Where Is Illinois Located?
Illinois is considered to be one of the Midwestern American states, although geographically it’s located more in the eastern half of the U.S.
The Midwest is called such despite being located more in the mid-eastern part of the country because of where the country’s borders used to be in centuries past.
While the Midwest was the westernmost area of the country, the actual North American continent extended much further west beyond the American borders of the time, so while the Midwestern states were on the west side of the country, they were in the middle of the continent; hence, the birth of the term “Midwest”.
Where Is Illinois on a U.S. Map?
Finding Illinois on a map of the U.S. can be a little tricky; the state is located more or less in the middle of the country, and it’s surrounded by other states that have a more or less similar shape.
However, there is at least one landmark you can use to help you find it and remember where it is.
This landmark is the state’s proximity to Lake Michigan.
If you’re not familiar with Lake Michigan, this is the only one of the Great Lakes that is located entirely within the borders of the U.S.; in appearance, it somewhat resembles a large finger pointing down south.
Part of Illinois borders Lake Michigan, but only the very northeastern tip of the state.
Therefore, if you’re using Lake Michigan as a reference, Illinois is the state located directly to the bottom-left of the lake.
The area of Illinois that borders the lake is also where Chicago is located.
Illinois doesn’t have a particularly distinctive shape, so it can be difficult to find it on a map based on this alone.
However, if you’re familiar with where Illinois is compared to the surrounding landmarks, it can make it a lot easier to find.
Interesting Facts About Illinois
21st state to join the Union
Illinois was the 21st state to join the Union, making it one of the older states in the U.S. Being that the state is relatively old, there’s a lot of interesting history behind it.
How did Illinois get its name?
The state gets its name from the Illiniwek, a confederation of about 13 Native American tribes who lived in the Mississippi River Valley.
When French colonists made their way to this area in the late 1600s, they transliterated the name “Illiniwek” to “Illinois”, since it more closely resembled a name from their native language.
Unfortunately, the Illiniwek population ended up declining in colonial times, thanks to disease brought over by the French and the various wars that resulted from colonial occupation of Native territory.
These days, the remaining members of the Illiniwek people have reorganized as the Confederated Peoria, and mostly live in Oklahoma.
While Illinois was legally considered a “free state” in the pre-Civil War period, there were still several hundred slaves in the state, as the French who still occupied the area had owned slaves for about a hundred years prior to Illinois achieving statehood.
American slave owners had also previously brought slaves into the area from Kentucky.
We could fill this section entirely with historical facts about Illinois, but there’s plenty of interesting trivia about contemporary Illinois as well.
For example, did you know that three-quarters of the state’s area consists of farmland? The most commonly-grown crops in the state are corn and soybeans.
Municipal workers set fire to the train tracks
Or how about this: during winter in Chicago, municipal workers set fire to the train tracks that run through the city?
This is done because metal contracts at cold temperatures, and if the train tracks get too cold then the contracting metal in them literally pulls them apart.
First Motor Racing Event in the U.S.
The very first motor racing event in the U.S. was also held in the state of Illinois.
This race, held in 1895, was sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald, and featured a total of six competitors; four in cars, and two on motorcycles.
It took almost 10 and a half hours for the race to end, thanks to the slow speed of the vehicles as well as inclement weather.
There are probably enough facts about Illinois to fill out another article or two of this size, but let’s finish off with a few more choice ones.
Other Facts about Illinois
Illinois has the most nuclear power reactors of any state with 11; the city of Des Plaines, Illinois is home to the first ever McDonald’s location; and on a more unsavory note, Illinois is considered have the highest rates of political corruption in the U.S., with six of the state’s governors having being charged with crimes at one point or another.
What Is the Capital of Illinois?
While Chicago is the largest and by far the most famous city in the state of Illinois, it’s not actually the state’s capital. That honor goes to the city of Springfield.
Springfield was originally named Calhoun, after American senator and vice-president John C. Calhoun.
However, after the public began to fall out of favor with Calhoun’s policies, the town was renamed “Springfield” at the suggestion of the wife of John Kelly, the man who built the first cabin at the city’s current location.
Springfield was an important location during the Civil War, as many soldiers who served under Ulysses S. Grant trained there.
The city is also noteworthy for being the home of Abraham Lincoln for 24 years, from 1837 to 1861.
In more modern years, Springfield is also notable as the place where Barack Obama first announced his presidential candidacy, and where he also announced that Joe Biden would be his running mate for the 2008 federal election.
While Chicago may be the larger and more interesting city of the two, the importance that Springfield has had throughout much of American history certainly can’t be ignored.