Appleton, once known as the "woodland city" and later "the Lowell of the West" (after the city in Massachusetts) grew up along the Fox River, which provided water power and transportation for the paper manufacturing industry that still dominates the area. Today, fourteen Wisconsin communities including Appleton refer to themselves as Fox Cities. Appleton's history is strongly tied to that of Lawrence University, which grew up with the town after it was chartered in 1847. Lawrence University's 84 acre campus, 32 instructional, recreational and administrative buildings, 1,200 students, and a faculty of more than 100 men and women, lies east of the city's downtown. Students and faculty members supply the community with a variety of music, drama, and sports activities.
Appleton is the seat of Outagamie County, but parts of Appleton are also located in Calumet and Winnebago counties. The many trees, city parks, a river lined with old mansions, and interesting shops provide the community with a lively downtown. The once-polluted river, unique in that it is one of the few American rivers flowing northward for its entire course, has been largely restored and is a popular site for swimming, fishing, and boating. Appleton consistently scores high on lists of the best places to live in the United States; it is safe, affordable, and offers a variety of cultural and artistic events.