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Illinois (pronounced or occasionally [ˌɪləˈnɔɪz]) constitutes the 21st state of the United States, located in the former Northwest Territory. Its name was given by the state's French explorers after the indigenous Illiniwek people, a consortium of Algonquin tribes that thrived in the area. The word Illiniwek means simply "the people".

The capital of Illinois is Springfield while its largest city is Chicago, along the waterfront of Lake Michigan. Most of the state's population resides in Chicago and its suburbs. The U.S. postal abbreviation for the state is IL.

The USS Illinois was named in honor of this state.



Pre-Columbian History
Cahokia, the urban center of the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, was located near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. That civilization vanished circa 1400-1500 for unknown reasons. The next major power in the region was the Illiniwek Confederation, a political alliance among several tribes. The Illiniwek gave Illinois its name. The Illini suffered in the seventeenth century as Iroquois expansion forced them to compete with several tribes for land. The Ilini were replaced in Illinois by the Potawatomi, Miami, Sauk, and other tribes.

European Exploration
French explorers Jacques Marquette,S.J. and Louis Joliet explored the Illinois River in 1673. As a result of their exploration, Illinois was part of the French empire until 1763, when it passed to the British. The area was ceded to the new United States in 1783 and became part of the Northwest Territory.

Illinois in the 1800s
The Illinois-Wabash Company was an early claimant to much of Illinois. The Illinois Territory was created on February 3, 1809. In 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. state. Early U.S. settlement began in the south part of the state and quickly spread northward, driving out the native residents. With the 1832 Black Hawk War, the last native tribes were driven out of northern Illinois.

Illinois is known as the "Land of Lincoln" because it is here that the 16th President spent his formative years. Chicago gained prominence as a canal port after 1848, and as a rail hub soon afterward. By 1857, Chicago was Illinois' largest city (see History of Chicago).

Illinois during the Civil War
During the Civil War, over 250,000 Illinois men served in the Union Army, more than any other northern state except New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Beginning with President Lincoln's first call for troops and continuing throughout the war, Illinois mustered 150 infantry regiments (see Illinois in the Civil War), which were numbered from the 7th IL to the 156th IL. Seventeen cavalry regiments were also mustered, as well as two light artillery regiments.

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President, was born in Tampico, Illinois.


The state government of Illinois is modeled after the federal government with adaptations originating from traditions cultivated during the state's frontier era. As codified in the state constitution, there are three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch is led by the Governor of Illinois. Legislative functions are given to the Illinois General Assembly, comprised of the 118-member Illinois State House of Representatives and the 59-member Illinois State Senate. The judiciary is comprised of the state supreme court, which oversees the lower appelate courts and circuit courts.


See List of Illinois counties

It is in the north-central U.S. and borders on Lake Michigan. Surrounding states are Wisconsin to the north, Iowa and Missouri to the west, Kentucky to the south, and Indiana to the east. Illinois also borders Michigan, but only via a water boundary in Lake Michigan.

Illinois has three major geographical divisions. The first is Chicagoland, including the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and the adjoining exurban area into which the metropolis is expanding. This region includes a few counties in Indiana and Wisconsin and streches across much of the Northern Illinois toward the Iowa border. This region is cosmopolitan, densely populated, industrialized, and settled by a variety of ethnic groups. The city of Chicago is heavily Democratic. While this tendency has historically been balanced by Republican voters in the suburbs, Democrats have significantly increased their suburban support in the past decade.

Southward and westward, the second major division is Central Illinois, an area of rolling hills and flat prairie. Known as the Land of Lincoln, it is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities. Agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, figures prominently. Major cities include famously average Peoria, Springfield (the state capital), and Champaign-Urbana (home of the University of Illinois). This region's largely rural character helps to sustain a heavily Republican voting pattern and widespread antipathy toward Chicago.

The third division is Southern Illinois, or Little Egypt, distinguished from the other two by its warmer climate, different mix of crops (including some cotton farming in the past), more rugged unglaciated topography, coal mining, and proximity to the juncture of the Mississippi River and Ohio River. The combination of coal mining and industrialization, especially in the region around Saint Louis, Missouri, has caused the region to lean Democratic politically.

In extreme northwestern Illinois the Driftless Area, a region of unglaciated and therefore comparatively higher and more rugged topography, occupies a small part of the state.


The 2003 total gross state product for Illinois was $499 billion, placing it 5th in the nation. The per capita income was $33,690.

Illinois' agricultural outputs are corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, dairy products and wheat. Its industrial outputs are machinery, food processing, electrical equipment, chemical products, publishing, fabricated metal products, transportation equipment, petroleum and coal.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, the population of Illinois was 12,653,544. At the northern edge of the state on Lake Michigan lies Chicago, the nation's third largest city. More than half of the population of Illinois lives in and around Chicago, the leading industrial and transportation center in the region. The rest of the population lives in the smaller cities and on the farms that dot the state's gently rolling plains.

Racially, the state is:

The top 5 ancestry groups in Illinois are German (19.6%), African American (15.1%), Irish (12.2%), Mexican (9.2%), Polish (7.5%).

7.1% of Illinois' population were reported as under 5, 26.1% under 18, and 12.1% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 51% of the population.


Unlike the other Midwestern states, Illinois is not overwhelmingly Protestant--only about half of the people profess that faith. Roman Catholics (who are predominant in and around Chicago) account for one-third of the population.

The religious affiliations of the people of Illinois are:

  • Protestant – 51%
  • Roman Catholic – 33%
  • Other Christian – 1%
  • Other Religions – 3%
  • Non-Religious – 8%

The three largest Protestant denominations in Illinois are: Baptist (15% of total state population), Lutheran (8%), Methodist (8%).

Important cities and towns


Population > 1,000,000

Population > 100,000

Important Suburbs of Chicago

of St. Louis

of Rockford

of Peoria

Other cities > 10,000 population

list of towns

Counties of Illinois


Illinois State Board of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education or ISBE, autonomous of the governor and the state legislature, administers public education in the state. Local municipalities and their respective school districts operate individual public schools but the ISBE audits performance of public schools with an annual school report card. The ISBE also makes recommendations to state leaders concerning education spending and policies.

There is current debate as to the role of the ISBE and whether or not its autonomous relationship with the governor and the state legislature is appropriate. In 2002, the Office of the Governor proposed the creation of a monolithic statewide department of education to replace the ISBE. However, direct control of the new department would fall under the state governor's jurisdiction. The structure would mimic the system employed by the Hawaii State Department of Education, which has no local school districts. Opponents to the proposal argue that local communities would lose control over what their children would learn in public schools and the means by which those public schools operate.

Primary and secondary schools

Education is compulsory from kindergarten through the twelfth grade in Illinois, commonly but not exclusively divided into three tiers of primary and secondary education: elementary school, middle school or junior high school and high school. District territories are often complex in structure. In some cases, elementary, middle and junior high schools of a single district feed into high schools in another district.

Colleges and universities

While many students enter the military or join the workforce directly from high school, students have the option of applying to colleges and universities in Illinois. Notable Illinois institutions include Loyola University Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Chicago and the several branches of the University of Illinois.

List of schools

List of colleges and universities

List of high schools

Professional sports teams

State symbols

The Cardinal is the state bird of Illinois
The Cardinal is the state bird of Illinois

See also

External links

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