On December 3, National Illinois Day recognizes the Land of Lincoln, home to the Windy City, and fertile prairies. As the 21st state to join the United States, Illinois’s distinct political, industrial, agricultural and population densities create an intriguing contrast to other states.
Part of the process for being admitted as a State was for Illinois to adopt its own constitution. The word Illinois comes from the French word meaning Illini or Land of Illini. It is an Algonquin word meaning Men or Warriors. Illinois was discovered in 1673, settled in 1720, and entered the Union on December 3, 1818.
When farmers began to settle on the Illinois prairie, they found the thick soil challenging to sow. One Vermont blacksmith made the work easier with the invention of the steel plow that cut sod more efficiently than previous tools. John Deere plow was born.
Railroads and shipping lines grew with farms in the rich prairies as settlers spread across the state. Chicago’s proximity to Lake Michigan has made it a major hub for the transportation of goods across the country.
With the invention of the combustion engine, more reliable public highways became a national goal. U.S. Route 66 would become the iconic ribbon from Chicago to Los Angeles. Officially established in 1926, portions of the route were created from already existing roads.
Illinois completed the first leg of Route 66 during an era when Prohibition was in full swing. A paved roadway gave illegal transportation of spirits a bootleg up and the state a reputation that has become legendary for this era.
While Ronald Reagan was the only president born in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Barack Obama all called Illinois home.
Traveling around the state, we will glimpse the wonders of nature or the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. From tours of his architecture in Oak Park to Starved Park State Park and Horseshoe Mound, Illinois offers urban and outdoor enjoyment.
Here are some interesting facts about Illinois.
- Illinois has 102 counties, primarily named after early American leaders.
- Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery on February 1, 1865.
- The Willis Tower in Chicago is the third tallest building in North America at 1,451 feet.
- In 1885, the first modern skyscraper was built in Chicago, it was known as the Home Insurance Building.
- Although there are multiple statements on who invented the term, ice cream “sundae,” claims to come from Garwood’s Drugstore in Evanston, Illinois.
- In 1899, construction began underground in Chicago with the intention of creating a telephone system. As construction continued, it became a narrow-gauge freight railroad and ended up as a portal for the transportation of goods.
- Illinois has the third-highest number of personalized license plates.
- Did you know in Mount Pulaski, Illinois, it is illegal for boys (and only boys) to throw snowballs at trees?
- Robert Pershing Wadlow, also known as the world’s tallest man, was born in Alton, Illinois, and was last recorded in 1940 as being 8’11”, weighing 491 pounds, and wearing a size 37 shoe.
- Agricultural and forestry machinery producer, John Deere, was founded in 1937 in Moline, Illinois.
- Chicago is the largest city in Illinois with a population of 2,720,546 people and ranks third in the country.
- Walt Disney was born in Chicago on December 5, 1901.
- In Illinois, there are 333 farms that grown popcorn on 47,000 acres, making it the third-largest popcorn producer. Which explains why Illinois’ state snack is popcorn.
- On Saint Patrick’s Day, the Chicago River is dyed green.
- On April 6, 1930, Twinkies were invented by James Alexander Dewar in Schiller Park, Illinois.
- Morton, Illinois, is known as the “pumpkin capital of the world,” because more than 85% of packaged pumpkin is processed there. There is even an annual Pumpkin Festival held during the second week of September.
- In 1990, the Square Dance was named the official dance of Illinois.
- The name Illinois originates from an Algonquin Indian word with several translations, such as “warriors,” “tribe of superior men,” and “best people.”
- The Chicago Bears were first known as the “Staley Bears.” The name changed in 1922 to match the Chicago Cubs.
- Chicago earned the title as the “Candy Capital of the World” by representing dozens of candy companies since the early 1900s.
- In 1955, the first McDonald’s opened in Des Plaines, Illinois.
- In 1940, Dairy Queen’s Blizzards made their way into our hearts when the ice cream franchise first opened its doors in Joliet, Illinois.
- About 80% of Illinois is made up of farmland.
- Kevin McCallister and his brilliant tricks debuted in three Home Alone movies that were shot primarily in the Chicagoland area.
- On October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned about 3.3 square miles of the city. The only buildings that survived within the fire zone include Saint Michael’s Church (Old Town), Chicago Water Tower and Chicago Avenue Pumping Station, Saint Ignatius College (now Saint Ignatius College Prep on Roosevelt), and the Holy Family Church.
- The Illinois state reptile is the Painted Turtle.
- Chicago’s first chartered hospital was Mercy Hospital, built in1852, which aimed to provide high-quality medical care and top-notch medical education.
- In 1983, Harold Washington took office as Chicago’s first African American mayor.
- The Illinois state tree is the white oak.
- Lincoln Park Zoo was founded in 1868 and was given a pair of swans as a gift from New York’s Central Park Board of Commissioners. In 1874, the first official animal, a bear cub, was purchased for $10.