Founded in 1818, Illinois was originally part of New France. After the American Revolution, the state’s population began to grow. As more settlers arrived and commerce took place via the Erie Canal, Illinois became part of the United States. As Illinois grew, increased trade and commerce in the Chicago River led to the namesake city’s founding in the 1830s.
After the invention of the plow, immigrants from Germany and Sweden began to take interest in farming, and Illinois’ rich soil earned it the name, “The Prairie State.” In 1848, canal transportation allowed goods to be shipped efficiently between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, and railroads only added to this efficiency. The state became a critical center for shipping goods and transporting passengers.
By the turn of the century, coal mining and other jobs in the cities made Illinois an attractive prospect for European immigrants. As African-Americans came to the state during The Great Migration, Chicago’s jazz scene took off, and the city is now responsible for over half of the Illinois population thanks to it’s growth in the 1900s. The labor unions that exist today are largely a result of the massive growth that took place in Chicago during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Illinois is undoubtedly one of the most historically significant states in the country. Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Barack Obama were all residents of Illinois when they became president. Several U.S. generals have called this state their home, and many historic sites exist throughout the state. Springfield, the state capital, boasts many important sites.
Long before Illinois became part of New France, Native Americans first called the state their home. Thousands of years before immigrants ever set foot on the land, Native Americans inhabited the land for 7,000 years. The excavation of the Koster Site revealed impressive burial mounds, artwork, tools, and homes leftover from the Cahokia chiefdom.
One of the most interesting things to note about the history of Illinois is that there were slaves in the state. Although Illinois was a free state, the Northwest Ordinance did not require current slave owners to free their slaves. Slavery began in Illinois in the 1700s by the French, and approximately 900 slaves lived in the state. Once slavery was officially outlawed in Illinois, free blacks still faced extreme hostility, and were eventually banned from becoming permanent residents in the state due to a law passed by John Logan.