History of Illinois
The area of today’s Illinois has been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years before the first European settlers came. There is evidence in certain sites that the area has been continuously inhabited for 2,000 years. It is believed that the area of today’s Collinsville was the center of Pre-Columbian Mississippian culture as well as the largest chiefdom in the area called Cahokia. There are different plazas, burial mounds and platforms scattered throughout the region which is also the location of the largest structure from that period north of the Valley of Mexico. The structure in question is known as the Monks Mound, it covers the area of 13.8 acres, and it is 836 feet wide, 951 feet long and 100 feet high. The culture that inhabited this area disappeared in the 15th century, with no apparent reason, although some speculate that they simply left the region once it was depleted of resources. The tribes that later came to the area were constantly waging wars one against another, it was determined that, in some parts of the region, one in three adults have died because of violent injuries.
The next larger culture to inhabit the area were Illini, also known as the Illinois Confederation. This confederation consisted of several tribes that decided to set aside their differences and form a union. It is estimated that in 1700 there were somewhere around 25,000 of them in the region, but their numbers were reduced by staggering 90% by constant attacks from the Iroquois. The area was then inhabited by the Sauk, Miami and Potawatomi tribes that came to the region from the north and east. Some of these tribes, like Potawatomi and Illinois actually supported the American colonists in the American Revolution.
The first records of Europeans coming to the region point to Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, French explorers who came to this area in 1673. In 1680 a fort was built in the area of today’s Peoria, by a different set of French explorers, and in 1682 another one in the area of present day Starved Rock State Park. Since then and up to 1763, this area belonged to the French, but it came under British ownership when they conquered New France. The area was still scarcely populated. Apart from some soldiers in garrisons there were practically no European inhabitants in the region. It was claimed for Virginia in 1778 by George Rogers Clark, and it finally became a part of the Northwest Territory, when Virginia ceded it to the US.
In 1809 the Illinois Territory was created, and its capital was set up in Kaskaskia. After extensive discussions over the exact locations of the state’s borders, Illinois was accepted into US as the 21st state in 1818. Kaskaskia remained the capitol until 1819, until this honor was bestowed upon Vandalia. However in 1837 a group of legislators led by the Abraham Lincoln moved the capital to Springfield which is still the state’s capital.
Illinois was technically not a slave state but that was only effective on paper. The French had slaves till 1820s. Slavery was technically forbidden according to the Northwest Ordinance, but that law wasn’t really enforced. When in 1818 Illinois became a state, the Ordinance didn’t apply to it anymore. The southern regions of the state were known as ‘Little Egypt’ or just ’Egypt’ and were inhabited mostly by people who came from the south of the continent and who encouraged slavery. There were even attempts to make slavery legal in 1822, but they have failed. A law was passed in 1853 that prohibited African Americans, free or not, from settling in Illinois.
The region has seen its share of troubles, ranging from the conflicts with Kickapoo, Fox and Sauk tribes in 1832, to the winter of 1830, known as the ‘Winter of the Deep Snow’ that brought heavy snow that left people of the region snowed in and caused a number of deaths. At one point in 1839, Mormons founded a utopian settlement Nauvoo, which grew rather quickly and soon became Chicago’s contender for the position of the largest and the most prosperous city in the region. However, it dissipated after the leader of Mormons, Joseph Smith, was killed in the jail in the vicinity of the city. Mormons left the city and organized a mass migration to today’s Utah. Mostly because of its port on the Great Lakes, Chicago became the largest city in Illinois by 1857.
Illinois played a significant part in the Civil War and not only because of the fact that the ‘Great Emancipator’, Abraham Lincoln lived there. The state contributed more than 250,000 men to the Union Army, with only Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York contributing more than Illinois. That means that Illinois itself has provided the Union army with 150 infantry and seven cavalry regiments. One of the southern cities of the region, Cairo, also served as an important training center and a supply base. At the beginning of the 20th century the population of the state consisted of 5 million people, 98% of whom were white. However, as the industries in the area started developing and the immigrants started pouring in, including African Americans during the Great Migration, the population of the state at the end of the century grew to 12.4 million people. In 1937 oil was discovered in Crawford and Marion counties, which in just two years made this state the 4th largest supplier of oil in the US. When the Saint Lawrence Seaway that, along with the Illinois Waterway, connected the Great lakes with the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean, was opened in 1959, Chicago became an ocean port which provided an additional boost to the city’s and state’s economy. The first ever McDonald’s restaurant was opened in Des Plaines in 1960, and today it serves as a museum.
