Peoria was incorporated as a U.S. city in 1835.
Until Cook Country was formed in 1831, Chicago was a part of Peoria County. In 1854, Abraham Lincoln gave an impassioned speech on the courthouse steps regarding the issue of slavery. This speech was one of the landmarks of his career which established the principles that would carry him to his presidency six years later. In 1861, the day the Civil War began, Peoria Mayor William Willard led a war recruitment rally and trained approximately 7500 soldiers. In total, 536 Peoria County soldiers gave their lives in order to preserve the Union.
In the early 1900s, Peoria was known as a town full of liquor, entertainment, and sometimes indulged on the more risqué side of things. Due to its proximity to river transportation and easy access to corn for grain-alcohol, Peoria used to be one of the largest manufacturers of liquor in the United States. Some mansions that reside on High Street and Moss Avenue are a direct result of the Peoria Whiskey Baron era. Today, Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River. The city has a population of more than 100,000 residents. The question “Will it play in Peoria?” has become a metaphor for whether something would appeal to the greater American public. Due to its demographics, Peoria is often used as a test market for new products, services, and public policy polling.