Unfortunately, Des Moines–and Iowa in general–is plagued with a reputation of being dull and lifeless. While states like New York and California have vast, robust metropolises, teeming with millions of citizens and bright lights, Des Moines exists on a much humbler scale. However, regardless of its reputation, Des Moines has a deep, rich history that sets it apart from the rest.
As with any brand new city, there lies a large importance in its name. Most of our country’s cities all have interesting origins to their names. Philadelphia’s name literally translates to brotherly love, Los Angeles’ name has a fairly religious background and Miami was named after the Mayaimi, the Native American tribe that inhabited the area. But few cities have as interesting and hard to pinpoint history as Des Moines.
Originally thought to be named after the nearby Des Moines River, the capital city of Iowa may owe its name to the Native American language. Some historians propose that Des Moines is, in fact, derived from the Native American word “moingona,” or, river of the mounds. This term referred to the several burial mounds near the river. Other historians believe that the city was named after the Trappist Monks, known as Moines de la Trappe.
While the general consensus is that the city’s name is based on some variation of the word moingona, it is entirely possible for the other explanations to prove true. We may never know.
Although it started out as a barren land with low expectations when it became the state capital of Iowa in 1858, Des Moines quickly managed to silence the critics and detractors and develop rather quickly.
The Des Moines Plan, a unique concept at the time, had streamlined both municipal government and charted development. The push for female rights was also demonstrated in the small but blossoming city when Fort Des Moines, the city’s original namesake, became the first ever training center for the Women’s Army Corps in 1942. And Des Moines’ economy was completely revamped when it became a national publishing and insurance center, cited as the “number one spot for U.S. insurance companies” according to Business Insider.
Luckily, Des Moines is shaking its lackluster reputation and beginning to catch the nation’s eye as a thriving metropolis with a vibrant art culture and proud community, ready to compete with the likes of New York City and Chicago. According to an article from Politico.com, Des Moines has had a bevy of accolades thrown its way these past few years, being dubbed the country’s richest city and being excellent for young professionals, families and businesses.