Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River and the county seat of Peoria County, Illinois, in the United States. Established in 1691 by the French explorer Henri de Tonti, Peoria is the oldest European settlement in Illinois, and is named after the Peoria tribe. As of the 2010 census, the city was the seventh-most populated in Illinois, with a population of 115,007. The Peoria Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 373,590 in 2011.
Peoria has become famous as a representation of the average American city because of its demographics and its perceived mainstream Midwestern culture. On the Vaudeville circuit, it was said that if an act would succeed in Peoria, it would work anywhere. The question "Will it play in Peoria?" has now become a metaphor for whether something appeals to the American mainstream public. Peoria is the home of Ray LaHood, now serving as Secretary of Transportation in President Obama's cabinet. It is also headquarters for Caterpillar Inc., one of the 30 companies composing the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Peoria is one of the oldest settlements in Illinois, as explorers first ventured up the Illinois River from the Mississippi. The lands that eventually would become Peoria were first settled in 1680, when French explorers René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and Henri de Tonti constructed Fort Crevecoeur. This fort would later burn to the ground, and in 1813 Fort Clark, Illinois was built. When the County of Peoria was organized in 1825, Fort Clark was officially named Peoria.
Peoria comes from the Native word "pim-e-ti-we", meaning "fat lake".
Peoria was incorporated as a village on March 11, 1835. The city did not have a mayor, though they had a village president, Rudolphus Rouse, who served from 1835 to 1836. The first Chief of Police, John B Lishk, was appointed in 1837. The city was incorporated on April 21, 1845. This was the end of a village president and the start of the mayoral system, with the first mayor being William Hale.
The first American automobile, the Duryea, was reportedly produced in downtown Peoria.
In 1926, Charles Lindbergh flew mail into Peoria as a stop on his mail route between St. Louis and Chicago. Charles Lindbergh also asked Peoria to support his flight, but they denied him. He later was funded by St. Louis.