Last updated on December 29th, 2018
Illinois is the 6th most populous and the 25th most extensive of the United States. It lies in the Midwestern region of the United States. The state attained statehood on December 3, 1818, becoming the 21st state to join the union. On December 3, 2018, the state will celebrate 200 years of statehood. It has six (6) bordering states including Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan (water boundary). See the full list of states and their borders here. Illinois (nicknamed: the Prairie State) has 102 counties. The state’s capital is Springfield. With these 46 facts about Illinois, let us learn more about its geography, history, people, economy and more.
1. In 1673, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet arrived in the region. They were exploring the Mississippi River in search of a route to the Pacific Ocean.
2. Most of the area of the state was once covered with prairie grass, which earned the state its nickname – “The Prairie State.”
Flag of Illinois
3. After the invention of the self-scouring steel plow by John Deere in 1837, farmers from Germany and Sweden entered the region. The invention hence turned the region into some of the world’s most productive and valuable farmland.
4. After the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, the transportation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley greatly improved. And thus the state became a transportation hub.
5. Barack Obama, a former U.S. president was elected while he was living in Illinois. Ronald Reagan is the only U.S. president born in Illinois.
6. The word “Illinois” comes from the French version of an Indian word which means “men” or “warriors.”
7. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, located in Illinois, is one of the world’s busiest airports. It was ranked at the 6th spot in 2017 for the most number of passenger arrivals and departures.
8. Willis Tower (renamed Willis Tower in 2009), formerly known as Sears Tower, is a 110 story building in Chicago, Illinois. The tower is 1450 feet high. At the time of its completion in 1973, it held the record for the world’s tallest building after surpassing the One World Trade Centre towers in New York. The Willis Tower is now the second-tallest building in North America. 
10. In 1829, Abraham Lincoln came to Illinois from Indiana. The former president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln (served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865), spent 24 years of his adult life in Springfield (in the west-central part of the state), Illinois. Interestingly, he started his political career while living in the state. Lincoln’s home and tomb in Springfield are open for visitors.
11. Illinois is considered as a swing state because of its political stance.
12. Chicago (a national railroad hub), one of the country’s most prominent cities, lies in the state of Illinois.
13. Charles Mound is Illinois’ highest point. It is 1,235 feet (376 meters) above sea level.
14. About three-fourths of the state’s area is covered under farms. The rich black soil in the state helps in producing a lot of corn and soybean.
15. Illinois has eleven (11) nuclear power reactors, more than any other state.
16. The last episode of the award-winning “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was aired in Chicago. The show was the longest-running talk show (September 8, 1986, to May 25, 2011) in television history.
17. Several nicknames of Illinois include “The Land of Lincoln” (also the Official State Slogan of Illinois), “The Prairie State”, “The Corn State”, “The Garden of the West”, “The Sucker State and Egypt”.
18. Interestingly, the state quarter also has an image of resolute Lincoln with a book in his hand. (See the table at the end of the article.)
19. The tallest man in the world was born in Alton, Illinois, on 22 February 1918. When last measured on 27 June 1940, he was found to be 2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in) tall. The mighty man–ROBERT WADLOW– had an arm span of 2.88 m (9ft 5.75 in). However, he did not live long and died on 15 July 1940 as a result of a septic blister on his right ankle.
20. By population, Chicago, Illinois is the third largest city in the U.S.
21. The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, which rose to 10 stories is the first metal-frame sky scrapper in the world. It was designed by engineer William LeBaron Jenney and was completed in 1885.
22. Illinois is also considered to be one of the most politically corrupt states in the U.S. Six governors of the state have been charged with crimes and four of these were sent to prison.
23. Boeing, the world’s largest commercial aerospace company, is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
24. Almost 33% of the population of the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
25. On April 15, 1955, the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, was opened.
26. Chicago, Illinois, was the starting point of Route 66, one of the essential icons of America. Route 66 (aka US 66) was opened in 1926 and extended from Chicago to Los Angeles, crossing much of the American Midwest, Great Plains, and Southwest.
27. Among 50 U.S. states and District of Columbia, at 2.32%, Illinois has the second highest property tax rate. The highest property tax rate is in New Jersey (2.40%) while the lowest is in Hawaii at 0.27%.
28. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 Census of Governments, Illinois has 6,963 units of local government. This is the highest number for any state. Pennsylvania (4,897 units) and Texas (5147 units) stand on the second and the third spot respectively.
29. Illinois has the third highest total of Interstate routes and mileage. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, “Illinois is at the heart of the country’s interstate highway system.”
30. In 1814, The Kaskaskia Illinois Herald was the first newspaper that was printed in Illinois.
State coat of arms
31. In 1922, the first radio station broadcast was made in Illinois from Tuscola.
32. Three rivers form the part of the boundary of Illinois – the Mississippi River, the Ohio River and the Wabash River.
33. After Wyoming and Kentucky, Illinois is the country’s third-largest bituminous coal producer. It has one-fifth of the nations demonstrated coal reserves.
34. Illinois generates 12% of the nation’s nuclear power.
35. The “Chicago Fire” also called the “Great Chicago Fire” started in Patrick and Catherine O’Leary’s barn on October 8, 1871 and killed between 200 and 300 people. The fire left 100,000 and more homeless and burnt some 17,000 buildings in the region. The damages from the fire were estimated at $200 million. The fire lasted until October 10. The abundance of wooden buildings and dry weather of the region made the city vulnerable to fire.
36. Abraham Lincoln worked as a postmaster in New Salem, Illinois. He was appointed On May 7, 1833, and was the only U.S. President who had served as a postmaster.
37. Morton, Illinois is dubbed as “the Pumpkin capital of the world”.
Illinois on map
38. The Lincoln Park Zoo (founded in 1886) is one of the free zoos in the U.S. and among the nation’s oldest public zoos.
39. The term “Jazz” was coined in Chicago in 1914 by Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa.
40. The Nabisco Factory in Chicago is the world’s largest bakery, an 18,000,000 square feet production facility.
41. The Chicago River is dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.
42. Illinois had two different state capitals before Springfield – Kaskaskia (1809 to 1819) and Vandalia (1819 to 1839).[33,34]
43. Peoria is the oldest European settlement in Illinois.
44. The flow of the Chicago River was reversed to empty into the Mississippi instead of the Michigan. The flow of the river was reversed to prevent epidemics of water-borne diseases, especially cholera. It took eight years and 8,500 workers to put the system in place. In 1999, the system was named a “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.[36,37]
45. The first controlled atomic chain reaction took place on a squash court at the University of Chicago in 1942 under the direction of physicist Enrico Fermi.
46. On Feb. 1, 1865, Illinois became the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which officially ended slavery and involuntary servitude.