Located some 30 miles southwest of Chicago in the Kendall and Will counties, Joliet is the third largest city in the state of Illinois, recently overtaking Naperville, and is the county seat of Will County. Joliet is part of the Chicago metro area, known as Chicagoland, which as an estimated population of more than 9.5 million as the country's third-largest metro area.
At the time of Joliet’s incorporation in the 1850s, the population stood at around 2,700. This had exploded by 1860 to over 7,000. The 1890s saw the next largest percentage of growth, with a 7.15% annual growth rate, growing from 11,685 in 1880 to 23,264.
A relatively steady rise continued in the decades to come, until the years between 1970 and 1990 saw a growth rate of -25%. This turned around through the decade up to the year 2000, however, due in no small part to millions of dollars of government spending to revitalize the city. This brought a rise from 76,836 in 1990 to over 106,000 in 2000. Between 2010 and 2011, Joliet was the fastest growing city in the Midwestern United States, and the 18th fastest growing city in the country as a whole. Joliet is expected to continue its modest growth.
Louis Joillet, namesake of the city, and Father Jacques Marquette set up camp along the Des Plaines River on a large mound just outside present day Joliet in 1673. The hill would go on to be called Mound Jolliet, and become a popular site for mining by early settlers.
In the aftermath of the Black Hawk war in 1833, a cabin was built along the Des Plaines River. Over the river from this, the village called “Juliet” was built. The name was changed in 1845 to “Joliet” and was incorporated a second time (after a first attempt was rescinded almost 10 years prior due to residents’ desire to tax expenses) in 1852.
The 1870s saw some of the first steel mills in the entire country being built in Joliet, seeing its previous main commodity stone replaced with steel, earning it the nickname “The City of Steel.” This attracted thousands of southeastern Europeans to Joliet, who also found work on the railway that serviced the mill.
The large labor force allowed the city to attract other industries. Brick companies, horseshoe factories, machine manufacturers, bridge builders, and many more established their businesses in the area, and continued to do so well toward the end of the 20th century.
Today, millions of people visit Joliet for its riverboat casinos and NASCAR racetracks.