7 Nicknames for Iowa and the Stories Behind Them

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A large stone building with a gold dome next to a path, grass, trees, and lamposts
Iowa's history and agricultural sector inspired many of its nicknames

The state of Iowa has a long and storied history in the United States. Numerous Native American tribes settled in the area thousands of years ago, including the Ioway, who inspired the state's name.

Iowa was later involved in the historic Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Since then, its rich farmland and rolling prairies have made Iowa a significant agricultural contributor. This varied history has led to the creation of many monikers for the state.

The nicknames for Iowa primarily chronicle its historical and economic significance to the United States. For example, while you may have heard of the Hawkeye State nickname, do you know the story behind it? Or do you know how Iowa became known as the Food Capital of the World? Read on to discover how these and other state nicknames came to be.

7 Iowa Nicknames

Food Capital of the World is one of the nicknames for Iowa due to its fertile land
Iowa is ideal for food production, including growing crops and raising animals

Food Capital of the World

The Food Capital of the World is a very fitting Iowa state name. Iowa's top agricultural contributions are corn, hogs, and soybeans. Total agricultural production accounts for just over 11% of the state's gross domestic product.

Iowa is a top producer in the nation, too. Iowa produces more corn and pork products than other states. In addition, it is estimated that about 20% of all eggs consumed in the US came from Iowa. With this breadth of production, it is no wonder that Iowa is considered a food capital helping to supply the world.

Cyclone State

In 1895, Iowa endured numerous cyclones and tornadoes that caused significant damage. On September 28 of that year, the Iowa State football team shocked rival Northwestern by scoring 36 unanswered points. In relation to the match, The Chicago Tribune said, "Northwestern might as well have tried to play football with an Iowa cyclone."

The football team went on to become known as the Iowa State Cyclones, which later influenced the nickname of the Cyclone State. An interesting Iowa fact is that Iowa is located in Tornado Alley, an area of the U.S. prone to the twisters. The state averages about 48 tornadoes annually, indicating that this moniker remains fitting.

An aerial view of green farmland under a blue sky with white clouds
Land of the Rolling Prairie is one of the nicknames for Iowa due to its landscape

Land of the Rolling Prairie

The Land of the Rolling Prairie nickname arises from Iowa's primary topography. Widespread prairies stretch across the state, characterized by flat lands, tall grasses, and few trees. The only feature to break up the vast grasslands in some stretches is the Iowa landmark Des Moines River.

Iowa's predominance of prairies hints at its agricultural significance, too. Prairie lands are ideal for growing grains, including oats, rye, and wheat, as their roots extend deeply into the earth. This allows the plants to find water on the hottest days and prevents soil erosion over time.

Land Where the Tall Corn Grows

The Land Where the Tall Corn Grows or the Tall Corn State is another Iowa nickname rooted in its agricultural impact. Over 13 million acres of corn were planted in 2023, making Iowa the top corn producer in the US.

A local song is also connected to this moniker. The "Iowa Corn Song" references Iowa's vast acreage of cornfields. Written in 1921, the tune wraps up with the lyrics, "We're from Ioway, Ioway. That's where the tall corn grows." While not the official state song, it's probably the best-known and most popular song describing the state to this day.

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Rolled hay bales near a cornfield under a blue sky with large white clouds
Iowa is one of the top producers of corn in the United States

The Corn State

Have you realized how essential corn production is to the state of Iowa? If not, here's more proof. Iowa is also known as the Corn State. All those cornfields led to Iowa contributing 2.5 of the 13.7 billion corn bushels gathered in the United States annually. Of these bushels, most were earmarked for livestock feed, with ethanol production the next highest.

Iowa is also considered a vital part of the Corn Belt. This region of the Midwest has dominated US corn production since the 1850s. This is partly due to the area's rich soil, flat planting land, and moderate rainfall.

The Hawkeye State

The Hawkeye State is the nickname for Iowa you're likely most familiar with. Chief Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk Tribe, was instrumental in the namesake Black Hawk War fought in 1832. Many believe the term Hawkeye arose in his honor.

Others, though, cite a different origin for this state nickname. James Fenimore Cooper published his classic novel Last of the Mohicans in 1826. The main character is a heroic scout named Hawkeye fighting in the Seven Years' War.

Judge David Rorer and James Edwards pushed for the area to be called the Hawkeye State. The nickname was officially approved in 1838, 12 years after James Fenimore Cooper's book was published.

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A sign saying "Original Field of Dreams Main Entrance" with a field and trees behind
The Heartland is a popular nickname and has connections to films like Field of Dreams

The Heartland

Iowa's nickname of the Heartland is due to its geographical location. Iowa is in the midst of what is known as the American Midwest, which is most commonly associated with the nation's Heartland. It is a fitting tribute given Iowa's influence on the agricultural industry, what the Midwest is often known for.

The Iowa heartland and its agricultural sector have also inspired the film industry, for example, inspiring movies like Field of Dreams. The State Historical Society of Iowa even offers museumgoers a chance to see "Hollywood in the Heartland." This exhibit includes the adaptation of Phil Stong's novel, "State Fair," which was adapted twice onto the silver screen.

The nickname additionally extends to a national football rivalry. Every year, the winner of the game between the University of Iowa Hawkeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers is awarded the Heartland Trophy.

In Summary

Nicknames for Iowa range from the most well-known Hawkeye State to its lesser-known title, the Land of the Rolling Prairie. Understanding more about the stories behind these different nicknames offers Iowans a peek into their history dating back to the earliest settlements.

Numerous nicknames are also rooted in Iowa's agricultural impact and geographical location in America's Heartland. Whether or not you love corn, you'll have to appreciate the impact of Iowa on the nation's total production! Who knows? If you spend some time in Iowa, you might even find yourself singing along to the iconic Corn Song.

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Written by Jodi K Monroe

jodikmonroe FORMER WRITER Jodi is based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, within easy reach of the beaches, mountains, and airport. Journal in hand, she has explored North America and parts of Europe so far.

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