Iowa is a landlocked state slightly larger than neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin in land area. The highest point is in the northwestern corner of the state, and is only a mere 363 meters off the lowest point. The geography of the state is one of rolling hills and farmland, with two major rivers - the Missouri and Mississippi - defining its borders on the west and east respectively. Other major rivers include the Des Moines and Cedar Rivers. Iowa was at one time home to several America Indian tribes, and was first officially settled in 1833 by families from neighboring states. 13 years later, on December 28th 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union. In 1867, the first railroad was completed through Iowa, later making Council Bluffs an important terminal connecting the West with Chicago. In 1928, Herbert Hoover became the only Iowan elected President of the United States.
Located in the heart of the American breadbasket, Iowa is one of the nation's leading producers of corn, soybeans, oats and hogs. Farm life makes up a great deal of the cultural identity of Iowa, though certainly not all. Ames and Iowa City boast major universities and lively cultural centers. The Iowa Writers' Workshop is also a leading college and graduate-level creative writing program whose graduates include John Irving, Flannery O'Connor and Philip Levine. Des Moines, the largest city and capital of Iowa, is dubbed the 'Insurance Capital of America' with major financial service corporations based there. Education is given a high priority in Iowa, with a low teacher-student ratio, well-funded library services and high average test scores compared to most U.S. states. Iowa has one of the highest percentages of White, non-Hispanic populations at 92.6%, with over 35% of the overall population claiming German ancestry. From the 1980 Census to the 1990 Census, Iowa's population decreased by some 137,000 people, mainly due to 'rural flight'. Important urban areas include the Quad Cities area, shared by neighboring Illinois, and Cedar Rapids, long time home of Grant Wood, whose 'American Gothic' portrait perhaps best personifies the stereotypical Iowan couple.