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It is the center of a fertile agricultural area. The city was founded in 1836 by settlers from New England and named after Rock County, Wisconsin. The city grew quickly due to its location on the Mississippi River and proximity to both Chicago and Milwaukee; it became an important manufacturing town during the 19th century with several large mills under various ownerships including Samuel Curtis, George M. Pullman (of Pullman sleeping car fame), Edward Payson Ripley (founder of Ripley's Believe It or Not!), John Henry Patterson (founder of National Cash Register Company) and others before industrial restructuring caused most factories to close in the late 20th century. In 1877, Janesville was incorporated as a village; it became a city when Wisconsin passed another law in 1889. During this period,[when?] Jaindl's Circus came to town frequently for two weeks at time when Ringling Brothers Circus came only once every three years.