15 Fascinating Facts About Illinois

Were you aware that the first Ferris Wheel was displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893?

Illinois, also known as “The Land of Lincoln” and “The Prairie State,” became the 21st state to join the United States on December 3, 1818.

It has a population of 12,419,000 people, making it the sixth most populated state.

Illinois shares borders with Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

With a total area of 57,914 square miles (149,997 square kilometers), it is the 25th largest state.

The capital of Illinois is Springfield, located south of the state’s center.

But enough of the quick facts about the Prairie State for now, let’s delve into some real facts!

The name Illinois originates from a term meaning “he speaks the regular way.”

Early French Catholic Missionaries communicated with the Illinois Native Americans, and it was from them that the state derived its name.

However, it’s not as straightforward as it may seem.

The name Illinois comes from the Miami-Illinois verb “Ilinwek,” which translates to “he speaks the regular way,” a term used by neighboring tribes to describe the Illinois people.

Interestingly, the Illinois people referred to themselves as “Inoka,” which the missionaries recorded but seemingly ignored.

The Illinois region has been inhabited for thousands of years.

The Illinois region has seen numerous tribes emerge and decline long before Europeans were aware of the Americas.

The Koster site, located near the Mississippi River on the western border of Illinois, is one of the earliest recorded sites with proof of constant human habitation dating back to at least 7500BC, over 9000 years ago.

Cahokia is an even more significant site, the largest chiefdom in pre-Columbian Mississippi culture, inhabited from at least 600 BC until around the 14th Century AD.

The first Europeans to visit Illinois were French explorers.

Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, French missionaries and explorers, were the first Europeans to discover modern-day Illinois when they traveled down the Illinois River in 1673.

Marquette established a mission at The Grand Village of the Illinois, a trading village of the Illinois people.

Illinois changed ownership multiple times before becoming a US territory.

As more French settlers arrived in Canada and traveled down the Mississippi River, they occupied a significant portion of the region.

The settled areas of Illinois became a part of New France and then La Louisiane but were eventually surrendered to the British in 1763 after France’s defeat in the Seven Years War.

The land didn’t come under US ownership until 1783 as part of the Northwest Territory.

Chicago has been the largest city in Illinois since 1857, and it’s no surprise.

The Town of Chicago was founded on the shores of Lake Michigan on August 12, 1833.

Chicago was once a small town, but it quickly became known for its strategic location, which connected the eastern and western parts of the United States. By 1848, two major transportation systems, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad and the Illinois and Michigan Canal, were built, cementing Chicago’s importance in the geography of the country. As a result, all transportation between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes had to go through Chicago. The city’s population grew rapidly, from just 200 people in 1833 to 90,000 in 1857.

Nauvoo, a small city situated on the Mississippi River near the junction of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri, was originally named Quashquema in honor of the local Native American chieftain. In 1839, Joseph Smith, the leader and founder of the Latter-Day Saints, moved to Nauvoo with his followers to escape persecution. The Latter-Day Saints purchased the town and transformed it into a thriving city of 12,000 people. However, their peaceful existence was short-lived as they faced violent opposition from neighbors and ex-communicated community members. In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother were slain by an armed mob in Carthage, Illinois.

After the Latter-Day Saints were driven out of Nauvoo, a French philosopher named Étienne Cabet established a socialist utopian society called Icaria in the town. However, the colony faced numerous problems and was disbanded in 1856 after Cabet’s death.

During the American Civil War, more than 250,000 men from Illinois served in the military, with only New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio surpassing the state in terms of fighting men. Illinois not only contributed troops, but also had 150 infantry regiments, 17 cavalry regiments, and 2 light artillery regiments.

The town of Cairo, situated in the southern part of the state, was strategically crucial and served as a training ground for the Union army as well as a supply base. In 1871, nearly one-third of Chicago was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire, which raged from October 8 to October 10, leaving a vast swath of the city in ruins and rendering over 100,000 people homeless. According to legend, the fire was caused when a cow belonging to the O’Leary family knocked over a lantern in their barn. The fire burned so fiercely because most buildings were made of wood. After the fire, Chicago was rebuilt using stone and steel, and the world’s first skyscraper was constructed in 1885. The skyscraper initially stood at 138 feet tall but was later raised to 180 feet by 1891. In 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition drew 27 million visitors to Chicago, showcasing many new inventions, including the world’s first Ferris wheel. The University of Chicago played a significant role in the development of nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project, creating the first sustained nuclear reaction in 1942. Additionally, a laboratory near Chicago activated the first experimental nuclear power generator in 1957. Finally, it is worth noting that Springfield, Illinois, is not the same as the fictional Springfield featured in The Simpsons, a popular American animated TV show.

The author wanted to keep people guessing about whether their hometown was the inspiration for his story. Despite being one of the flattest states in the US, Illinois boasts the highest point, Charles Mound, which stands at just 1,235 feet. This spot is only open to visitors a handful of times each year and is located at the top of someone’s driveway. Without Chicago’s strategic location on a trade route, Illinois would have had a very different history.


1. What is the population of Illinois?

As of 2021, the population of Illinois is approximately 12.6 million people, making it the sixth most populous state in the United States.

2. What is the capital city of Illinois?

The capital city of Illinois is Springfield, which is located in the central part of the state. It is home to many important historical sites, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

3. What is the nickname of Illinois?

The nickname of Illinois is “The Prairie State” due to the vast grasslands that cover much of the state’s landscape.

4. What is the state bird of Illinois?

The state bird of Illinois is the Northern Cardinal. It is a bright red bird that can often be seen in backyards and parks throughout the state.

5. What is the state flower of Illinois?

The state flower of Illinois is the Violet. This small purple flower is commonly found in lawns and gardens throughout the state.

6. What is the tallest building in Illinois?

The tallest building in Illinois is the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. It stands at 1,450 feet tall and is located in downtown Chicago.

7. What is the largest city in Illinois?

The largest city in Illinois is Chicago. It has a population of approximately 2.7 million people and is known for its impressive skyline, world-class museums, and diverse neighborhoods.

8. What is the state tree of Illinois?

The state tree of Illinois is the White Oak. This large tree can grow up to 100 feet tall and is commonly found in forests throughout the state.

9. What is the state animal of Illinois?

The state animal of Illinois is the White-tailed Deer. These graceful animals are commonly found in forests and fields throughout the state and are a popular attraction for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

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