State of Illinois

     State Location     State Map     State Flag
   Introduction    Illinois Top of Page
About 2000 Native American hunters inhabited the area at the time of the American Revolution, and a small number of French villagers. American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1810s; they achieved statehood in 1818. Yankees arrived a little later and dominated the north, creating the metropolis of Chicago in the 1830s. The coming of the railroads in the 1850s made highly profitable the rich prairie farmlands in central Illinois, attracting large numbers of immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. Northern Illinois, strongly Republican, provided major support for Illinoisans Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War. By 1900, factories were being rapidly built in the northern cities, along with coal mines in central and southern areas, attracting large numbers of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Illinois was a major arsenal in both world wars; large numbers of blacks left the cotton fields of the South to come to Chicago, where they developed a famous jazz culture.

The state is named for the Illinois River which was named by French explorers after the indigenous Illiniwek people, a consortium of Algonquian tribes that thrived in the area. The word Illiniwek means "tribe of superior men."

   Geography    Illinois Top of Page
Geographic coordinates:
36°58'N to 42°30'N
87°30'W to 91°30'W
total:57,918 sq mi
land: 55,593 sq mi
water: 2,325 sq mi
coastline: N/A
shoreline: Great Lakes along northeastern part of state
Bordering States:
Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 279 ft
highest point: Charles Mound 1,235 ft
Though Illinois lies entirely in the Interior Plains, it 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 stretches across much of northern Illinois toward the Iowa border, generally along Interstates 80 and 90. This region is cosmopolitan, densely populated, industrialized, and settled by a variety of ethnic groups. Cook County is the most populous county in the state, with over 5.3 million residents in 2004.

Southward and westward, the second major division is central Illinois, an area of mostly flat prairie. The western section (west of the Illinois River) was originally part of the Military Tract of 1812 and forms the distinctive western bulge of state. Known as the Land of Lincoln or the Heart of Illinois, it is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities. Agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, as well as educational institutions and manufacturing centers, figures prominently. Major cities include Peoria–the third largest metropolitan area in Illinois at 370,000, Springfield–the state capital, Decatur, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana.

Illinois, showing major cities and roadsThe third division is southern Illinois, comprising the area south of U.S. Route 50, and including Little Egypt, near the juncture of the Mississippi River and Ohio River. This region can be distinguished from the other two by its warmer climate, different mix of crops (including some cotton farming in the past), more rugged topography (the southern tip is unglaciated with the remainder glaciated during the Illinoian Age and earlier ages), as well as small-scale oil deposits and coal mining. The area is a little more populated than the central part of the state with the population centered in two areas. First, the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis comprise the second most populous metropolitan area in Illinois with nearly 600,000 inhabitants, and are known collectively as the Metro-East. Second, the Carbondale, Marion, West Frankfort, Herrin, Murphysboro area, is home to around 200,000 residents.

Collectively, all of Illinois outside the Chicago Metropolitan area is called "downstate Illinois".

In extreme northwestern Illinois, the Driftless Zone, a region of unglaciated and therefore higher and more rugged topography, occupies a small part of the state. Charles Mound, located in this region, is the state's highest natural elevation above sea level at 1,235 feet (376 m). The highest true elevation in Illinois is the Sears Tower with an elevation at the top of its roof of approximately 2,030 feet (the elevation of Chicago is approximately 580 feet and the height of the roof is approximately 1450 feet).

The floodplain on the Mississippi River from Alton to the Kaskaskia River is the American Bottom, and is the site of the ancient city of Cahokia. It was a region of early French settlement, as well as the site of the first state capital, at Kaskaskia which is separated from the rest of the state by the Mississippi River.

   People    Illinois Top of Page
12,419,293 (2000)
Largest City:
Chicago: 2,842,518 (2005)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 7.0%
<18 years old: 25.5%
65 years and over: 12.0%
Male: 49.1% Female: 50.9%
Population growth rate:
2.8% (2000-2005)
Population density:
223.4 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 66.2%
Hispanic: 14.0%
Black: 15.1%
Asian: 4.0%
Native American: 0.3%
Multi-Race: 1.1%
Christian: 80.1%
Other: 3.3%
Non-Religious: 16.6%
   Government    Illinois Top of Page
3 December 1818 (21st State)
Local and County Government:
The state government of Illinois is modeled after the United States 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, composed of the 118-member Illinois House of Representatives and the 59-member Illinois Senate. The judiciary is comprised of the Supreme Court of Illinois, which oversees the lower appellate and circuit courts.

The dome on the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield is taller than the dome on the United States Capitol.Illinois has traditionally been a major battleground between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party . Since 1992, it has gradually become more Democratic at the national and state level. It is the most Democratic state in the Midwest. Illinois voted for Democratic presidential candidates in the last four elections. John Kerry easily won the state's 21 electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 11 percentage points with 54.8% of the vote.

Politics in the state (and especially in Chicago) has been famous for over a century for high visibility corruption cases, as well as for crusading reformers such as governors Adlai Stevenson (Dem) and James Thompson (GOP). In 2006, former Governor George Ryan (GOP) was convicted of racketeering and bribery. In the late 20th century Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (Dem) was imprisoned for mail fraud; former governor and federal judge Otto Kerner, Jr. (Dem.) was imprisoned for bribery; and State Auditor of Public Accounts (Comptroller) Orville Hodge (GOP) was imprisoned for embezzlement. In 1912 William Lorimer, the GOP boss of Chicago, was expelled from the U.S. Senate for bribery, and in 1921 Governor Len Small (GOP) was found to have defrauded the state of a million dollars.

State Tree:
White Oak
State Bird:
State Flower:
Purple Violet
   Economy    Illinois Top of Page
Economy - overview:
The 2004 total gross state product for Illinois was nearly US$522 billion, placing it 5th in the nation. The 2004 per capita income was US$34,721.

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

Illinois' state income tax is calculated by multiplying net income by a flat rate, currently 3 percent. There are two rates for state sales tax: 6.25 percent for general merchandise and 1 percent for qualifying food, drugs and medical appliances. The property tax is the largest single tax in Illinois, and is the major source of tax revenue for local government taxing districts. The property tax is a local—not state—tax, imposed by local government taxing districts which include counties, townships, municipalities, school districts, and special taxing districts. The property tax in Illinois is imposed only on real property.