The State of Iowa did not have a banner for the first 75 years of its conception, largely because of calls for national unity during and after the American Civil War, in which Iowa fought for the Union. It was not until World War I that the creation of a state banner was requested, recorded first by the Iowa Daughters of the American Revolution, while Iowa National Guardsmen positioned along the Mexican border made several requests for a banner, as other states had banners to represent themselves. In 1917, Iowa was one of three states that had no banner.
An early rendition of Iowa’s flag, pictured in the Des Moines Register on 12 May 1917.
The flag was designed by DAR member and Knoxville, Iowa resident Dixie Cornell Gebhardt, who was prompted to create the design by Iowa guardsmen. It was approved by the DAR flag committee in early May 1917 and presented to the Iowa State Council for Defense, where it was accepted on May 11, 1917. The flag was sent to Iowa troops for designation but would not be officially adopted as the state flag for nearly four more years.
Iowa governor William Lloyd Harding formally accepted the flag on behalf of the state on March 19, 1918, but legislative action on adoption failed in February 1919. Still, the Iowa Daughters met with legislators urging them to accept the flag again in September 1920, suggesting that past failures were caused by high expenses.
Despite not being adopted, the banner was used often throughout the nation to represent Iowa, notably in Continental Hall where it was among official flags of other states, though marked as unofficial. This was all the more reason to adopt the flag officially, according to the wife of congressman Horace Mann Towner.
Finally, in January 1921, Iowa legislators again deliberated on the adoption of an official banner, and by mid-March of that same year the flag was accepted as law.