57 Interesting Illinois Facts That You Should Know

Last updated on December 21st, 2021

46. 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. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was nominated at the 1860 Republican National Convention which was held in Chicago? [27]

47. Morton, Illinois is dubbed as “the Pumpkin capital of the world”.[28]

48. 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.[29]

49. The term “Jazz” was coined in Chicago in 1914 by Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa.[30]

50. The Nabisco Factory in Chicago is the world’s largest bakery, an 18,000,000 square feet production facility.[31]

51. The Chicago River is dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.[32]

52. Illinois had two different state capitals before Springfield – Kaskaskia (1809 to 1819) and Vandalia (1819 to 1839).[33,34]

Image of Chicago downtown and Chicago River with bridges at twilight. Illinois fact file.
Image of Chicago downtown and Chicago River with bridges at twilight.

53. Peoria is the oldest European settlement in Illinois. The name of the city is derived from old Illinois terminology, the modern pronunciation being peewaalia, which meant “Comes carrying a pack on his back.” Unfortunately there isn’t anybody left who can speak the Peoria language.[35]

54. 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]

55. 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.[38]

56. On Feb. 1, 1865, Illinois became the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which officially ended slavery and involuntary servitude.[39]

57. In September 1985, Champaign, Illinois, hosted an extraordinary Farm Aid concert, the first of its kind, at the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium. An incredible 80,000 people attended and in excess of $7 million was raised for farming families.

Illinois state – Quick facts and state symbols

State AbbreviationIL
State CapitalSpringfield
State SizeTotal (Land + Water): 57,914 sq miles; Land Only: 55,584 sq miles
(Estimate July 1, 2019 from United States Census Bureau)
Population per sq. mi., 2017230.6
StatehoodDecember 3, 1818
State Rank by population6th
State rank by date of formation21st
State rank by area25th
Number of Counties102
Complete list of 50 states and number of counties in each
Bordering StatesIndiana, Iowa, Michigan (water boundary), Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin
Official LanguageEnglish
Highest PointCharles Mound
1,235 ft (376.4 m)
Lowest pointConfluence of Mississippi River and Ohio River
280 ft (85 m)
Mean elevation600 feet above sea level
Length 400 miles (630 km)
Width215 miles (346 km)
GovernorJ. B. Pritzker (D)
Lieutenant GovernorJuliana Stratton (D)
Electoral Votes20
State MottoState sovereignty, national union
State NicknamePrairie State
% Water3.99
Nobel Prize WinnersLars Peter Hansen (Economic Sciences, 2013)
U.S. President Born in Illinois1. Ronald Wilson Reagan.
State Slogan
Land of Lincoln
State DanceSquare Dance
FossilTully monster
State AnimalWhite-tailed deer
State AmphibianEastern tiger salamander
State MineralFluorite
State InsectMonarch butterfly
State Prarie GrassBig bluestem
State FishBluegill
State FlowerViolet
State BirdCardinal
State ReptilePainted turtle
State SoilDrummer Soil
State ArtifactPirogue
State TreeWhite oak
State FruitGold Rush Apple
Longitude87° 30′ W to 91° 100′ W
Latitude36° 58′ N to 42° 30′ N
Time ZoneCentral Time Zone
Area Codes217, 224, 309, 312, 331, 447, 464, 618, 630, 708, 730, 773, 779, 815, 847, 872
Table Last UpdatedDecember 20, 2021

Facts about Chicago 

1. Chicagoland is an informal term used for the entire Chicago metropolitan area.

2. Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837.

3. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County.

4. Chicago is located on the shores of freshwater Lake Michigan.

Chicago on the map


5. Chicago is divided into 50 legislative districts or wards. An alderman who is elected by their constituency to serve a four year term represents each district.

6. Chicago has 77 community area and 100 neighborhoods.

7. Several nicknames are associated with Chicago including: Chi-Town, Second City, Windy City and the City of the Big Shoulders.

8. More lines of track radiate in more directions from Chicago than from any other city. Thus, Chicago is also referred as the Railroad Capital of the United States. Chicago stands second only to New York City in terms of the volume of commuter rail passengers carried each day. It is also the hub of Amtrak, the intercity rail passenger system.

9. Economically the city is one of the world’s most diverse and balanced, and according to some estimate, no single industry employs more than 14% of the workforce.

Chicago Skyline. facts about Chicago, Illinois.
Facts about Chicago, Illinois. Chicago’s Skyline. Image by Pedro Szekely

10. The Chicago area has one of the highest GDP’s in the world.

11. Chicago’s entire 28-mile Lake Michigan shoreline is man-made.

12. The world’s only drive-through post office is located in downtown Chicago. The Old Chicago Main Post Office, which is a nine-story building was built in 1921.   

Fun and interesting facts about Chicago

13. The world’s first successful open-heart surgery was performed on a human in 1893 by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in Provident Hospital in Chicago. The patient took 51 days to recover from the wound.

the twinkie
Facts about Chicago, Illinois. A box of Twinkies. Image credit – Willis Lam

14. Did you know that the Twinkie was invented in Chicago in 1930? Since then it has become America’s favorite snack that were sold for five cents per package of two. Twinkie is a spongy cake filled with vanilla cream.    

15. The Wrigley Building was the first air-conditioned building in Chicago.

16. Spray paint was invented in Chicago.

17. Chicago is also one of the top most visited cities in the U.S. Domestic as well as international visitor flock to the city for its tourism friendly atmosphere and entertainment.

18. Commonly known as the “Founder of Chicago”, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was the first known non-indigenous settler in Chicago.

19. Did you know that the world’s first controlled nuclear reaction was conducted at the University of Chicago on December 2, 1942, by physicist Enrico Fermi? The test was done as a part of the Manhattan Project.

20. In 1979, Jane Byrne became the city’s first female mayor.

21. Chicago is the Theatre capital of the U.S. The city has some 250 theatre companies and 200 theatres that keep the theatre-loving-mob entertained throughout the year. 

22. Did you know that the Chicago Park District which owns and manages more than 8,800 acres of green space, is the largest municipal park manager in the country. Some of the city’s famous recreational areas include: Jackson Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park, and Chicago Riverwalk.

23. Chicago has been dubbed the best restaurant city in America by Conde Nast Traveler.

About Chicago’s geography 

24. Chicago is home to 600 parks and 500 playgrounds. If you are a tennis enthusiast, you would be delighted to know that there are more than 500 tennis courts in the city. And the city also has plenty of fields for soccer and football.

25. The average height of Chicago city is 579 feet above mean sea level. 

26. In 2016, Bicycling Magazine named Chicago the best bicycle city in the U.S.

Bicycles in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Image credit – Marco Verch. Interesting Facts about Chicago. 

27. With more than 13,000 bike racks and 303 miles of bike lanes, Chicago has the second-highest percentage of commuters riding their bikes to work.

28. Did you know that Downtown Chicago has some double-decked and a few triple-decked streets? One such street is Wacker Drive. The street runs along the south side of the main branch and the east side of the south branch of the Chicago River in the Loop. Most of the street is double decked. The lower deck is used for through traffic and service vehicles; and the upper deck is used for local traffic and pleasure driving.    

29. The Chicago Loop which is one of Chicago’s 77 designated community areas is the second largest commercial district in North America. One can also call it Chicago’s commercial core. This is the area where you can find world’s renowned architectural feats including the Willis Tower, the AT&T Corporate Center, and the Chicago Board of Trade Building.

About Chicago’s history

30. In 1848, a couple of important things happened to the city. One was the opening of Chicago’s first railway, Galena and Chicago Union Railroad; and the other was the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

31. The construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal transformed the fate of Chicago. On April 24, 1848, the first cargo boat arrived in Chicago by canal. The canal and later the railroads made Chicago an attractive location for manufacture. 

32. Did you know that, founded in 1871, the Chicago Tribune is the largest newspaper in the Midwest? The newspaper which is a part of the Tribune Publishing Company, is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.

33. The Chicago Convention which is also known as the Convention on International Civil Aviation established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO is a specialized agency which coordinates and regulates international air travel. The Convention was signed by 52 states on 7 December 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., and came into effect on 4 April 1947.

34. According to the Chicago State University, its graduates earn an average of $44,000 upon graduation.

35. The Pilsen Historic District was named by the Czech immigrants after Plzen, the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic.

36. Did you know that in 1837, the first hospital blood bank in the United States was established at Cook County Hospital in Chicago? Dr Bernard Fantus coined the term “blood bank”. Interestingly, it was the Austrian physician who first grouped blood into types A, B and O. It was during the First World War that direct human to human blood transfusion was done, which saved many lives.

Chicago – quick facts and statistics

State nameIllinois
Population2,694,236 (2020)
AreaCity: 227.63 sq mi

Water: 6.80 sq mi
CountiesCook, DuPage
GovernmentType: Mayor–council
Body: Chicago City Council
MayorLori Lightfoot (D)
(Assumed office on May 20, 2019)
Settledcirca 1780
Date of IncorporationMarch 4, 1837
Major IndustriesManufacturing, printing and publishing, finance and insurance, and food processing.
Zip codes606xx, 607xx, 608xx
Table last updated30 May, 2020