About Peoria IL

History of Peoria

Facts About Peoria, IL

Peoria, Illinois’ county seat, is also the largest city along the Illinois River. The city’s population was 113,150 at the 2020 census. It’s the capital city of the Peoria metropolitan area in Central Illinois. This includes the counties of Fulton Marshall, Stark, and Tazewell. The population was 402,391 as of 2020.

According to the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Peoria was established in 1691 by Henri de Tonti (French explorer). It was originally known as Fort Clark. The County of Peoria was formed in 1825. Peoria, a member of the Illinois Confederation, was the tribe that gave the city its name. Abraham Lincoln delivered his Peoria speech on October 16, 1854, against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Before prohibition, Peoria was the heart of the American whiskey industry. Peoria was home to more than 12 distilleries by the end 19th century than any other American city.

Peoria, a major port on the Illinois River, is a trading and shipping hub for large agricultural areas that produce corn, soybeans, and livestock. The city’s traditional manufacturing industries are still important. They produce metal products, earthmoving equipment, and labels. From 1998 to 2018, Peoria was Caterpillar Inc.’s global headquarters. It is one of 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The company is also listed on the Fortune 100. In the latter year, it moved its headquarters from Deerfield, Illinois.

It is often associated with the expression “Will It Play in Peoria?” The phrase “Will it play in Peoria?” was popularized by Groucho Marx and originated in the vaudeville era. The city has three museums: the John C. Flanagan House and the Pettengill–Morron House.


Peoria, Illinois’ oldest European settlement, was established by explorers who first crossed the Illinois River from Mississippi. Peoria was founded in 1680 by European explorers Rene-Robert Cavelier and Sieur de la Salle, who built Fort Crevecoeur. The fort would burn to the ground and Fort Clark, Illinois, was built in 1813. Fort Clark was named Peoria when the County of Peoria formed in 1825.

Peoria was named for the Peoria tribe which is a member the Illinois Confederation. Uncertain is the original meaning of this word. A 21st-century proposal suggests that the word may have been derived from Proto-Algonquian words meaning “to dream with help of a manitou.”
Peoria was established as a village in March 1835. Although the city didn’t have a mayor they did have Rudolphus Rouse as their village president who served 1835-1836. In 1837, John B Lishk was elected the first Chief of Police. On April 21, 1845, the city was organized. This marked the end of the village president and the beginning of the mayoral system. The first mayor was William Hale.

Fun Facts

  • Peoria was home to a district of brothels, bars and other red-light districts known as the Merry-Go-Round for much of the 20th Century.
  • Richard Pryor began his career as a performer at North Washington Street in early 1960s.
  • After being elected, Rita Ali became Peoria’s first African-American mayor in 2021.