December 3, 1818 – Illinois Joins the Union as the 21st State

The Illinois Territory was created out of the Northwest Territory in 1809. On December 3, 1818, a Joint Resolution of Congress declared Illinois a state.

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You can learn a lot just by studying the names of counties in Illinois. There are 102 counties in Illinois, and their names all have something to tell students of American history who delve into the derivation of the names.

For example:

Adams named for President John Quincy Adams.

Boone named for Daniel Boone, previously famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky, but probably more well-known now because of the American television series that aired from September 24, 1964 to September 10, 1970.

Fess Parker as Daniel Boone

Fess Parker as Daniel Boone

Calhoun after John C. Calhoun, U.S. Vice President under both Presidents Adams and Jackson.

John C. Calhoun having a very bad hair day

John C. Calhoun having a very bad hair day

Clay for Henry Clay, author of the “Missouri Compromise”

Douglas after Stephen A. Douglas, who ran against Abraham Lincoln for president in 1860.

Fayette for Marquis de La Fayette, the French nobleman who served in the Revolutionary War.

Marquis de Lafayette in a uniform of major general of the Continental Army

Marquis de Lafayette in a uniform of major general of the Continental Army

Franklin honors Benjamin Franklin.

Fulton is for Robert Fulton, the first successful builder of steamboats on American waters.

Gallatin is for the man everyone wonders about when they see his statuein front of the northern entrance of the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C.. Albert Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury from 1801 to May 1813 (and nominally until February 1814) under presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the longest tenure of this office in American history.

Statue of Albert Gallatin at the U.S. Treasury Department

Statue of Albert Gallatin at the U.S. Treasury Department

Hamilton named for Alexander Hamilton, George Washinton’s Treasury Secretary, inter alia.

Greene named for General Nathaneal Greene, the great commander of George Washington’s army as well as his beloved friend.

1783 Charles Wilson Peale portrait of Greene

1783 Charles Wilson Peale portrait of Greene

Hancock named for John Hancock, Revolutionary War soldier and first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Henry for Patrick Henry, famed orator, Revolutionary War soldier and Governor of Virginia.

Jefferson to honor President Thomas Jefferson, Revolutionary War leader, political philosopher and author of the Declaration of Independence.

Madison honors President James Madison; primary author of the U.S. Constitution and known as “father of the U.S. Constitution.”


Marion named for General Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox,” distinguished soldier in the Carolinas during the Revolutionary War.


Marshall honors John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice John J. Marshall, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801–1835

Justice John J. Marshall, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801–1835

Monroe is named for President James Monroe.

Perry honors Commodore Oliver H. Perry, won distinction in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813.

Putnam is named for another of George Washington’s inner circle, General Israel Putnam.

Warren named for General Joseph Warren, pioneer physician and Revolutionary War soldier killed at Bunker Hill. If he had not been killed, some historians think he, not Washington, would have been named as commander of the American forces.


Washington is for President George Washington.

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Miscellaneous Facts About Illinois:

Area – 57,918 square miles [Illinois is the 25th biggest state in the USA]


Population – 12.88 million (2012 estimate) [Illinois is the fifth most populous state in the USA, after California, New York, Texas, and Florida]


Name for Residents – Illinoisan

State Reptile – The painted turtle [this popular creature is also the state reptile of Michigan]

The popular painted turtle

The popular painted turtle

Official State Snack Food: Popcorn

Special Election: In 1973, a special poll of 900,000 schoolchildren changed the State Tree from the Native Oak to the White Oak.

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