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The City of Dubuque is among the oldest European settlements west of the Mississippi River. The first Europeans to explore the area were Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, who travelled along the river in 1673. They were commissioned by the colony of New France to map the unexplored region. The entire area was claimed for France in 1682 by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who named it "Louisiane" in honor of French King Louis XIV. Following the 1763 French defeat in the Seven Years' War, Spain gained control of Louisiana. The first permanent settler to what is now Dubuque was a Quebecois pioneer, Julien Dubuque, who arrived in 1785. In 1788, he received permission from the Spanish government and the local Fox tribe of American Indians to mine the area's rich lead deposits. Control of Louisiana (and Dubuque's mines) shifted back to France in 1800, then to the United States in 1803, following the Louisiana Purchase. Dubuque died in 1810, but the wealth of minerals drew a number of new pioneers and settlers, mostly Frenchmen and other Europeans.
The current City of Dubuque, named after Julien Dubuque, was settled at the southern end of a large, flat plain adjacent to the Mississippi River. The city was officially chartered in 1833, located in then-unorganized territory. The region was designated as the Iowa Territory in 1838, and was included in the newly-created State of Iowa in 1846. After the lead resources were exhausted, the city became home to numerous industries. Because of its proximity to forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Dubuque became a center for the timber industry, and was later dominated by various millworking businesses. Between 1860 and 1880, Dubuque was one of the 100 largest urban areas in the United States. Also important were boat building, brewing, and later, the railroad industry. Iowa’s first church was built by Methodists in 1834. Since then, Iowans have followed a variety of religious traditions. Throughout the 19th century, and into the early 20th century, thousands of poor German and Irish Catholic immigrants came to work in the manufacturing centers. The city's Roman Catholic presence became so predominant that it was designated as the seat of the newly-established Archdiocese of Dubuque, and numerous convents, abbeys, and other religious instititutions were built. Much of the population remains Catholic to this day.
Early in the 20th Century, Dubuque was one of several places which
saw a brass era automobile company,
in this case Adams-Farwell;
like most others, it folded. Subsequently, although Dubuque grew
significantly, industrial activity remained the mainstay of the economy
until the 1980s. During that time, a series of changes in manufacturing,
and the onset of the "Farm Crisis" led to a large decline in the
sector, and the city's economy as a whole. However, the economy
diversified rapidly in the 1990s, shifting away from heavy industry.
Today, tourism, high technology, and publishing are among
the largest and fastest-growing businesses. Dubuque attracts well over
1,500,000 tourists annually, and this number continues to increase. Some
of the more important changes include the ongoing construction of the
America's River Project's tourist attractions in the Port of Dubuque,
the expansion of the city's colleges, and the continued growth of
shopping centers, like Asbury Plaza.
 Awards and recognition
Dubuque has received a number of special designations.
- In 2006, Dubuque won the Urban Pioneer Award given out by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The award was in recognition of Dubuque’s 20-year commitment to the revitalization of the city’s center.
- In 2006, Dubuque received the Audrey Nealson Community Development Achievement Award that is given out by the National Community Development Association. The award recognized exemplary uses of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds which best addressed the needs of low-income families and neighborhoods.
- In 2006, Money Magazine named Dubuque as having the shortest commute time all U.S cities at only 11.8 minutes.
- In March 2007, the city was recognized as one of the "100 Best Communities for Young People" by the America's Promise Youth Foundation.
- In April 2007, the city was voted 15th in the "Best Small Places For Business and Careers" ranking by Forbes Magazine, climbing 60 spots from 2006.
- In June 2007, Dubuque won the All-America City Award, one of 10 cities nationally to do so.
- In June 2008, Dubuque was named as the "Most Livable" Small City by the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM).
- In 2009, Dubuque was named the 8th best small metro area to launch a small business by CNNMoney.com.
- In 2009, Dubuque was honored as the United States Department of Commerce's Excellence in Economic Development for Excellence in Historic Preservation-led Strategies. Dubuque received the award for its commitment to research-based, market driven economic development in helping grow the local economy.
- In 2009, Dubuque was honored as one of RelocateAmerica.com's America's Top 100 Places to Live.
- In 2009, Dubuque won American City and Country Magazine's America's Crown Community Award for partnerships and collaboration that resulted in IBM’s decision to locate a new global technology service delivery center in Dubuque.
- In 2010, Forbes has selected Dubuque as the best small city to raise a family in the county, up from 157th in 2009.
- Also in 2010 the Roshek Redevelopment Project was named Best Historic Rehabilitation Utilizing New Markets Tax Credits at the J. Timothy Anderson Awards for Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation.
- 2010, Dubuque won the Excellence in Economic Development Award presented by the International Economic Development Council. Dubuque earned the Excellence in Economic Development Award in the category of Public-Private Partnerships for the redevelopment of the Roshek Building. This program annually recognizes the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders.
- 2006-10, for five consecutive years Dubuque has won the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada's Distinguished Budget Presentation award
- 1989-2010, for twenty-two consecutive years Dubuque has won the Government Finance Officers Association's Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Finance Reporting (CAFR)