The Iowa Legislature officially adopted the state song of Iowa in 1911, making “The Song of Iowa” a state symbol. In 1897, Samuel Hawkins Marshall Byers wrote the lyrics, based on the traditional German folksong, “O, Tannenbaum.” Residents unofficially adopted another state song of Iowa that might be more popular and better known. “The Corn Song” employs a rousing chorus proclaiming, “That’s where the tall corn grows,” usually sung with hands held high.
Byers wrote the state song of Iowa after spending seven months in a Confederate prison camp during the Civil War. He said he was captured at the Battle of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee and taunted by Rebel troops who marched by singing “O, Maryland.” Byers vowed to pen a song for Iowa using the same tune. He later wrote the song, which was performed in a Des Moines opera house the following day.
The first stanza of the state song refers to the Midwestern state as the fairest of all and a poet’s dream. It continues by mentioning the cornfields, shining prairies, and sunsets, calling the state a paradise. The song ends by encouraging residents to learn the state’s history and remember its patriotic sons who died in battle.
In contrast, the unofficial state song of Iowa appears less serious, referring to the state as I-O-Way. Many lines end with, “Yo-ho, yo-ho, yo-ho.” Iowans typically enjoy the energetic feel of this song about the state’s main crop.
“The Corn Song” was written by George Hamilton in 1912. He was a community leader in the Chamber of Commerce and Masonic Lodge. After Hamilton traveled to California for a Shriners' convention, he apparently saw the need for a state song of Iowa suitable for a marching band. He collaborated with band leader John T. Beeston to write the song to the tune of “Traveling.”
Called the Hawkeye State and the Corn State, Iowa’s flag contains red, white, and blue vertical stripes, with the image of a bald eagle on the white section. The state’s motto, “Our liberty we prize, our rights we will maintain,” appears on a streamer under the eagle. Iowa became the 29th state in 1846.
Other state symbols include the eastern goldfinch as the state bird, the wild prairie rose as the state flower, and the northern red oak as the state tree. Iowa’s unofficial state fish is the channel catfish. In addition to corn, Iowa is a major producer of soybeans, oats, cattle, and pigs.