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Iowa National Guard Members on Duty during the "Iowa Cow Wars," September 25, 1931

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The black and white image shows five soldiers standing around a machine gun.
Courtesy of Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, "The Cedar County Front - 1931!" The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 25 September 1931


The "Iowa Cow Wars" was a protest undertaken by farmers mainly in Cedar County against tuberculosis (TB) tests on cattle administered by veterinarians under Iowa law in 1931. TB-testing was done in an effort to eradicate TB because of the public health risk from contaminated milk - which was forward thinking at the time - and was a consistent problem veterinarians had to do contend with dating back to 1894. TB tests were required starting in 1928 and any cattle found to have TB were sent directly to slaughter with two-thirds of the cost being picked up by the state and national government but leaving one-third to be paid for by the farmer. Prior to the protests, the case against blanket tests was taken all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Iowa law. Tensions were heightened by a misinformation campaign from Norman Baker, owner of a local radio station. Protests escalated around Tipton, initially, but ended peacefully when Governor Dan W. Turner met with protestors and agreed to most of their demands. However, a few months later, protests in Cedar County at J.W. Lenker's farm escalated into violence with martial law being declared and the Iowa National Guard being called in to alleviate tension. Under the protection of the National Guard, testing was completed a week later, costing the state $35,000. 

Transcript of Caption from Photo of Iowa National Guard Members

Source-Dependent Questions

  • What connection was the paper trying to make with the title and the actions by protestors?
  • How did the economic situation of the early 1930s impact this protest? What did the "Cow War" and the Farm Strike of 1932 have in common?
  • Given the veterinarians were just upholding the law and other farmers had allowed this action were the protestors justified in their actions? Was the government justified in its action?

Citation Information 

"The Cedar County Front - 1931!" The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 25 September 1931. Courtesy of Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives