The History of Illinois

Journey Through Illinois's History and Trivia

Welcome to our Illinois history and trivia page, presented by History By Mail. Join us as we embark on a journey through the captivating past and cultural tapestry of the Prairie State. From ancient Native American civilizations to European exploration and the modern era, we'll explore Illinois' hidden gems and challenge your knowledge with entertaining quizzes. Let's uncover the rich history and intriguing trivia of Illinois together.

Illinois, known as the Prairie State, is a land of extraordinary history and diverse heritage. From the indigenous tribes who first inhabited the region, such as the Illini and Cahokia, to the impact of French and British exploration and the establishment of settlements, Illinois holds a captivating legacy. From the iconic city of Chicago to the rolling fields of the Illinois prairie, the state showcases a blend of cultures, urban vibrancy, and a deep connection to its Native American and European roots.

Join us as we unravel the intriguing history and trivia of Illinois, delving into its role in shaping American history, its contributions to industry and transportation, and the fascinating stories that make it a unique and cherished part of our nation's heritage.

Idaho, known as the Gem State, is a land of extraordinary history and diverse heritage. From the indigenous tribes who first inhabited the region, such as the Shoshone and Nez Perce, to the impact of Western exploration and settlement, Idaho holds a captivating legacy. From the breathtaking landscapes of the Sawtooth Mountains to the iconic Snake River, Idaho showcases a blend of cultures, natural wonders, and a deep connection to its Native American roots.

Join us as we unravel the intriguing history and trivia of Idaho, delving into its mining boom, the establishment of fur trading posts, the impact of the Oregon Trail, and the state's unique contributions to agriculture and industry.

Facts About llinois

State Abbreviation: IL

Capital: Springfield

Name Origin: The name Illinois comes from the Native American tribe living on the land when the area was first explored by Europeans.

Nickname: Prairie State

Statehood: December 3, 1818 (21st State)

State Motto: State sovereignty, national union

The official state flag of Illinois was adopted in 1969 and features the Great Seal of Illinois. - History By Mail

Illinois' Flag

The State Flag of Illinois features a simple yet impactful design. The flag consists of a field of white, symbolizing purity and innocence. In the center of the flag is the state seal, which depicts an eagle with its wings spread wide, representing courage and power. The eagle carries a banner in its beak that bears the state motto, "State Sovereignty, National Union," symbolizing Illinois' commitment to both state and national interests.

The Illinois State Seal, adopted in 1868, features a bald eagle pitched on a rock carrying a shield in its talons and a banner with the state motto in its beak. - History By Mail

Illinois' Great Seal

Since becoming a state, Illinois has utilized three distinct state seals. The latest iteration, dating back to 1867, features an American eagle perched on a boulder within a prairie landscape, with the sun emerging on the horizon. In its beak, the eagle clasps a scroll bearing the state motto, "State Sovereignty, National Union." The initial 1820 version of the seal positioned these words differently, but following the American Civil War, a new seal was commissioned with "National Union" leading the phrase. However, the seal maker arranged it so that the other wording remains more prominent.

History of Illinois

French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet made their historic visit to the region in 1673, marking the first recorded European presence. In 1699, French settlers established the inaugural permanent settlement near present-day East St. Louis at Cahokia. The end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763 resulted in Great Britain gaining control of the area. Throughout the Revolutionary War and the early 19th century, the region played a significant role in frontier struggles and conflicts with Native American tribes.

Several notable events shaped the early history of Illinois, including the influx of settlers following the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the conclusion of the Black Hawk War that quelled Native American troubles, and the remarkable ascent of Abraham Lincoln from farm laborer to president.

Today, Illinois excels in manufacturing, coal mining, agriculture, and oil production. The state's manufacturing sector encompasses food and agricultural products, transportation equipment, chemicals, industrial machinery, and computer equipment. The sprawling Chicago district, which extends into Indiana, holds prominence as a major hub for iron and steel production, meatpacking, grain exchanges, and railroads. Chicago is also renowned as a significant port on the Great Lakes.

Illinois ranks among the leading producers of soybeans, corn, and hogs. Other agricultural commodities include cattle, wheat, oats, sorghum, and hay.

Central Illinois is home to numerous shrines and memorials associated with Abraham Lincoln's life. In Springfield, visitors can explore the Lincoln Home, Lincoln Tomb, and the meticulously restored Old State Capitol. Other points of interest include the historic home of Mormon leader Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and in Chicago: the Art Institute, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Merchandise Mart, and Chicago Portage National Historic Site.

Tragically, on February 14, 2008, a former graduate student named Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire in a classroom on the campus of Northern Illinois University, resulting in 18 casualties and six fatalities, including the perpetrator.

Rod Blagojevich, the first Democrat to be elected governor in 30 years, faced legal troubles when he was arrested on December 9, 2008, and subsequently impeached on January 9, 2009, on corruption charges. Blagojevich began serving a fourteen-year prison sentence on March 15, 2012.

In 2011, the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the longest-running talk show in television history, aired in Chicago, Oprah Winfrey's beloved adopted hometown. The show had a remarkable 25-year run, accumulating numerous accolades along the way.

  • Cardinals are brilliant red all over, with a reddish bill and black face immediately around the bill. - History By Mail

    State Bird


  • The bluegill has a compressed, saucer-shaped body. - History By Mail

    State Fish


  • Violets are characterized by their heart-shaped or rounded leaves and their five-petaled flowers. - History By Mail

    State Flower


  • Tully monsters were squid-like or lamprey-like in appearance, featuring stalked eyes and a long proboscis that may have been used to probe the mud for small creatures or food scraps. - History By Mail

    State Fossil

    Tully Monster

  • The white-tailed deer has white on its throat, around its eyes and nose, on its stomach, and on the underside of its tail. - History By Mail

    State Mammal

    White-tailed Deer

  • Dolostone is quite similar to limestone but is composed mostly of the mineral dolomite. - History By Mail

    State Stone


  • The painted turtle can be distinguished by its dark shell, which has olive lines running across the carapace. - History By Mail

    State Reptile

    Painted Turtle

  • Drummer's topsoil is more often silty clay loam in texture but sometimes silt loam. - History By Mail

    State Soil


  • Fluorite impurities usually make it a colorful mineral and the stone has ornamental and lapidary uses. - History By Mail

    State Mineral


  • White oak with red leaves during fall. - History By Mail

    State Tree

    White Oak

  • The milkweed is pale pink, arranged in umbels. - History By Mail

    State Wildflower


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Fun Facts

  • The state’s official snack food is popcorn, which can be served Chicago-style—that’s a mixture of cheese-covered and caramel-covered popcorn!
  • Famous folks from Illinois include Hillary Clinton, U.S. representative and civil rights activist Carol Moseley Braun, First Lady Michelle Obama, and women’s rights activist Betty Friedan.
  • Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry contains the world’s largest pinball machine and a miniature castle.
  • Illinois’ slogan is the Land of Lincoln because Abraham Lincoln lived there for 31 years. Today visitors can see Lincoln’s home and his tomb in Springfield.

Things To Do in Illinois

  1. Explore Chicago: Visit the vibrant city of Chicago and experience its iconic landmarks, such as Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Take in breathtaking views from Willis Tower Skydeck or enjoy a cruise along the Chicago River. Immerse yourself in the city's diverse neighborhoods, renowned culinary scene, and world-class museums.
  2. Discover Route 66: Embark on a road trip along the historic Route 66, which stretches across Illinois. Drive through charming small towns, visit vintage diners and roadside attractions, and soak in the nostalgia of this legendary highway. Don't miss the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, which showcases the history and memorabilia of this iconic route.
  3. Explore Starved Rock State Park: Venture outside the city and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Starved Rock State Park. Located along the Illinois River, this park offers stunning canyons, waterfalls, and hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views. Enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, picnicking, and birdwatching in this scenic oasis.
  4. Visit Abraham Lincoln's Home: Step back in time and visit the historic home of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield. Explore the preserved neighborhood where Lincoln lived before becoming president and tour his family home, which provides insights into his personal life and political career. Nearby, you can also visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to learn more about this influential figure in American history.
  5. Experience Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture: Illinois is home to several architectural masterpieces designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America's greatest architects. Visit Oak Park, where you can explore the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, or head to the suburb of Riverside to admire the awe-inspiring architecture of the Frederick C. Robie House. These structures showcase Wright's innovative designs and his impact on modern architecture.
Comprehensive map of Illinois highlighting cities, roads, and geographical features. - History By Mail

General Map of Illinois

Illinois, often referred to as the "Prairie State," is a captivating destination located in the Midwest region of the United States. Renowned for its rich history, vibrant culture, and bustling cities, Illinois offers a plethora of activities and attractions that cater to every traveler's interests.

  • Jane Addams

    (September 6, 1860 - Cedarville) - Co-founded Hull House in Chicago, a settlement house that provided educational and social services to immigrants and the underprivileged. Addams was also a prominent advocate for peace and women's suffrage.

  • Jack Benny

    (February 14, 1894 - Chicago) - Renowned comedian and actor. He achieved great success in radio and television, showcasing his comedic timing and distinctive deadpan delivery.

  • Black Hawk (Sauk)

    (c. 1767 - Rock Island) - Prominent leader and warrior of the Sauk Native American tribe. He is famous for his resistance during the Black Hawk War of 1832, which took place in present-day Illinois and Wisconsin.

  • Harry A. Blackmun

    (November 12, 1908 - Nashville) - Influential jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1970 to 1994. He authored several significant opinions, including the landmark Roe v. Wade decision regarding abortion rights.

  • Hillary Clinton

    (October 26, 1947 - Chicago) - Prominent American politician and diplomat who served as the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001. She also served as a U.S. Senator from New York and later as the Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. Clinton made history as the first woman to be nominated for President by a major political party in the 2016 elections.

  • John Chancellor

    (July 14, 1927 - Chicago) - Respected journalist and television news anchor, best known for his work with NBC News. He served as the anchor of the NBC Nightly News during the 1970s, delivering news coverage and analysis on significant national and international events.

Frequently Asked Questions About Illinois

Frequently Asked Questions

When did Illinois become a state?

Illinois became the 21st state of the United States on December 3, 1818. It was admitted to the Union during the presidency of James Monroe.

What is the nickname of Illinois and how did it get that name?

Illinois is often referred to as the "Prairie State." This nickname comes from the vast grasslands that covered the state before urbanization and agriculture took over. These prairies were home to diverse plant and animal life and played a significant role in shaping Illinois' early history.

What is the origin of Illinois' name?

The name "Illinois" is derived from the native Algonquian language. It is believed to have been derived from the word "ilinwe," which means "best people." The French explorers who first encountered the indigenous people of the region referred to them as the "Illinois," and the name eventually became associated with the land itself.

How did Illinois contribute to the Civil War?

Illinois played a significant role in the American Civil War. It provided thousands of soldiers to both the Union and Confederate armies, with a strong majority fighting for the Union. Notably, President Abraham Lincoln, a native of Illinois, led the country through this tumultuous period.

Related Resources

  1. Official Website of the State of Illinois: The official website provides information about state government services, agencies, tourism, business resources, and more. Visit:
  2. Illinois Department of Tourism: Discover Illinois' attractions, events, outdoor activities, scenic drives, and plan your visit to the state. Visit:
  3. Illinois Historic Preservation Agency: Learn about Illinois' rich history, explore historic sites and landmarks, and access educational resources. Visit:
  4. Illinois Department of Natural Resources: Explore Illinois' natural resources, state parks, trails, wildlife, hunting and fishing opportunities, and conservation efforts. Visit:
  5. Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway: Experience the iconic Route 66 in Illinois, discover its history, attractions, and plan a road trip along this historic highway. Visit:
  6. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: Learn about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, explore exhibits, artifacts, and educational resources at this renowned museum. Visit:
  7. Art Institute of Chicago: Discover one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, featuring a vast collection of artworks from various periods and cultures. Visit:
  8. Field Museum: Explore natural history and cultural exhibits at the Field Museum, including Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex skeleton ever discovered. Visit:
  9. Shedd Aquarium: Immerse yourself in the wonders of aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium, home to a diverse range of marine species and educational programs. Visit:
  10. Chicago Architecture Center: Learn about Chicago's architectural heritage, take architectural tours, and explore exhibits that showcase the city's iconic skyline. Visit: