57 Interesting Illinois Facts That You Should Know

Last updated on February 7th, 2023

41. Rockford was one of the country’s first places to have its own, all female baseball team. The Rockford Peaches were actually one of only two teams who competed in all 12 years of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s existence. They were pretty good and won the competition several times during the 1940’s.

42. Illinois generates 12% of the nation’s nuclear power. In 2019, Illinois generated the most electricity from nuclear energy.[25]

43. Another interesting Illinois fact is that as of May 2020, it is the fifth-largest energy-consuming state in the country. The state also ranks fourth in the nation in crude oil refining capacity.[25]

44. 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.[26]

45. The fire department for Elgin was established by volunteers in 1867 and operated out of a tiny wooden framed building, along Spring Street. Within two years it had purchased an impressive and extremely powerful steam fire engine. During Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871 they offered its services to help out, but for some unknown reason, their larger neighbours turned them down.

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.

About the Flag of Illinois

Illinois Flag. Illinois fact file
The State Flag of Illinois.

1. Design and Symbolism

The flag of Illinois features the Great Seal at the center of a white field. Underneath is the name of the state spelled out in capital letters.

A bald eagle perches on a rock with a shield in its talons and a ribbon on its beak. The shield design has a stylized US flag with 13 stars, representing the original 13 states. Meanwhile, the ribbon has the motto “State Sovereignty, National Union.”

2. Adoption

Illinois adopted the current state flag on September 17, 1969. It is a slight revision of the 1915 flag based on the seal designed by Sharon Tyndale.

3. Technical Details

The flag proportion is 3:5. Look closer, and you will find the dates 1818 and 1868 on the rock. These correspond to the dates of Illinois statehood and seal adoption.

An olive branch lies under the shield to signify a preference for peace. Short blades of grass surround the scene while the sun rises over the water in the distance.

4. History

The seal on the flag is the third for Illinois. In 1867, Secretary of State Sharon Tyndale initiated the project and designed the seal. He asked Sen. Allen Fuller to take care of the bill, suggesting that they change the order for the original motto “State Sovereignty, National Union” to “National Union, State Sovereignty.”

The senators declined but let him design the new seal anyway. Tyndale made it such that the word “Sovereignty” is upside down and less readable, while “National Union” is at the top, effectively granting his wish. Despite the twists, it passed the review and became the official seal the following year. It remains the enduring symbol of the state.

In 1912, Ella Park Lawrence of the group Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) campaigned for a state flag. Two years later, they held a design contest with a $25 prize. They received 35 entries and chose the design of Lucy Derwent with the seal on a white background. It became the official state flag in 1915.

In 1969, they altered the design to include the state name. It stems from the observation of a Vietnam War veteran that soldiers did not recognize the flag. Mrs. Sanford Florence Hutchinson took care of the changes.

5. Facts

The seal of Illinois emulates the seal of the United States, which also has a bald eagle, an olive branch, and a shield with the US flag.

6. Other Flags

In 1918, Illinois celebrated its statehood centennial. Wallace Rice designed a special flag for the occasion with bands of white, blue, and white. The center blue band had a lone white star on the left side. The two white bands each have ten smaller blue stars representing the other states in the Union during 1818.

Ben Olsen designed a logo for the bicentennial in 2018. It featured the state silhouette in blue with the word “ILLINOIS” and “Bicentennial.” It also contained the numbers “200”, “1818”, and “2018.” A sunburst effect highlights the global impact of Illinois and the bright future it aspires to.

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
Population
12,671,469
(Estimate July 1, 2021 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
DemonymIllinoisan
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
Websitewww.illinois.gov
Area Codes217, 224, 309, 312, 331, 447, 464, 618, 630, 708, 730, 773, 779, 815, 847, 872
Table Last UpdatedDecember 9, 2022

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