101 Interesting Facts About Illinois

Last updated on October 31st, 2023

64. The term “Jazz” was coined in Chicago in 1914 by Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa.

65. Joliet, Illinois, features in two blockbuster movies. Firstly, it was where Johnny Hooker, played by Robert Redford, was from in The Sting; indeed, the film’s opening storyline begins there. Also, John Belushi’s character in the Blues Brothers is nicknamed “Joliet Jake” as he was imprisoned in Joliet Correctional Center.

66. 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 more than $7 million was raised for farming families.

67. Another very famous person in America, Walt Disney, also comes from Chicago, Illinois. The home he grew up in can be found in the downtown area.

Front of postcard of Robert Wadlow (left) with his average-size father (right).
Robert Wadlow (left) with his average-size father (right). Image in Public Domain

68. 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 (9 ft 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.

69. Marlee Matlin from Morton Grove, Illinois, was the youngest actress to win an Oscar. Marlee was only 21 years old when she received this highest honor.

70. James Duryea, won the United States’ very first ever motor-car race back in 1895, in what was basically a 54-mile loop from Chicago to Evanston and back. It was chaotic throughout, snowstorms causing huge drifts and creating treacherous driving conditions. It took him 10 hours and 23 minutes to complete, averaging an impressive seven miles per hour! Most of the area of the state was once covered with prairie grass, which earned the state its nickname – “The Prairie State.”

71. The world’s most extensive collection of 8-track tapes can indeed be found in Illinois. Bob Hiemanz has collected more than 80,000 of them through the years.

72. 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.

fire department truck
Representational image. Credit – Emergency_Vehicles

73. 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 their services to help out, but for some unknown reason, their larger neighbors turned them down.

74. Among the top ten ranked universities in the world, you will find the University of Chicago. Some even consider it number one in the whole United States.

75. The official reptile of the state of Illinois is the painted turtle. It was elected by the citizens of Illinois in 2004.

white tailed deer facts
Photo © Tony Northrup

76. The white-tailed deer is the official animal of the state of Illinois. Early settlers and Native Americans relied on this animal for food and clothing.

77. The Chicago Bears were earlier known as the Staley Bears, but it was changed in 1922. That was after they relocated to Chicago in 1921.

78. In Kenilworth, a rooster must be at least 300 feet from your home when it wants to crow. Try telling that to a rooster early in the morning.

79. Among 50 U.S. states and the 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%.

80. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2012 Census of Governments, Illinois has 6,963 local government units. This is the highest number for any state. Texas (5147 units) and Pennsylvania (4,897 units) stand in the second and third spot, respectively.

81. A bill was signed by Governor Jim Thompson in 1990 to make square dance the official dance of Illinois. That is how widespread the dance is for locals.

82. Personalized license plates are plentiful in Illinois, more than anywhere in the rest of the US. These license plates can have both numbers and letters.

83. Springfield is famous for its traditional Illinois dish, the Horseshoe. You can find it at many diners, drive-ins, and dives all over the state.

84. The Chicago-style hotdog comes loaded with various toppings, including yellow mustard and more. It is a huge local favorite and can be bought from almost every vendor.

The finished popcorn
The finished popcorn.

85. Popcorn, served in the famous Chicago style, is the official snack of Illinois and was invented by Garette’s Popcorn. It is either covered with cheese or caramel flavor.

86. Arguably, the most famous food in Illinois is the deep-dish pizza. It is cooked in a deep dish to allow it to hold a lot of toppings, and it tastes creamy and buttery.

87. More than 16 billion Oreo cookies were made by Nabisco in 1995. It was produced at the factory in Chicago, Illinois, the largest in the world.

88. Evanston is the place where the original sundae ice cream was made. This was after ice cream sodas were banned on Sundays, so Garwoods’ Drugstore improvised, and it was born.

89. During the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the first Ferris wheel arrived in Chicago. At 265 feet, it was built to rival Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

90. Charles Mound is Illinois’ highest point. It is 1,235 feet (376 meters) above sea level.

91. The state that sent the second most troops to join the fight for independence was Illinois. About 285,000 soldiers helped to turn the tide.

92. The last resistance from the Black Hawk Company was finally quelled in Chicago in 1832. These people were eventually relocated to Iowa.

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

94. 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.

95. A historical site known for being the most advanced civilization from prehistoric times in America is in Collinsville, Illinois. The site is known as Cahokia Mounds.

96. The Joseph Smith Historic Site is found in Nauvoo, Illinois, a historical religious site founded in the late 1800s. It is part of the historic landmark district.

97. The oldest Baha’i religious temple is in Wilmette. It was built in 1912, after the original one in Turkmenistan, but that temple no longer exists.

98. A deadly fact about Illinois is that it has eleven nuclear power reactors, more than any other state.

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

100. 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.

101. 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.

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.

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
12,549,689 (Estimate July 1, 2023 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 21, 2023

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