Illinois, midwestern state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Lake Michigan and Indiana (E); Kentucky, across the Ohio River (SE); Missouri and Iowa, across the Mississippi River (W); and Wisconsin (N).
Facts and Figures
Area, 56,400 sq mi (146,076 sq km). Pop. (2010) 12,830,632, a 3.3% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Springfield. Largest city, Chicago. Statehood, Dec. 3, 1818 (21st state). Highest pt., Charles Mound, 1,235 ft (377 m); lowest pt., Mississippi River, 279 ft (85 m). Nicknames, Inland Empire; Prairie State. Motto, State Sovereignty—National Union. State bird, cardinal. State flower, native violet. State tree, white oak. Abbr., Ill.; IL
The broad level lands that gave Illinois the nickname Prairie State were fashioned by late Cenozoic glaciation, which leveled rugged ridges and filled valleys over the northern and central parts of the state. The fertile prairies are drained by more than 275 rivers, most of which flow to the Mississippi-Ohio system; the Illinois is the largest river in the state.
These rivers provided early explorers a way SW from Lake Michigan into the interior of the continent and later, in the days of canal building, played a big part in hastening settlement of the prairies. The completion of the Erie Canal linked Illinois, through the Great Lakes, to the eastern seaboard of the United States. The Illinois Waterway links Chicago to the Mississippi basin as the old Chicago and Illinois and Michigan canals once did, and the St. Lawrence Seaway provides access for oceangoing vessels. The waterways are but a part of a transportation complex that includes railroads, airlines (Chicago's O'Hare airport is one of the busiest in the world), and an extensive modern highway system.
The state's climate is continental, with extreme seasonal variations of temperature in parts of the state. Among Illinois's many tourist attractions are Shawnee National Forest, with recreational facilities; the Cahokia Mounds; and many state parks and historical sites, including New Salem and Lincoln's home and burial place in Springfield. An additional summer attraction is the Illinois State Fair. Springfield is the capital; Chicago, Rockford, and Peoria are the largest cities.
Rich land, adequate rainfall (32–36 in./81–91 cm annually), and a long growing season make Illinois an important agricultural state. It consistently ranks among the top states in the production of corn and soybeans. Hogs and cattle are also principal sources of farm income. Other major crops include hay, wheat, and sorghum. Beneath the fertile topsoil lies mineral wealth, including fluorspar, bituminous coal, and oil; Illinois ranks high among the states in the production of coal, and its reserves are greater than any other state east of the Rocky Mts. Its agricultural and mineral resources, along with its excellent lines of communication and transportation, made Illinois industrial; by 1880 income from industry was almost double that from agriculture.
Leading Illinois manufactures include electrical and nonelectrical machinery, food products, fabricated and primary metal products, and chemicals; printed and published materials are also important. Metropolitan Chicago, the country's leading rail center, is also a major industrial, as well as a commercial and financial, center. Suburbs of Chicago such as Schaumburg and Oak Brook have become important business centers. Scattered across the northern half of the state are cities with specialized industries—Elgin, Peoria, Rock Island, Moline, and Rockford. Industrially important cities in central Illinois include Springfield and Decatur.
Government, Politics, and Higher Education
The governor of Illinois is elected for a term of four years. Jim Edgar, a Republican elected governor in 1990 and 1994, was succeeded by another Republican, George H. Ryan, elected in 1998. In 2002 a Democrat, Rod Blagojevich, was elected to the office; he was reelected in 2006. In 2009, however, he was impeached and removed from office because of accusations that he had sought to gain from his appointment of the U.S. senator who would succeed Barack Obama. (In 2011 he was convicted in federal courts on charges arising from the case.) Lieutenant Governor Patrick J. Quinn, also a Democrat, replaced Blagojevich and won election to the office in 2010, but Quinn lost to Republican Bruce Rauner in 2014. The state legislature, called the general assembly, consists of a senate with 59 members and a house of representatives with 118 members. Illinois elects 18 representatives and 2 senators to the U.S. Congress and has 20 electoral votes.
Institutions of higher learning in Illinois include the Univ. of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign and Chicago; DePaul Univ., the Univ. of Chicago, and the Illinois Institute of Technology, at Chicago; Northwestern Univ., at Evanston; Illinois State Univ., at Normal; and Southern Illinois Univ., at Carbondale and Edwardsville.
Early Inhabitants and European Exploration
At the end of the 18th cent. the Illinois, Sac, Fox, and other Native American groups were living in the river forests, where many centuries before them the prehistoric Mound Builders had dwelt. French explorers and missionaries came to the region early. Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet, on their return from a trip down the Mississippi, paddled up the Illinois River in 1673, and two years later Marquette returned to establish a mission in the Illinois country.
In 1679 the French explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, went from Lake Michigan to the Illinois, where he founded (1680) Fort Creve Coeur and with his lieutenant, Henri de Tonti, completed (1682–83) Fort St. Louis on Starved Rock cliff. French occupation of the area was sparse, but the settlements of Cahokia and Kaskaskia achieved a minor importance in the 18th cent., and the area was valued for fur trading.
