Pocatello is the county seat and largest city of Bannock County, with a small portion on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in neighboring Power County, in the southeastern part of the US state of Idaho. It is the principal city of the Pocatello metropolitan area, which encompasses all of Bannock county. As of the 2010 census the population of Pocatello was 54,255.
Pocatello is the fifth largest city in the state, just behind Idaho Falls (population of 56,813). In 2007, Pocatello was ranked twentieth on Forbes list of Best Small Places for Business and Careers. Pocatello is the home of Idaho State University and the manufacturing facility of ON Semiconductor. The city is at an elevation of above sea level and is served by the Pocatello Regional Airport.
Founded as an important stop on the first railroad in Idaho during the gold rush, the city later became an important center for agriculture. It is located along the Portneuf River where it emerges from the mountains onto the Snake River Plain, along the route of the Oregon Trail. The city is named after Chief Pocatello of the Shoshoni tribe, who granted the right-of-way for the railroad across the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Ironically, Chief Pocatello did not use the name but preferred to be called Tondzaosha, a Shoshoni word meaning buffalo robe. The chief's daughter, Jeanette Lewis, believed the name Pocatello had no meaning.
The section of the city along the Portneuf River was inhabited by the Shoshoni and Bannock peoples for several centuries before the arrival of Europeans in the early 19th century. In 1834, Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth, a U.S. fur trader, established Fort Hall as a trading post north of the present location of the city. The post was later acquired by the Hudson's Bay Company and became an important stop on the Oregon Trail, a branch of which descended the Portneuf through the present-day location of the city. A replica of the Fort Hall trading post is now operated as a museum in southern Pocatello.
The discovery of gold in Idaho in 1860 brought the first large wave of U.S. settlers to the region. The Portneuf Valley became an important conduit for the transportation of goods and freight. In 1877, railroad magnate Jay Gould of the Union Pacific Railroad acquired and extended the Utah and Northern Railway, which had previously stopped at the Utah border, into Idaho through the Portneuf Canyon. "Pocatello Junction", as it was first called, was founded as a stop along this route during the gold rush. After the gold rush subsided, the region began to attract ranchers and farmers. By 1882, the first residences and commercial development appeared in Pocatello.
In 1948, the mayor of Pocatello, George Phillips, passed an ordinance making it illegal not to smile in Pocatello. The "Smile Ordinance" was passed tongue in cheek as a result of an exceptionally severe winter, which had dampened the spirit of city employees and citizens alike. Unintentionally, the ordinance was never repealed. On December 10, 1987, Pocatello was declared by the mayor the "U.S. Smile Capital." An event called Smile Days is held annually in Pocatello, including a smile contest, and "arrests" of non-smilers.
Pocatello absorbed nearby Alameda in 1962 and briefly became the largest city in the state, ahead of Boise. Pocatello was the second largest city in the state (behind Boise) until the late 1990s, when rapid growth in the Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho placed Nampa and Meridian ahead of Idaho Falls and Pocatello, which are now the state's fourth and fifth largest cities, respectively.