natural History at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Are you feeling smarter yet? You should. Now you can brag to all your friends about the unknown history of our great state! Are there any more interesting tidbits of Iowa history we missed? Share them with us!
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