Minneapolis, nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City", is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States. Its name is attributed to the city's first schoolteacher, who combined mni, a Dakota Sioux word for water, and polis, the Greek word for city.
As of 2011, the estimated population of the city of Minneapolis is 387,753. Minneapolis lies on both banks of the Mississippi River, just north of the river's confluence with the Minnesota River, and adjoins Saint Paul, the state's capital. Known as the Twin Cities, Minneapolis–Saint Paul is the 16th-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., with approximately 3.3 million residents.
The city is abundantly rich in water, with over twenty lakes and wetlands, the Mississippi river, creeks and waterfalls, many connected by parkways in the Chain of Lakes and the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. Among cities of similar densities, Minneapolis has the most dedicated parkland. It was once the world's flour milling capital and a hub for timber, and today is the primary business center between Chicago and Seattle, with Minneapolis proper containing the fifth highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies.
Minneapolis has cultural organizations that draw creative people and audiences to the city for theater, visual art, writing, and music. The community's diverse population has a long tradition of charitable support through progressive public social programs and VOLAGs, as well as private and corporate philanthropy.
Dakota Sioux were the region's sole residents until French explorers arrived around 1680. Nearby Fort Snelling, built in 1819 by the United States Army, spurred growth in the area. The United States government pressed the Mdewakanton band of the Dakota to sell their land, allowing people arriving from the east to settle there. The Minnesota Territorial Legislature authorized present-day Minneapolis as a town on the Mississippi's west bank in 1856. Minneapolis incorporated as a city in 1867, the year rail service began between Minneapolis and Chicago. It later joined with the east-bank city of St. Anthony in 1872.
Minneapolis grew up around Saint Anthony Falls, the highest waterfall on the Mississippi. Millers have used hydropower elsewhere since the 1st century B.C., but the results in Minneapolis between 1880 and 1930 were so remarkable the city has been described as "the greatest direct-drive waterpower center the world has ever seen." In early years, forests in northern Minnesota were the source of a lumber industry that operated seventeen sawmills on power from the waterfall. By 1871, the west river bank had twenty-three businesses including flour mills, woolen mills, iron works, a railroad machine shop, and mills for cotton, paper, sashes, and planing wood. The farmers of the Great Plains grew grain that was shipped by rail to the city's thirty-four flour mills where Pillsbury and General Mills became processors. By 1905, Minneapolis delivered almost 10% of the country's flour and grist. At peak production, a single mill at Washburn-Crosby made enough flour for twelve-million loaves of bread each day.
The city made dramatic changes to rectify discrimination as early as 1886 when Martha Ripley founded Maternity Hospital for both married and unmarried mothers. When the country's fortunes turned during the Great Depression, the violent Teamsters Strike of 1934 resulted in laws acknowledging workers' rights. A lifelong civil rights activist and union supporter, mayor Hubert Humphrey helped the city establish fair employment practices and a human relations council that interceded on behalf of minorities by 1946. In the 1950s, about 1.6% of the population of Minneapolis was nonwhite. Minneapolis contended with white supremacy, participated in desegregation and the African-American civil rights movement, and in 1968 was the birthplace of the American Indian Movement.
Minneapolis was a "particularly virulent" site of anti-semitism until 1950. A hate group recruited members in the city and held meetings there around 1936 to 1938. The Jewish Free Employment Bureau tried to help victims of economic discrimination with limited success. Formed in 1948, the nonsectarian Mount Sinai Hospital was a place where Jewish physicians and health professionals could practice.
During the 1950s and 1960s, as part of urban renewal, the city razed about two hundred buildings across twenty-five city blocks—roughly 40% of downtown, destroying the Gateway District and many buildings with notable architecture including the Metropolitan Building. Efforts to save the building failed but are credited with sparking interest in historic preservation in the state.