The Iowa State Fair Salon

Ruth Sukow

In 1926, Iowa author Ruth Suckow wrote in American Mercury that a collective psychological malady afflicted her native state.

Iowa had acquired “a timid, fidgety, hesitant state of mind” about cultural and intellectual matters, the result of decades of dependence upon New England for guidance in religion, learning, and the arts.

It was not that Iowans, many of whom could proudly trace their ancestry back to New England, were content simply to transplant their Anglo-American cultural heritage in the Midwest; rather, they fundamentally lacked the confidence necessary to create their own, indigenous culture in their new environment. This had deep historical roots, according to Suckow, for the original settlers had come to Iowa “with the belief that they were leaving culture behind.”

They had come neither on a religious errand nor a civilizing mission, but to acquire land, farm, and make money doing it.

Agricultural Lag: The Iowa State Fair Salon, 1854-1941, Chris Rasmussen