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. Before the Europeans arrived in Illinois the land was inhabited by a number of Native American tribes including the Illini, a confederation of around 12 different tribes, and the name for which became the root of the state’s name.

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 11.23.13 AM

The Illinois city of Chicago has played a major role in the history and culture of the United States. Key moments in its history include the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 in which some 300 people died, 18,000 buildings were destroyed, and nearly 100,000 of the city’s 300,000 residents were left homeless. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 drew 27.5 million visitors, and is considered among the most influential world’s fairs in history, affecting art, architecture and design throughout the nation. In the 20th Century, Chicago became the world’s largest rail hub, and one of its busiest ports by shipping traffic on the Great Lakes.

1893 Chicago Fair “White City”

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

For example:

Adams is named for President John Quincy Adams.

Boone is 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 comes from 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 is for Henry Clay, author of the “Missouri Compromise.”

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

Fayette honors the 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 is named after 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 statue in 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 is named for Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s Treasury Secretary, inter alia.

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

1783 Charles Wilson Peale portrait of Greene

1783 Charles Wilson Peale portrait of Greene

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

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

Jefferson is named for 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 is 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, most noted for his heroic role in the War of 1812 during the Battle of Lake Erie. He is especially remembered for the words on his battle flag, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and his message to General William Henry Harrison which read in part, “We have met the enemy and they are ours ….”

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

Warren is named for General Joseph Warren, pioneer physician and Revolutionary War soldier killed at Bunker Hill. Some historians think that if he had not been killed, it would have been he, not Washington, selected to be commander of the American forces.

Washington is for President George Washington.


Miscellaneous Facts About Illinois:

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

Population – 12,859,995 (July, 2015 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 school children changed the State Tree from the Native Oak to the White Oak.



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