Illinois also has strong connections to nuclear energy. The University of Chicago is where the first sustained nuclear chain reaction took place as a part of the Manhattan Project in 1942. It is also in this state that the first US experimental nuclear power generating system was activated and where Dresden 1, the first privately financed nuclear power plant was opened in 1960. Illinois is currently the state with the most nuclear power generated.
Economy of Illinois
In 2010 the GSP of Illinois was $652 billion, while in 2009, per capita personal income was $41,411 and the per capita GSP was $45,302. In 2010 the unemployment rate in the state was 11.5%, but it dropped to 9.9% in the following year. The income tax in the state is calculated by multiplying a flat rate by net income. That rate has been set at 3% in 1990, but it has been temporarily increased to 5% in 2010 with plans to return it to 3% in four years. Sales tax in the state comes in two rates – 1% for medical appliances, drugs and food; and 6% for general goods.
Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Illinois. Most important state products include wheat, dairy products, cattle, hogs, soybeans and corn. Illinois is usually in the top two producers of soybeans in the US. Just in 2008, 427.7 million bushels were harvested in this state. It is the 2nd largest corn producer in the nation with annual production of somewhere around 1.5 billion bushels. It is one of the states with the highest quantities of manufactured food and processed meat. The state can also boast two viticultural areas.
Manufacturing is also an important branch of the Illinois industry. It is estimated that the state manufactured the goods in the value of $107 billion in 2006. Northeastern Opportunity Return Region holds approximately 75% of the manufacturers in the state, while 38% of the state’s 18,900 or so manufacturing plants are all found in the Cook County. The most important manufacturing industries in Illinois are computer and electronic products, plastics and rubber products, transportation equipment, fabricated metal products, food manufacturing, machinery manufacturing and chemical manufacturing. At the beginning of the 21st century, Illinois began paying additional attention to different services such as medicine, logistics, law, higher education and financial trading.
The state has some petroleum, high quantities of coal and is the 5th state in the nation when it comes to electricity production. It is determined that 68% of the state has coal bearing strata, and the reserves of coal in Illinois have been estimated at 211 billion tons. The only problem with it is the high concentration of sulfur in it. If such coal is to be used in power plants, they would need to have special filters that would prevent the sulfur from ending up in the atmosphere and causing acid rains, and Illinois’ power plants simply aren’t equipped to deal with that. That is a part of the reason for the fact that out of 40.4 million tons of coal that were produced in Illinois in 1999, only 42% or 17 million tons of it were used in the state.
Currently Illinois is one of the leading refiners in the Midwest, distilling almost 900,000 barrels daily, but the reserves of the state are rather limited, it is estimated that they only account for 1% of the crude oil reserves of the US.
The state currently has 6 operational nuclear power plants, Quad Cities, La Salle, Dresden, Clinton, Byron and Braidwood. Among them, Clinton power plant is the only one that doesn’t have two reactors. The state is also the one that led with nuclear power research. In 2007 somewhere around 48% of the state’s electricity came from nuclear power. Illinois is the leader in the nation regarding both nuclear generation and nuclear capacity.
Illinois Geography and Climate
Illinois is one of the nine US states situated in the Great Lakes region. It has Indiana to the east, Kentucky to the south, Iowa and Missouri to the west and Wisconsin to the north. The state’s entire territory is located in the region of Interior Plains, but there are still some differences in the elevation of different parts of the state. Charles Mound located in the northern Driftless Area has the point with the highest elevation in the state, 1,235 feet above the sea level.
Illinois has three significant geographical areas. Northern Illinois is marked by the Chicago metropolitan area, the city itself and its suburbs. This metropolitan area encompasses several state counties and its population is 9.8 million people strong. This area is strongly urbanized as the state’s 3rd largest city, Rockford, is also in the same region, just some 75 miles northwest of Chicago.
The second larger region is Central Illinois, mostly covered in prairies. It mostly holds small towns and cities, and is often referred to as the Heart of Illinois. The part to the west of the Illinois river as at one point a section of the Military Tract of 1812, and forms a protrusion in the state’s western boundary. This region is focused on agriculture, especially growing soybeans and corn, but manufacturing centers and educational institutions are also a large part of its economy. The most prominent cities of the region are Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington-Normal, Quincy, Decatur and the state’s capital, Springfield.
