Edmonton was founded in 1795 when a Hudson's Bay Company Trading Post was established with the construction of Fort Edmonton. John Rowand, a fur trader for the North West Company, arrived in Edmonton in 1804 and became respected and accepted as a leader by the Plains Indians, managing Edmonton's fur trade with the Cree and Blackfoot in Edmonton for about 30 years. Fort Edmonton became a local economic centre, the major stopping point before pioneers headed up north or farther west.
More people began settling in the vicinity of Fort Edmonton in the 1870s after the government offered the land to settlers at a good price. Edmonton officially became a town in 1892 with a population of 700. The city boomed during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 as thousands of eager prospectors heading north via the "All Canadian Route," stopping in Edmonton for supplies. By 1904 Edmonton had 9,000 residents, and a year later it became incorporated as a city and declared the provincial capital.
In 1912 Edmonton, which was located on the north shore of the North Saskatchewan River, amalgamated with its sister city of Strathcona on the southern shore to attain a combined population of 53,000. The High Level Rail Bridge across the river was completed in 1913, cementing the link between the north and south sides of Edmonton. In the 1930s Edmonton continued to thrive as a northern business centre, and an aviation shipping point for food and medical supplies using the new bush planes. In 1942 the construction of the Alaska Highway made the city into a major ground transportation and supply centre to the far north. It was at about this time that Edmonton officially became known as "Gateway to the North."
Shortly after World War II oil was discovered near the town of Leduc, just south of Edmonton. The area around Edmonton became home to most of Alberta's oil production, and the subsequent oil boom gave Edmonton new status as the Oil Capital of Canada. The city began growing even more dramatically after the Arab Oil Boycott of 1973, and its population now sits at around 800,000. Oil production and refining remains the basis of many Edmonton jobs, but other industries have also risen in prominence as the population grew and diversified. Edmonton hosts the University of Alberta, and as Alberta's capital Edmonton is home to the provincial government offices and staff.