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State of Illinois
State flag of Illinois State seal of Illinois
(Flag of Illinois) (Seal of Illinois)
State nickname: Land of Lincoln, The Prairie State
Map of the U.S. with Illinois highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Springfield
Largest city Chicago
Governor Rod Blagojevich (D)
Senators Richard Durbin (D)

Barack Obama (D)

Official language(s) English
Area 149,998 km² (25th)
 - Land 143,968 km²
 - Water 6,030 km² (4.0%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 12,419,293 (5th)
 - Density 86.27 /km² (11th)
Admission into Union
 - Date December 3, 1818
 - Order 21st
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5
Latitude 36°58'N to 42°30'N
Longitude 87°30'W to 91°30'W
Width 340 km
Length 629 km
 - Highest point 376 m
 - Mean 182 m
 - Lowest point 85 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-IL
Web site

Illinois (pronounced /ˌɪləˈnɔi/ or "ill-i-NOY") constitutes the 21st state of the United States, located in the former Northwest Territory. Its name was given by the state's French explorers after the indigenous Illiniwek people, a consortium of Algonquin tribes that thrived in the area. The word Illiniwek means simply "the people."

The capital of Illinois is Springfield while its largest city is Chicago The U.S. postal abbreviation for the state is IL.

The USS Illinois was named in honor of this state.



Main article: History of Illinois


Cahokia, the urban center of the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, was located near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. That civilization vanished circa 1400–1500 for unknown reasons. The next major power in the region was the Illiniwek Confederation, a political alliance among several tribes. The Illiniwek gave Illinois its name. The Illini suffered in the seventeenth century as Iroquois expansion forced them to compete with several tribes for land. The Illini were replaced in Illinois by the Potawatomi, Miami, Sauk, and other tribes.

European exploration

French explorers Jacques Marquette, S.J., and Louis Joliet explored the Illinois River in 1673. As a result of their exploration, Illinois was part of the French empire until 1763, when it passed to the British. George Rogers Clark claimed the Illinois Country for the Commonwealth of Virginia during his military campaigns there in 1778. The area was ceded to the new United States in 1783 and became part of the Northwest Territory.

The 1800s

The Illinois-Wabash Company was an early claimant to much of Illinois. The Illinois Territory was created on February 3, 1809. In 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. state. Early U.S. settlement began in the south part of the state and quickly spread northward, driving out the native residents. With the 1832 Black Hawk War, the last native tribes were driven out of northern Illinois.

Illinois is known as the "Land of Lincoln" because it is here that the 16th President spent most of his life, practicing law and living in Springfield.

Chicago gained prominence as a canal port after 1848, and as a rail hub soon afterward. By 1857, Chicago was Illinois' largest city.

The Civil War

During the Civil War, over 250,000 Illinois men served in the Union Army, more than any other northern state except New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Beginning with President Lincoln's first call for troops and continuing throughout the war, Illinois mustered 150 infantry regiments, which were numbered from the 7th IL to the 156th IL. Seventeen cavalry regiments were also gathered, as well as two light artillery regiments.


Main article: Government of Illinois
The sample version of the current Illinois license plate introduced in 2001.
The sample version of the current Illinois license plate introduced in 2001.

The state government of Illinois is modeled after the federal government with adaptations originating from traditions cultivated during the state's frontier era. As codified in the state constitution, there are three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch is led by the Governor of Illinois. Legislative functions are given to the Illinois General Assembly, composed of the 118-member Illinois State House of Representatives and the 59-member Illinois State Senate. The judiciary is comprised of the state supreme court, which oversees the lower appellate courts and circuit courts.

As the birthplace of the Republican Party, the GOP was long dominant in Illinois. This has changed and the state has supported Democratic presidential candidates in the last four elections. John Kerry easily won the state's 21 electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 11 percentage points with 54.8% of the vote. It is the most liberal of the Midwestern states. Traditionally Chicago, East Saint Louis, and the Quad Cities tend to vote heavily Democratic, along with the Central Illinois population centers of Peoria, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield and Decatur. Rural districts tend to vote more heavily Republican, but some, particularly in the southern part of the state, have voted Democratic as well. It should also be noted that the suburban areas surrounding Chicago vote heavily Republican, although this trend has started to go the other direction in the past 10 years.


