Illinois is located in the Eastern North-Central region of the US, sharing its borders with 5 other states – Kentucky, Indiana, and Lake Michigan from the East, Wisconsin from the North, and Missouri and Iowa from the West. On December 3, 1818, Illinois was admitted to the union, becoming the 21st state to join the United States. Let’s take a look at 32 interesting facts about Illinois.
The state is home to many amazing places, and boasts some of the most stunning landscapes, beautiful mountain ranges, and has an astounding 309 state parks. There is so much that Illinois has to offer – you will never get bored. With a population of over 12.5 million people, Illinois is the 6th most populous state in the US and has the 25th largest area by landmass. Chicago is by far the biggest city in Illinois, but it is not the capital. The state’s capital city is Springfield.
32 Unique Facts About Illinois
Let’s jump into the best and most unique facts about Illinois that you may not have heard about!
When considering interesting facts about Illinois and its history, a great place to begin would be its nickname, and how it adopted the iconic nickname that we know today. It is common knowledge that Illinois has a long-standing history with Prairie, which are enormous stretches of flat grassland typically referred to as the golden, wheat-covered land of North America. Illinois has many state symbols that represent the state perfectly, the nickname and motto perfectly showcase the state’s historical roots.
This nickname was adopted in the 1840s due to the state being covered in Prairie grasslands. The nickname is still proudly worn by Illinois to this day, with a week-long state holiday dedicated to its nickname, “Prairie Week” where the whole state celebrates its heritage and history. If you would like to learn more about the Illinois state nickname, and the many other state nicknames Illinois has adopted over the years, make sure to check out our page on this.
2. Capital City
Let’s talk about Chicago, or, as many like to call it – The Windy City. Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, boasting a population of over 2.7 million.
Chicago is known for having a famous park system that runs through the heart of the city, many believe this is the reason behind the adoption of Chicago’s motto, “urbs in horto”, which translates to “city in a garden”. Chicago is comprised of 77 community areas and has adopted five official nicknames over the years, The Windy City, City of Big Shoulders, The Second City, The White City, and The City That Works.
Illinois has always been a top state in the US, many believe this is because of the opportunities presented to business owners (large, small, and everything in between), the sheer volume of tourists that visit each year, and the various industries that are booming such as business services, manufacturing, education, biotechnology, and agriculture to name just a few. This has helped to generate a plethora of facts about Illinois all stemming from the beauty and natural resources the state has to offer.
4. Name Origins
Illinois’ name originates from the native Illiniwek people. The name translates to “ordinary speaker”.
5. Pumpkin Production
Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the US and the second-largest producer of corn!
6. Jibarito Sandwich
Chicago is home to many great things, however, non greater than a jibarito. A jibarito is a sandwich, invented by the city’s Puerto Rican community, replacing traditional bread with fried plantains, then filled with sliced steak, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise, and cheese. This sandwich hybrid is truly special.
7. Highest Point
Illinois is one of the flattest states in the United States, the highest point in the state is named Charles Mound, and is just 1,235 feet above sea level!
The 19th century witnessed many outbreaks of diseases and floods due to the low elevation and in return, the lack of an effective sewage system.
9. Chicago River
The iconic Chicago River is one of the few rivers in the world that actually flows backward.
10. US President
US President, Abraham Lincoln resided in Illinois for a large percentage of his decorated life, however, he wasn’t actually born in Illinois, the only US President to be born and raised in the state was Ronald Reagan.
All states in the US have official things that are used to represent the state and its people, past and present, but, did you know that Illinois has its own official state soil? Adopted by Illinois due to the history and success of Agriculture over the years, Drummer Soil has been the official Illinois soil for a number of years. Additionally, Illinois has a state bird and flower, and a state animal too.
12. Route 66
The iconic Route 66 starts in Chicago, Illinois.
13. Simpsons Origins
In 2012, the creator of The Simpsons revealed that the town of Springfield is not based on the city in Illinois.
14. Ice Cream Sundae
Illinois lays claim to the invention of the Ice Cream Sundae!
15. Old State Capitals
Illinois had two other state capitals before settling with Springfield, Kaskaskia, and Vandalia.
16. Chicago Fire
The great Chicago fire was a national disaster that impacted many people from the city and state alike, only two buildings survived this accident, the Chicago Water Tower and the Pumping Station.
17. Drive-Thru Post Office
Illinois is home to the only drive-thru postal facility in the world, The Chicago Post Office at 433 West Van Buren.
18. Largest Bakery
Illinois is home to the largest bakery in the world! At 1,800,000 square feet, you could imagine the Nabisco factory in Chicago won’t be running out of bread any time soon.
19. Nuclear Power
Illinois produces more nuclear power than any other state.
20. Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo in Illinois is one of only three major free zoos in the US and is the country’s oldest public zoo.
When people think of American delicacies, one of the first things that come to mind is Twinkies, the unique blend of sweet and savory makes for a very special treat in the form of a soft, finger-shaped sponge with a delicious cream-filled center, these iconic treats were invented on April 6, 1930, in River Forest, Illinois.
22. Tallest Man in the World
The tallest man in the world was born in Alton, Illinois. Mr. Robert Pershing Wadlow was a ginormous 8’11”, and weighed a ridiculous 491 lbs (over 35 stone), with a shoe size of 37!
23. Color TV
The first all-color TV station debuted in Illinois, Channel 5.
Just under 80% of the state’s land area is farmland.
There are 102 counties in Illinois, and the majority of them are named after early American leaders.
26. Sears Tower
The Sears Tower in Chicago is the second tallest building in the United States (1,450 feet).
27. License Plates
Illinois is home to the third-highest number of personalized license plates in the US.
28. Strange Laws
It is illegal for boys, and only boys to throw snowballs at trees in Mount Pulaski, Illinois.
29. Walt Disney
Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 5, 1901.
The first Mcdonald’s opened up in 1955, located in Des Plaines, Illinois.
31. Speed Limit
The maximum Illinois speed limit is 70 mph.
32. European Settlers
The first European visitors to discover Illinois were French explorers named Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, these two made their way to Illinois in 1673. The region was conceded to Britain shortly after the famous French and Indian War. Britain kept hold of the region for a number of years before the American Revolution which subsequently led to the region, as well as the rest of North America, becoming independent. Swiftly after the Revolutionary War, Illinois achieved statehood in 1818 and was free of European influences.
A snapshot of the facts about Illinois state above illustrates why it is considered a popular state to move to. It’s hard to argue why over 265,000 people move to the state each year!