The third important region is the Southern Illinois which extends to the south of the US Route 50. It is in this region that the ancient Cahokia city was located. It is also here that the first capital of the state Kaskaskia stands divided from the rest of Illinois by the Mississippi River. The climate in this region is somewhat warmer than in the other two. The region also has a more rugged terrain and different crops are grown there. St. Luis metropolitan area, located in this region, is the 2nd largest metropolitan area in the state with more 700,000 people inhabiting it.
There are approximately 400 miles separating Illinois’ northern and southern boundaries, which explains the significant differences in the climate of its various regions. The largest part of the state has a humid continental climate characterized by cold winters and humid and hot summers. However, in the south the climate is often much more resembling a humid subtropical climate which has milder winters. The annual precipitation is also quite different depending on the part of Illinois, in the south it usually amounts to 48 inches, while in the north it stays at around 35 inches of yearly rainfall. It is the same with the amounts of snowfall, in the northern Chicago area 38 inches of snow are average, while in the south there is usually less than 14 inches of snow every year. The highest temperature in the state that was recorded in East St. Lois in 1954, was 117 °F, while the lowest temperature, recorded in Congerville in 1999, was −36 °F.
Illinois has slightly above average number of days with thunderstorms with 51 days per year. There are usually somewhere around 35 tornadoes in the state every year, meaning that an area of 10,000 square miles will suffer 5 tornadoes every year. Some of the tornadoes with the highest death tolls have happened here, not because they are especially powerful in this region, but because this area is more densely populated than the other regions of the Tornado valley.
In 2011 the population of Illinois was estimated at 12,869,257 people which was a 0.30% increase since the previous year. Illinois is the state with the largest population in Midwest region. Chicago metropolitan area, which covers only 8% of the surface of Illinois, holds 65% of the inhabitants of the state. It was determined that according to their ethnicity, 63.7% of the state’s inhabitants are non-Hispanic white people, 7.8% Hispanic white, 14.5% African American, 0.3% Native American and Alaska Native, 4.6% Asian, 2.3% of the state’s inhabitants belong to some other race, and 2.3% have mixed racial heritage. In 2007 there were 1,768,518 or 13% of the inhabitants who were born somewhere else and moved to Illinois at one point. At the time females accounted for 50.7% of the current population.
As far as ancestry is concerned people with German ancestry made up 21.1% if the population, those with Irish 13.3%, those with Polish 7.9%, those with English 6.7%, Italian 6.4%, American 4.6%, Swedish 2.4%, French 2.2%, Dutch 1.6%, Norwegian 1.4% and Scottish 1.3%. There were also various groups that spoke different first languages, English was spoken by 78.2% of the population, Spanish by 12.8%, 5.6% spoke some of the other European languages, some of the Asian languages were spoken by 2.5%, and 0.8% spoke some other languages.
It is estimated that Roman Catholics constitute 30% of the state’s population. They are mostly concentrated in the Chicago area. However, if different Protestant denominations were considered as one whole, they would outnumber Catholics. In the year 2000 it was estimated that there are 3,874,933 Catholics in the state, 365,182 member of the United Methodist Church, 305,838 of the Southern Baptist Convention. The largest non-Christian denomination group were Jews with 270,000 believers.
Illinois Government and Legislature
On the surface level Illinois seems to have the same government structure as the other US states, with the executive, legislative and judicial branch of the government. However, the state has some peculiarities that are unique for Illinois. The executive branch has a Governor at its helm and four other officials that are not appointed by the Governor like in some other states, but also elected by the people. Legislative branch has its traditional two bodies – Senate and the House of Representatives, the former has 59 members, while the latter has 118. Finally the judicial branch consists of a number of circuit and appellate lower courts and the highest state court, the Supreme Court of Illinois.
Regarding the mentioned uniqueness of the Illinois government, the state has the probably most complex local government structure. The reason for this complexity lies in the fact that Illinois has more than 8,000 units of local government, which is far more than any other state has. First of all, there is the traditional and universally accepted division into counties, the state has 102 counties. Apart from that there are townships as well as certain towns, cities or villages that have their own government structures. But all of this only makes up a quarter of the total number of government structures in the state. Apart from them there are school, library and sanitary or, as they are also known, sewage districts. It is those districts that raise the number of government segments to the figure of 8,000 and that are creating the most complex government system in the USA.