Cedar Rapids, Iowa's second largest city, was first settled by the pioneer Osgood Shepard, the first European to come to the area in 1838.  Because of the excellent water power provided by the swift-running Cedar River (from which the city gets its name) several saw and grist mills were soon able to establish themselves in the city, and before long its population grew rapidly.   

In the 1850's Cedar Rapids began to be known as a rough frontier town, home to the notorious horse stealing Shepard Gang.  The gang's lawlessness was legendary, as they stole horses from local residents, farmers and travelers using guns, terror and any other means necessary before reselling the animals on the black market. 

By the late 19th Century, Cedar Rapids had calmed down somewhat and was becoming a destination for Czech and German immigrants who came to the area because of its promise of cheap farm land and opportunities unavailable to them in Europe.  Today Cedar Rapids is still home to large Czech and German populations.  It holds festivals and has several attractions which honor their heritage and contributions to the city.

The major industry in Cedar Rapids today is communications electronics, with several companies there working to provide technology to the defense industry and major global corporations.