In 1900 it had 7831 inhabitants, mostly German-speaking, and mainly Protestants. It is situated in the valley of the Aar, on the right bank of that river, and at the southern foot of the range of the Jura mountains. It is about 50 m. by rail N.E. of Bern, and 31 m. N.W. of Zurich.
It is a well-built modern town, with no remarkable features about it. In the Industrial Museum there is (besides collections of various kinds) some good painted glass of the 16th century, taken from the neighbouring Benedictine monastery of Muri (founded 1027, suppressed 1841---the monks are now quartered at Gries, near Bozen, in South Tirol). The cantonal library contains many works relating to Swiss history and many MSS. coming from the suppressed Argovian monasteries.
There are many industries in the town, especially silk-ribbon weaving, foundries, and factories for the manufacture of cutlery and scientific instruments. The popular novelist and historian, Heinrich Zschokke (1771-1848), spent most of his life here, and a bronze statue has been erected to his memory. Aarau is an important military centre. The slopes of the Jura are covered with vineyards.
Aarau, an ancient fortress, was taken by the Bernese in 1415, and in 1798 became for a time the capital of the Helvetic republic. Eight miles by rail N.E. are the famous sulphur baths of Schinznach, just above which is the ruined castle of Habsburg, the original home of that great historical house. (W. A. B. C.)
Originall text from Gutenberg Encyclopedia (1911).