Optimist International first formed Districts in 1923. The first Optimist Club in Iowa was organized in Waterloo in 1929; followed by Des Moines in 1934 and Cedar Rapids in 1937. The first clubs became part of District Nine; comprised of the states of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, together with the Province of Manitoba.
Wisconsin was separated in 1958 and the remainder of the District was assigned number thirty-five. Effective July 1, 1964, by action of the International Board of Directors, the official name of the thirty-fifth district was changed to the “Dakota-Minnesota-Manitoba District”. The name of Iowa was purposely omitted due to the forthcoming change and the Iowa District was created at the Duluth convention in May 1965, with an official birth date of July 1, 1965, making it District Forty. There were five zones and twenty-five clubs totaling 1,148 members in the District at the time.