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By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois,
O'er thy prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois,
Comes an echo on the breeze.
Rustling through the leafy trees, and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois,
And its mellow tones are these, Illinois.
Illinois State Song

Courtesy of

Missionary Jacques Marquette and explorer Louis Jolliet were probably the first white men to come to Illinois. The word Illinois comes from the French version of an Indian word meaning "men" or "warriors." Illinois is nicknamed the "Prairie State" because the region once had many treeless plains covered with tall grass. The abbreviation for Illinois is IL.

In 1942, Enrico Fermi and other scientists made history at the University of Chicago. They completed the first controlled chain reaction that created atomic energy. This was a major advance in the development of the atomic bomb. World-renowned scientists now meet to work at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the home of one of the largest atom smashers in the world.


Courtesy of nationalatlas.govIllinois is an East North Central state bordered by Wisconsin to the north, Indiana to the east, Kentucky to the south, and the Mississippi River on the west. It is the most populated Midwestern state. It has become an important state because its central location south and west of Lake Michigan makes it close to both raw materials and markets. Illinois is a continental center for business and travel because of the many transportation routes that run through it including railroads, highways, waterways, and air routes. The Illinois Waterway connects Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River and the Mississippi River with the Gulf of Mexico. O'Hare International Airport is the world's busiest airport.

Illinois is a leading urban, agricultural, and manufacturing state. Chicago, Illinois' largest city, is an important shipping center on Lake Michigan. It is also the home of the Chicago Board of Trade, the world's largest grain market. Because of it size and output, Chicago was known as "America's Second City" until the mid-1980s when Los Angeles passed it in population. About half of the state's residents live in and around Chicago.

Chicago is also known as the "Windy City," because its residents bragged about it so much. The nickname stuck because of the gusts of wind that blow across the city from Lake Michigan. In fact, by New Years, the fierce wind makes the temperature seem like 50 degrees below zero F (wind chill factor). If you're in Chicago, take in an incredible view from the Skydeck Observatory of the Sears Tower, one of the world's tallest buildings. Other important cities in Illinois include Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield, the capital.


Most of Illinois is fertile farmland. About 50 different crops are grown in the state and grain and livestock are raised on its prairies. The state is the leading producer of soybeans in the United States. Illinois is the state with the fifth largest income from agriculture; only California, Texas, Iowa, and Nebraska have larger agricultural incomes.

Products made in Illinois' urban industrial centers are the state's greatest source of income. The northern half of the state has cities like Chicago and Rockford. The production of machinery is the state's chief manufacturing activity. Oil deposits and enough bituminous (soft) coal to meet the world's need for more than 100 years can be found downstate. Today, most of Illinois' workers are employed in the service industries, including education, health care, and retail trade.

Illinois is also known as the land of Lincoln because Abraham Lincoln began his political career in the state. Lincoln spent 24 years of his adult life in Springfield. See his two-story house, a national historic site, or visit his grave at Oak Ridge cemetery in Springfield.

Other well-known people associated with Illinois include Ronald Reagan, Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Al Capone. Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, was born in Tampico. Sandburg was a famous American poet, biographer, and historian. His autobiography, entitled "Always the Young Strangers," tells about his life growing up in Galesburg. Wright, a famous American architect, designed his "prairie style" homes for clients in the Chicago area. Capone was a famous gangster and organized crime boss in Chicago.



This image is a U.S. state, federal district, or insular area flag. Such flags are in the public domain.
State Flag

Largest City...Chicago
Statehood...1818 (21st)
Area...ranked 25th
Motto...State sovereignty, national union
Nickname...Land of Lincoln, The Prairie State