Main article: Geography of Illinois

Illinois is in the north-central U.S. and borders on Lake Michigan. Surrounding states are Wisconsin to the north, Iowa and Missouri to the west, Kentucky to the south, and Indiana to the east. Illinois also borders Michigan, but only via a water boundary in Lake Michigan.

Illinois has three major geographical divisions. The first is Chicagoland, including the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and the adjoining exurban area into which the metropolis is expanding. This region includes a few counties in Indiana and Wisconsin and stretches across much of northern Illinois toward the Iowa border, generally along Interstates 80 and 90. This region is cosmopolitan, densely populated, industrialized, and settled by a variety of ethnic groups.

Southward and westward, the second major division is central Illinois, an area of mostly flat prairie. Known as the Land of Lincoln or the Heart of Illinois, it is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities. Agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, figures prominently. Major cities include famously average Peoria, Springfield (the state capital), and Champaign-Urbana (home of the University of Illinois).

The third division is southern Illinois, comprising the area south of U.S. Route 50, and including Little Egypt, near the juncture of the Mississippi River and Ohio River. This region can be distinguished from the other two by its warmer climate, different mix of crops (including some cotton farming in the past), more rugged unglaciated topography, as well as small-scale oil deposits and coal mining. The area is a little more populated than the central part of the state with the population centered in two areas: the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area (the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis are known as "The Metro-East") and the in Carbondale, Marion, West Frankfort, Herrin, Murphysboro, Carterville, Johnston City area which is home to a little over 180,000 residents.

Collectively, central and southern Illinois are often referred to within Illinois as "downstate Illinois".

McLean County is the largest county in terms of land area, at 1,184 sq mi., while Cook County is the largest county in terms of population, at 5,327,777 (both figures are as of 2004).

In extreme northwestern Illinois the Driftless Zone, a region of unglaciated and therefore higher and more rugged topography, occupies a small part of the state. Charles Mound, located in this region, is the state's highest elevation above sea level.

The floodplain on the Mississippi River from Alton to the Kaskaskia River is the American Bottom, and is the site of the ancient city of Cahokia, and was a region of early French settlement, as well as the site of the first state capital, at Kaskaskia.


Illinois Quarter
Main article: Economy of Illinois

The 2004 total gross state product for Illinois was $528 billion, placing it 5th in the nation. The 2003 per capita income was $32,965.

Illinois' agricultural outputs are corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, dairy products, and wheat. Its industrial outputs are machinery, food processing, electrical equipment, chemical products, publishing, fabricated metal products, transportation equipment, petroleum and coal.


Historical populations

1800 2,458
1810 12,282
1820 55,211
1830 157,445
1840 476,183
1850 851,470
1860 1,711,951
1870 2,539,891
1880 3,077,871
1890 3,826,352
1900 4,821,550
1910 5,638,591
1920 6,485,280
1930 7,630,654
1940 7,897,241
1950 8,712,176
1960 10,081,158
1970 11,113,976
1980 11,426,518
1990 11,430,602
2000 12,419,293

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2004 the population of Illinois was 12,713,634. This includes 1,682,900 foreign-born (13.3%).

At the northern edge of the state on Lake Michigan lies Chicago, the nation's third largest city. In 2000, 23.3% of the population lived in the city of Chicago, 43.3% in Cook County and 65.6% in Illinois's part of Chicagoland, the leading industrial and transportation center in the region, which includes Will, DuPage, and Lake Counties as well as Cook County. The rest of the population lives in the smaller cities and in the rural areas that dot the state's plains.

The racial makeup of the state is as follows:

The top five ancestry groups in Illinois are: German (19.6%), African American (15.1%), Irish (12.2%), Mexican (9.2%), Polish (7.5%).

