Des Moines is the capital and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Iowa. It is also the county seat of Polk County. A small portion of the city extends into Warren County. It was incorporated on September 22, 1851, as Fort Des Moines which was shortened to "Des Moines" in 1857. It is named after the Des Moines River, which may have been adapted from the French Rivière des Moines, meaning "River of the Monks." The city's population was 203,433 as of the 2010 census. The five-county metropolitan area is ranked 88th in terms of population in the United States with 580,255 residents according to the 2011 estimate by the United States Census Bureau.
Des Moines is a major center of the U.S. insurance industry and also has a sizable financial services and publishing business base. In fact, Des Moines was credited as the "number one spot for U.S. insurance companies" in a Business Wire article and named the third largest "insurance capital" of the world. The city is the headquarters for the Principal Financial Group, Aviva USA insurance, the Meredith Corporation, Ruan Transportation, EMC Insurance Companies, and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Other major corporations such as Wells Fargo, ING Group, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Marsh, Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred have large operations in or near the metro area. In recent years Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and Facebook have established data processing and logistical facilities in the Des Moines metro. Forbes magazine ranked Des Moines as the "Best Place for Business" in both 2010 and 2013. In 2014, NBC ranked Des Moines as the "Wealthiest City in America" according to its criteria.
Des Moines is an important city in U.S. presidential politics because it is the capital of Iowa, which is home to the first caucuses of the presidential primary cycle. Hence, many presidential candidates set up campaign headquarters in Des Moines. A 2007 article in The New York Times stated "if you have any desire to witness presidential candidates in the most close-up and intimate of settings, there is arguably no better place to go than Des Moines."
Prehistoric inhabitants of early Des Moines
The juncture of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers has attracted humans for at least 7,000 years. Several prehistoric occupation areas have been identified in downtown Des Moines by archaeologists. Discovered in December 2010, the "Palace" is an expansive 7,000-year-old site located at the new wastewater treatment plant in southeastern Des Moines. It contains well-preserved house deposits and numerous graves. State of Iowa archaeologist John Doershuk was assisted by the University of Iowa archaeologists at this dig.
At least three Late Prehistoric villages stood in or near downtown Des Moines, dating from about AD 1300 to 1700. In addition, 15 to 18 prehistoric American Indian mounds were observed in downtown Des Moines by early settlers. All have been destroyed.