Illinois in 1899 Compared to Illinois in 1999

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Illinois in 1899 Compared to Illinois in 1999

Why not compare Illinois in 1900 with Illinois in 2000. Well, the year 2000 still has most of its course to run, but the real reason is that 1899 was the year the Illinois State Historical Society came to active life. What follows compares Illinois in that year with Illinois in 1999, or, practically speaking, the present.

There were about 4.7 million people in Illinois in 1899; in 1999 we were approaching 12 million. Then our population was made almost entirely of European immigrants and the descendants of European immigrants; in 1999 successive waves of migration had brought over a million African Americans to the state, and hundreds of thousands of people from the Spanish-speaking Americas and from Asia. About a third of those 4.7 million lived in, or close to Chicago. In 1999 the proportion had grown to over three-fifths. But more than half of Chicagoland was outside the city limits of Chicago, spreading into the "collar counties" of Lake, McHenry, DuPage, and Will. Chicago itself has actually been losing population since 1950, while its metropolitan area has continued to grow. Most of the counties of central and southern Illinois have also been losing population in the twentieth century, as agriculture has become more and more efficient. In 1899 half the people of Illinois still lived on farms, or in rural villages where one kept livestock and grew gardens. The rural population in 1999 had dwindled below five percent. In 1899 only two states, New York and Pennsylvania, had more inhabitants than Illinois. By 1899 three large sun-belt states had surpassed us: California, Texas, and Florida.

In 1899 farm families still produced most of their own food, then sold their surplus. The state was then a leading producer of wheat, beef cattle, dairy cattle, corn, hogs, and horses - still essential to the farmer and to short-distance hauling in towns and cities. By 1999 field corn and soy beans had come to dominate agriculture, and new techniques made it possible to run giant machines over the soil just twice a year. Horses barely survive, for sport and entertainment. Southern Illinois, less amenable to prairie agriculture, has expanded its production of truck crops, fruits, and wine grapes; agriculturally speaking it remains the least profitable and most interesting part of the state.

Two leading occupations of 1899 have either disappeared or have been transformed by technical changes. The meat-packing houses, initially so famous in establishing Chicago as a major city, and later so notorious because of Upton Sinclair's novel of protest, The Jungle, have long since departed. They were still expanding production in 1899. And coal mining was a major occupation in almost every part of the state, equally famous for conflicts between labor and management and, every few years, disastrous accidents.

The "soft" or bituminous coal of Illinois is currently out of fashion because of its high sulfur content. It remains, however, a great reservoir of fossil fuel if the nation ever gets desperate.

Illinois in 1899 was among the nation's leaders in the manufacture of ready-made clothing, furniture, musical instruments, and books, as well as in the brewing of beer and the distilling of whiskey These industries too have either left altogether or are much curtailed. The case (so to speak) of beer is particularly interesting: the huge breweries of Chicago closed down one by one until none remained; then the so-called micro-breweries, with their more elegant products, and higher prices began appearing at the end of the century Patriotic citizens of Illinois ponder the question: why do we import our beer from Wisconsin and our whiskey from Kentucky?

In 1899 Chicago had already been the rail center of the United States for some thirty years. This brought millions of transients through the city, and provided tens of thousands of jobs operating and maintaining the railroads and manufacturing everything from boxcars to George Pullman's "Palace Cars," whose luxurious appointments proved the appellation merely descriptive, not hyperbolic. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Illinois in 1899 Compared to Illinois in 1999


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.