Nearly three in ten whites in Illinois claimed at least partial German ancestry on the Census, making the Germans the largest ancestry group in the state. Blacks are present in large numbers in the city of Chicago, East St. Louis, and the southern tip of the state. Residents of American and British ancestry are especially concentrated in the southeastern part of the state. Metropolitan Chicago has the greatest numbers of people of Irish, Mexican, and Polish ancestry.

7.1% of Illinois' population were reported as under 5, 26.1% under 18, and 12.1% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51% of the population.


Protestants are the largest religious group in Illinois, however unlike the other Midwestern states, Illinois is not overwhelmingly Protestant (less than half of the people identify themselves as Protestants). Roman Catholics, who are heavily concentrated in and around Chicago, account for 30% of the population.

The religious affiliations of the people of Illinois are:

Important cities and towns

Illinois, showing major cities and roads
Illinois, showing major cities and roads

Population over 1,000,000:

Population 100,000 to 1,000,000:

Important suburbs of Chicago:

of St. Louis:

of Rockford:

of Peoria:

Population 10,000 to 100,000:

Counties of Illinois


Illinois State Board of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education or ISBE, autonomous of the governor and the state legislature, administers public education in the state. Local municipalities and their respective school districts operate individual public schools but the ISBE audits performance of public schools with an annual school report card. The ISBE also makes recommendations to state leaders concerning education spending and policies.

There is current debate as to the role of the ISBE and whether or not its autonomous relationship with the governor and the state legislature is appropriate. In 2002, the Office of the Governor proposed the creation of a monolithic statewide department of education to replace the ISBE. However, direct control of the new department would fall under the state governor's jurisdiction. The structure would mimic the system employed by the Hawaii State Department of Education, which has no local school districts. Opponents to the proposal argue that local communities would lose control over what their children would learn in public schools and the means by which those public schools operate.

Primary and secondary schools

Education is compulsory from kindergarten through the twelfth grade in Illinois, commonly but not exclusively divided into three tiers of primary and secondary education: elementary school, middle school or junior high school and high school. District territories are often complex in structure. In some cases, elementary, middle and junior high schools of a single district feed into high schools in another district.

Colleges and universities

While many students enter the military or join the workforce directly from high school, students have the option of applying to colleges and universities in Illinois. Notable Illinois institutions of higher education include Loyola University Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Chicago and the several branches of the University of Illinois. Illinois is also home to 49 colleges in the Illinois community college system.

List of colleges and universities

Professional sports teams

Favorite sons

Rogues gallery

  • William Stratton, Governor, charged with tax evasion, acquitted
  • Orville Hodge, State Auditor, imprisoned for embezzlement
  • Otto Kerner, Governor, state Supreme Court justice, imprisoned for bribery.
  • Paul Powell, Secretary of State, died with shoeboxes full of purloined state funds
  • Dan Walker, Governor, imprisoned for Savings and Loan malfeasance
  • Dan Rostenkowski, U.S. Congressman, indicted for corruption, pleaded guilty to mail fraud
  • George Ryan, Secretary of State, Governor, currently on trial for corruption

State symbols

The Cardinal is the state bird of Illinois
The Cardinal is the state bird of Illinois

See also

External links

Flag of Illinois State of Illinois
Topics History | Government | Economy | Culture
Capital Springfield
Regions Champaign-Urbana | Chicagoland | Little Egypt | Metro-East | American Bottom
Major cities Alton | Aurora | Belleville | Berwyn | Bloomington | Burbank | Calumet City | Champaign | Chicago | Crystal Lake | Decatur | DeKalb | Des Plaines | Elgin | Elmhurst | Evanston | Joliet | Kankakee | Moline | Naperville | Park Ridge | Peoria | Quincy | Rockford | Rock Island | Springfield | St. Charles | Urbana | Wheaton | Waukegan
Largest Towns and Villages

Addison | Arlington Heights | Bartlett | Bolingbrook | Buffalo Grove | Carol Stream | Carpentersville | Cicero | Downers Grove | Elk Grove Village | Glenview | Hoffman Estates | Lombard | Mount Prospect | Normal | Oak Lawn | Oak Park | Oswego | Orland Park | Palatine | Schaumburg | Skokie | Tinley Park

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