By the Treaty of Paris of 1763, ending the French and Indian Wars, France ceded all of the Illinois country to Great Britain. However, the British did not take possession until resistance, led by the Ottawa chief, Pontiac, was quelled (1766). In the American Revolution, George Rogers Clark and his expedition captured (1778) the British posts of Cahokia and Kaskaskia before going on to take Vincennes. The Illinois region was an integral part of the Old Northwest that came within U.S. boundaries by the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution. Under the Ordinance of 1787 the area became the Northwest Territory. Made part of Indiana Territory in 1800, Illinois became a separate territory in 1809.
Statehood and Settlement
The fur trade was still flourishing throughout most of Illinois when it became a state in 1818, but already settlers were pouring down the Ohio River by flatboat and barge and across the Genesee wagon road. In 1820 the capital was moved from Kaskaskia to Vandalia. The Black Hawk War (1832) practically ended the tenure of the Native Americans in Illinois and drove them W of the Mississippi. In the 1830s there was heavy and uncontrolled land speculation. Mob fury broke out with the murder (1837) of the abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy at Alton and in the lynching (1844) of the Mormon leader Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum at Carthage.
Industrialization and Abraham Lincoln
Industrial development came with the opening of an agricultural implements factory by Cyrus H. McCormick at Chicago in 1847 and the building of the railroads in the 1850s. During this period the career of Abraham Lincoln began. In the state legislature, Lincoln and his colleagues from Sangamon co. had worked hard and successfully to bring the capital to Springfield in 1839. As Illinois moved toward a wider role in the country's affairs, Lincoln and another Illinois lawyer, Stephen A. Douglas, won national attention with their debates on the slavery issue in the senatorial race of 1858. In 1861, Lincoln became president and fought to preserve the Union in the face of the South's secession. During the Civil War, Illinois supported the Union, but there was much proslavery sentiment in the southern part of the state.
By the 1860s industry was well established, and many immigrants from Europe had already settled in the state, foreshadowing the influx still to come. Immediately after the Civil War, industry expanded to tremendous proportions, and the Illinois legislature, by setting aside acreage for stockyards, prepared the way for the development of the meatpacking industry. Economic development had outrun the construction of facilities, and Chicago was a mass of flimsy wooden structures when the fire of 1871 destroyed most of the city.
Discontent and the Rise of the Labor Movement
In the latter part of the 19th cent. farmers in the state revolted against exorbitant freight rates, tariff discrimination, and the high price of manufactured goods. Illinois farmers enthusiastically joined the Granger movement. Laborers in factories, railroads, and mines also became restive, and from 1870 to 1900 Illinois was the scene of such violent labor incidents as the Haymarket Square riot of 1886 and the Pullman strike of 1894.
In the 20th cent. labor conditions improved, but violent labor disputes persisted, notably the massacre at Herrin in 1922 during a coal-miners' strike and the bloody riot during a steel strike at Chicago in 1937. State politics became divided by the conflicting forces of farmers, laborers, and corporations, and opposing political machines came into being downstate and upstate.
Diversification and Change
In 1937 new oil fields were discovered in southern Illinois, further enhancing the state's industrial development. During World War II the nation's first controlled nuclear reaction was accomplished at the Univ. of Chicago, paving the way for development of nuclear weapons during the war. The war also spurred the further growth of the Chicago metropolitan area, and in the postwar period thousands of African Americans from the rural south came seeking industrial work.
Adlai E. Stevenson, governor of Illinois from 1949 to 1953, achieved national prominence in winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952 and 1956. Also during the 1950s the
to the Illinois constitution simplified the state's constitutional amendment process. In 1970, Illinois adopted a new state constitution that, among other reforms, banned discrimination in employment and housing.
Southern Illinois experienced population declines in the 1950s and 60s as farms in the south became more mechanized, providing fewer jobs in the area. The area was hard hit again in the 1980s as farm prices fell and farm machinery, the major industrial product of southern Illinois, was no longer in high demand. The northern portion of the state saw a major decline in manufacturing in the 1970s and 80s, which was partially offset by an increase in the service and trade industry and Chicago's continued strength as a financial center. The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 was the first time someone born in the state had won that office, and Barack Obama, who became the first African-American to be elected president in 2008, had served as U.S. senator from Illinois before his election. Flooding along the Mississippi inundated large areas of W Illinois in 1993.
See W. L. Burton, The Trembling Land: Illinois in the Age of Exploration (1966); V. Hicken, Illinois in the Civil War (1966); R. J. Jensen, Illinois: A History (1978); R. E. Nelson, ed., Illinois (1978); C. W. Horrell et al., Land Between the Rivers (1982); A. D. Horsley, Illinois: A Geography (1986); P. F. Nardulli, Diversity, Conflict, and State Politics (1989).