German Iowa and the Global Midwest

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German Iowa and the Global Midwest

Since 2014, UI students and faculty have been researching the history of German immigration to Iowa. Germans were the largest immigrant group in the state from its founding in 1846 into the 1980s. As recently as 1990, over half of Iowans claimed German heritage.

The project culminated in Fall 2016 with an exhibit in the Old Capitol Museum, the Obermann Humanities Symposium on “German Iowa and the Global Midwest" (October 6-8), and an International Programs Conference on “Doing Global History Locally” (October 28-30).

In 2017, the German Iowa traveling exhibit will visit over 25 communities throughout the state from March through October. Please consult the Traveling Exhibit Schedule to see when the exhibit will be in your area.

A lasting result of the project is the Digital Archive featuring German-Iowan documents and images researched by UI students. Many items pertain to the so-called Babel Proclamation of May 1918, which outlawed the speaking of all foreign languages in Iowa for the duration of World War I. Iowa was the only state in the U.S. to enact an official ban on foreign languages. The archive site also contains an interactive map of the over 40 German newspapers that once dotted the state from 1851 through the early twentieth century.