1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Des Moines

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DES MOINES, the capital and the largest city of Iowa, U.S.A., and the county-seat of Polk county, in the south central part of the state, at the confluence of the Raccoon with the Des Moines river. Pop. (1890) 50,093; (1900) 62,139, of whom 7946 were foreign-born, including 1907 from Sweden and 1432 from Germany; (1910 census) 86,368. Des Moines is served by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Chicago & North-Western, the Chicago Great Western, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Wabash, the Minneapolis & St Louis, and the Des Moines, Iowa Falls & Northern railways; also by several interurban electric lines. The chief building in Des Moines is the State Capitol, erected at a cost of about $3,000,000; other important buildings are the public library (containing, in 1908, 40,415 volumes), the court house, the post office, the Iowa State Historical building, a large auditorium and two hospitals. As a manufacturing centre the city has considerable importance. Among the leading products are those of the furnaces, foundries and machine shops, flour and grist mills, planing mills, creameries, bridge and iron works, publishing houses and a packing house; and brick, tile, pottery, patent medicines, furniture, caskets, tombstones, carriages, farm machinery, Portland cement, glue, gloves and hosiery. The value of the factory product in 1905 was $15,084,958, an increase of 79.7% in five years. The city is in one of the most productive coal regions of the state, has a large jobbing trade, and is an important centre for the insurance business. The Iowa state fair is held here annually. In 1908 this city had a park system of 750 acres. Des Moines is the seat of Des Moines College, a Baptist institution, co-educational, founded in 1865 (enrolment, 1907-1908, 214); of Drake University (co-educational; founded in 1881 by the Disciples of Christ; now non-sectarian), with colleges of liberal arts, law, medicine, dental surgery and of the Bible, a conservatory of music, and a normal school, in which are departments of oratory and commercial training, and having in 1907-1908 1764 students, of whom 520 were in the summer school only; of the Highland Park College, founded in 1890; of Grand View College (Danish Lutheran), founded in 1895; and of the Capital City commercial college (founded 1884). A new city charter, embodying what has become known as the “Des Moines Plan” of municipal government, was adopted in 1907. It centralizes power in a council of five (mayor and four councilmen), nominated at a non-partisan primary and voted for on a non-partisan ticket by the electors of the entire city, ward divisions having been abolished. Elections are biennial. Other city officers are chosen by the council, and city employees are selected by a civil service commission of three members, appointed by the council. The mayor is superintendent of the department of public affairs, and each of the other administrative departments (accounts and finances, public safety, streets and public improvements, and parks and public property) is under the charge of one of the councilmen. After petition signed by a number of voters not less than 25% of the number voting at the preceding municipal election, any member of the council may be removed by popular vote, to which all public franchises must be submitted, and by which the council may be compelled to pass any law or ordinance.

A fort called Fort Des Moines was established on the site of the city in 1843 to protect the rights of the Sacs and Foxes. In 1843 the site was opened to settlement by the whites; in 1851 Des Moines was incorporated as a town; in 1857 it was first chartered as a city, and, for the purpose of a more central location, the seat of government was removed hither from Iowa City. A fort was re-established here by act of Congress in 1900 and named Fort Des Moines. It is occupied by a full regiment of cavalry. The name of the city was taken from that of the river, which in turn is supposed to represent a corruption by the French of the original Indian name, Moingona,—the French at first using the abbreviation “moin,” and calling the river “la rivière des moins” and then, the name having become associated with the Trappist monks, changing it into “la rivière des moines.”