Illinois, the Prairie State

“Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat” Carl Sandburg called Chicago in 1914, and the nation’s second-largest city is still the number one livestock market and meatpacking center, and the home of many industries and the grain exchange. Before the air age, Chicago became the world’s greatest railroad center, and it remains so today; its O’Hare Field is the world’s largest commercial airport.

Other, smaller cities – Rockford, Peoria, Springfield, East St. Louis, Elgin -help make Illinois one of the top manufacturing States, with products ranging from locomotives to watches. But the Prairie State, one of the most levels in the Union, is farm country: almost 90 per cent of its land is used for farming. In most sections, one sees the ordered fields of corn, wheat, or soybeans, or dairy farms, or farms raising hogs or cattle. The State is one of the top producers of soybeans and corn.

The first groups of permanent settlers came to Illinois from Kentucky and the Carolinas, some with slaves. The central and northern sections were settled largely by pioneers from the northeastern States, and, at the time Illinois joined the Union, the northern boundary was moved far enough north to permit a port on Lake Michigan (Chicago), so that commerce and communication could be maintained with the northern and middle States. This was done so that the entire State would not have to look south, to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, for its trade routes. But even at that time, when Illinois joined the Union as a free State, it had several thousand slaves, and slavery remained a critical issue within the State when Douglas defeated Lincoln in 1858 – when Lincoln lost the election
for U.S. Senator but won the national fame that helped him become Illinois’ only President.

Illinois’s location, its fertile lands, its rich mineral deposits (large bituminous coal reserves), and its great variety of industries all contribute to make it the Empire State of the Midwest.

It’s all about the 50 States of America.