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Minneapolis–St. Paul


MINNEAPOLIS–ST. PAUL, located in southeastern Minnesota, with a regional population of close to three million, is the nation's fifteenth-largest metropolitan area. Minneapolis is Minnesota's largest city, St. Paul the state capital. Historically noted for flour milling and progressive politics, the cities began as Fort Snelling, an early nineteenth century military outpost. The nearby settlement of St. Paul was named in 1841 after a recently built chapel and its patron saint; a contest named Minneapolis—the Sioux word minne, "water," combined with the Greek polis, "city."

As steamboats brought settlers and trade goods upriver, St. Paul became the head of navigation on the Mississippi and headquarters for the American Fur Company and the Great Northern Railroad. By the 1880s, a new flour milling technique made Minneapolis the nation's largest milling center. Railroads moved farm machinery and trade goods from Minneapolis to the large western wheat-growing areas.

Drawing early migrants from New England and Canada, and by the 1880s from Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, Minneapolis–St. Paul's population swelled to over 350,000 by 1900. One of the nation's most homogeneous (and Lutheran) regions well into the 1980s, the core city population was approximately one-third non-white at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Traditionally small African American and Native American populations increased, while recent immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mexico, Somalia, and Ethiopia added to the region's diversity. In the 1990s, the core cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul gained population for the first time since 1960 (4 to 5 percent).

From its nineteenth-century milling and food processing (General Mills) and railroading (Burlington Northern) origins, the regional economy has diversified and become service-oriented, with corporate headquarters ranging from Target to 3M. "High-tech" industries, media/graphic and other arts, banking and insurance, and other services abound, while overall manufacturing capacity has declined. St. Paul's largest employer is state government.

The Minneapolis–St. Paul area has numerous higher education institutions, most notably the University of Minnesota's main campus, with over 40,000 students. Nationally regarded as a leading cultural center with a vibrant theater, music, and dance scene, Minneapolis is home to the Institute of Arts, the Guthrie Theater, the Walker Art Center, and numerous other cultural venues. St. Paul is home to the state's largest museum, the History Center Museum, as well as the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, and the Minnesota Children's Museum. The lake-dotted region attracts outdoor enthusiasts year-round.


Adams, John S., and Barbara J. Van Drasek. Minneapolis-St. Paul: People, Place and Public Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Lanegran, David, and Judith A. Martin. Where We Live. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

Judith A.Martin

See alsoSnelling, Fort .

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