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Illinois is a state of the north-central United States. It was admitted as the 21st state in 1818. The area was explored by the French in the late 1600s, ceded by France to the British in 1763, and ceded by them to the newly formed United States in 1783. Springfield is the capital and Chicago the largest city. Population: 12,700,000.

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Indians hunted in Illinois as far back as 5000 B.C. and today you can still view the remains of their civilization at places such as Chahokia Mounds—North America's largest and most valuable prehistoric earthwork relic. Dickson Mounds Indian Museum near Lewiston features special exhibits which chronicle the Indian's valuable place in Illinois history.

French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, in 1673, were the first Europeans of record to visit the region paddling by birch bark canoe along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. They traveled the length of the state -- from what is now Chicago to the southernmost reaches of Illinois.

In 1699 French settlers established a fur-trading post and the first permanent settlement at Cahokia, near present-day East St. Louis. More French explorers followed, building military outposts and establishing a fur trading empire with local Indians. In 1675, Father Jacques Marquette founded a mission at the Kaskaskia Indian Village near present-day Ottawa.

In 1717, France placed Illinois into the Louisiana Colony. Great Britain obtained the region at the end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763 at the close of the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Paris ceded to England all lands France had claimed east of the Mississippi River, except for New Orleans in Louisiana. Many of the French settlers in Illinois moved across the river into Iowa. Only missionaries, fur traders, a few settlers, and English soldiers remained in the Illinois region.

During the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), George Rogers Clark of Virginia and a group called the “Big Knives” raided English forts in Illinois. The British continued to control what is now Illinois until 1778 when George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War hero, and his band of American colonists captured Fort Kaskaskia. The Illinois country became a possession of Virginia until 1787 when it joined the Northwest Territory under the government of the United States.

In 1809, the Illinois Territory was created. The area figured prominently in frontier struggles during the Revolutionary War and in Indian wars during the early 19th century. Hundreds of settlers began moving to Illinois from Virginia, Kentucky, and Maryland. Indians, angry with the settlers for taking their lands, sided with Britain in the War of 1812. Many settlers were massacred as they attempted to leave Fort Dearborn near the mouth of the Chicago River.

Illinois was one of the five states created from the Northwest Territory. Six different forms of government operated in Illinois before its first constitution took effect in 1818. That first document was followed by constitutions in 1848, 1870, and 1970.

Illinois became the 21st state on December 3, 1818. Construction of the Erie Canal in 1825 provided easy transportation to the Midwest. Kaskaskia became Illinois' first capitol. Two years later the seat of Illinois government was moved to Vandalia.

Hundreds of people from the eastern states and Europe rushed to settle the new state following the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The federal government forced Indians living in the state to cross the Mississippi River into Iowa. In 1832, the Sauk and Fox Indians fought state militias for their land. The Black Hawk War ended that same year, and all Indians were forced out of Illinois which virtually ended the Indian troubles in the area.

In 1839, largely through the efforts of a young legislator named Abraham Lincoln, the capitol was again moved—this time to Springfield, where it is now open to the public as an historic site. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln's stand against slavery during several debates in Illinois, gave him national attention. He lost the election, but became president of the United States two years later. Six southern states seceded from the Union and the Civil War (1861-1865) began after Lincoln's inauguration.

Ulysses S. Grant, general of the Union Army, and 250,000 soldiers fought from Illinois during the war. After the war, industry boomed in Illinois. Railroads were expanding, bringing immigrants to work factories in Chicago, Joliet, and Rockford. Chicago led the nation in grain and meatpacking production. On Oct. 8, 1871 the city of Chicago was destroyed; the Great Chicago Fire burned for almost two days killing over 300 people.

The Capitol in use today dates back to 1868, when ground was broken for its construction. Although the General Assembly moved in eight years later in 1876, it took 20 years to complete the building at a cost of $4.5 million.

During the late 1800s, unrest swept throughout the nation's farmers and factory workers. Farmers were paying high prices for land and farm equipment while receiving low prices for crops. Factory workers were paid low salaries in unsafe working conditions. In 1886, a riot occurred in Chicago's Haymarket Square, killing eight policemen and several bystanders.

The early 1900s brought great reform in Illinois. Laws were passed to help workers, especially women, and a state board established to help settle strikes. Laws were also passed banning the manufacturing and selling of alcohol. During the years of Prohibition (1920-1933), Al Capone's mob and other mafia gangs selling illegal liquor caused much violence and killings while in gang warfare.

Industrial expansion greatly increased in Illinois until the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. Manufacturing slowed and thousands lost their jobs. The federal government began construction of roads and waterways. This and the discovery of oil in southern Illinois provided many with jobs and helped the economy begin to recover in the late 1930s.

Illinois produced hundreds of aircraft and ammunition during World War II (1939-1945). The first controlled nuclear chain reaction, a major step in the development of the atomic bomb, also took place at the University of Chicago. Since the war, many new laboratory and research centers developed nuclear technology in Illinois. Other industries, such as chemical, steel, and auto production, have also expanded.

Its 1970 constitution included protection from discrimination for women, protection for a healthy environment, and the right of suffrage for more citizens by relaxing residency requirements. The senate and house of representatives, constituting the state's general assembly, are selected from 59 districts, each represented by one senator and two at-large representatives. The executive branch includes a team-elected governor and lieutenant governor, assisted by an attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, and treasurer. The supreme court consists of seven judges elected from five judicial districts for 10-year terms. The appellate court judges, also elected for 10-year terms, serve each of the state's judicial districts, hearing appeals from state circuit courts, whose judges are elected for 10-year terms.

