The following exhibits provide an overview of German immigrant life in Iowa since 1846. The initial exhibits are based on the primary banners of the traveling "German Iowa and the Global Midwest" exhibit that toured the state in 2017, with 5 banners devoted to 1846-1914, 3 banners devoted to 1918-46, and 2 banners to the pivotal years of 1914-18.

Student-curated exhibits on select topics follow upon the chronological overview of the traveling exhibit.

To access images and other items from the collection relevant to a particular exhibit, click on the image for that exhibit.


Traveling Exhibit

Coming to Iowa


The story of German immigration to Iowa is closely tied to the formative years of state history. In 1832, when...

One Language, Many Identities

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Iowa’s German-American community was quite diverse. Most Germans identified according to their region of birth, such as Prussia, Schleswig-Holstein, Swabia,...

Working for a Living


By some estimates, over one-half of German settlers to the state became farmers. Merchants, tradesmen, and military officers abandoned their...

Brewing, Prohibition, Politics


The state’s ethnic German population was known for beer, both its manufacture and its consumption. However, many Iowans supported the...

Community Life


German immigrants placed a premium on education. Many religious congregations supported parochial schools, but public schools also provided German-language instruction...

German Iowa in Crisis: The Years of Neutrality (1914-16)


The eruption of the Great War in August 1914 threw German Iowa into crisis. While the United States remained neutral...

German Iowa in Crisis: The War Years (1917-18)


Conditions worsened for German Iowans when the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. Nationally, the newly formed...

New Footing, Continuing Connections


After the First World War, restrictive measures like the Babel Proclamation were lifted. Yet the German language had lost its...

Economic and Political Crisis

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The Great Depression, starting in 1929, devastated economies in both Germany and the United States. Since their founding by German...

World War II and its Aftermath


German Americans' experience in World War II differed dramatically from their experience in World War I. Suspicion of "Germans" in...


Student-Curated Exhibits

Haven in the Heartland


Nearly 200 refugees from Nazi Germany found a temporary home at the Scattergood Refugee Hostel in West Branch, Iowa. Read...

Joseph Eiboeck, The Germans of Iowa and Their Achievements (1900)


Die Deutschen von Iowa und deren Errungenschaften (The Germans of Iowa and Their Achievements) is the only book dedicated to...

Iowa, die Heimat für Einwanderer (1873)


Revised 1873 German edition of Iowa, the Home for Immigrants, a handbook published by the State Board of Immigration to...