Recently, Illinois is striving to decrease the air and water pollution problems in the state. Taxes were raised to create needed public services and a state lottery was adopted in 1973, to help raise money for education. Industries are continuing to grow and expand.


  • Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton hosted the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates that stirred interest all over the country in the slavery issue.
  • The first Aquarium opened in Chicago, 1893.
  • The world's first Skyscraper was built in Chicago, 1885.
  • Home to the Chicago Bears Football Team, Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, Chicago Bulls basketball team, Chicago Cubs and Chicago Whitesox baseball teams, Chicago Fire soccer team.
  • The first Mormon Temple in Illinois was constructed in Nauvoo.
  • Peoria is the oldest community in Illinois.
  • The Sears Tower, Chicago is the tallest building on the North American continent.
  • Metropolis the home of Superman really exists in Southern Illinois.
  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site--most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico
  • Illinois had two capital cities, Kaskaskia, and Vandalia before Springfield.
  • The NFL's Chicago Bears were first known as the "Staley Bears". They were organized in 1920, in Decatur.
  • Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery. 1865
  • On December 2, 1942, Enrico Fermi and a small band of scientists and engineers demonstrated that a simple construction of graphite bricks and uranium lumps could produce controlled heat. The space chosen for the first nuclear fission reactor was a squash court under the football stadium at the University of Chicago.
  • Des Plaines is home to the first McDonald's.
  • Dixon is the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan.
  • Springfield is the state capital and the home of the National Historic Site of the home of President and Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.
  • Chicago is home to the Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station, the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire.
  • Before Abraham Lincoln was elected president he served in the Illinois legislature and practiced law in Springfield. Abraham Lincoln is buried just outside Springfield at Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.
  • Carlyle is the home of the largest man-made lake in Illinois.
  • Illinois has 102 counties.
  • Ronald Wilson Regan from Tampico became the 40th president of the United States in 1980.
  • The highest point in Illinois is Charles Mound at 1235 feet above sea level.
  • The state motto is: State Sovereignty, National Union
  • The ice cream "sundae" was named in Evanston. The piety of the town resented the dissipating influences of the soda fountain on Sunday and the good town fathers, yielding to this churchly influence, passed an ordinance prohibiting the retailing of ice cream sodas on Sunday. Ingenious confectioners and drug store operators obeying the law, served ice cream with the syrup of your choice without the soda. Objections then was made to christening a dish after the Sabbath. So the spelling of "sunday" was changed. It became an established dish and an established word and finally the "sundae".
  • The round Silo for farm storage of silage was first constructed on a farm in Spring Grove.
  • The Illinois state dance is square dancing.
  • Illinois has more units of government than any other state (i.e., city, county, township, etc.). Over six thousand. One contributing reason may be the township governments, which are generally six miles square.
  • The worst prison camp during the Civil War in terms of percentages of death was at Rock Island.
  • Illinois boasts the highest number of personalized license plates, more than any other state.
  • The University of Illinois Conservatory is 37 feet high at its apex.
  • In 1905, president of the Chicago Cubs filed charges against a fan in the bleachers for catching a fly ball and keeping it.
  • Chicago's Mercantile Exchange building was built entirely without an internal steel skeleton, as most skyscrapers; it depends on its thick walls to keep itself up
  • The abbreviation "ORD" for Chicago's O'Hare airport comes from the original name Orchard Field. O'Hare Airport was named in honor of Lieutenant Commander Edward H. "Butch" O'Hare.
  • The trains that pass through Chicago's underground freight tunnels daily would extend over ten miles total in length.
  • The slogan of 105.9, the classic rock radio station in Chicago: 'Of all the radio stations in Chicago...we're one of them.'
  • In Mount Pulaski, Illinois, it is illegal for boys (and only boys) to hurl snowballs at trees. Girls are allowed to do that however.
  • In Illinois Michael is the top name chosen for boys. Emily is the most chosen name for girls.
  • Illinois is known for its wide variety of weather. Major winter storms, deadly tornadoes and spectacular heat and cold waves.
  • The first birth on record in Chicago was of Eulalia Pointe du Sable, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable and his Potawatomi Indian wife in 1796.
  • Chicago's Mercy Hospital was the first hospital opened in Illinois.
  • The first animal purchased for the Lincoln Park Zoo was a bear cub, bought for $10 on June 1st, 1874
  • The University of Chicago opened on October 1, 1892 with an enrollment of 594 and a faculty of 103.
  • New York Sun editor Charles Dana, tired of hearing Chicagoans boast of the world's Columbian Exposition, dubbed Chicago the "Windy City."
  • Comedy showcase "Second City" was founded on North Wells Street in a former Chinese laundry in 1959
  • Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, took office in 1983
  • The 4 stars on the Chicago flag represent Fort Dearborn, the Chicago Fire, the World's Columbian Exposition, and the Century of Progress Exposition.
  • The Chicago Public Library is the world's largest public library with a collection of more than 2 million books.
  • The Chicago Post Office at 433 West Van Buren is the only postal facility in the world you can drive a car through.
  • The Chicago River is dyed green on Saint Patrick's Day.
  • The world's largest cookie and cracker factory, where Nabisco made 16 billion Oreo cookies in 1995, is located in Chicago.

External links

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Illinois United States IL US