Illinois History

Illinois started as a backwater of the Midwest, but grew into an economic powerhouse with the rise of Chicago. It is also the home state of Abraham Lincoln.

The Flatboat and Transport in Antebellum America

One of the most prevalent trading vessels in the early United States was the flatboat.

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  • c.10000 B.C. - First American Indians arrive in what is now the Midwest.
  • c.1200 - Monks Mound at modern-day Cahokia, Illinois is completed. Marks the height of the Mississippian culture in that area.
  • 1673 - Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explore the Midwest and Mississippi River. Most of the region becomes part of New France until 1763.
  • 1787 - The Northwest Ordinance is passed, formalizing Midwest settlement.
  • 1818 - Illinois is admitted to the Union as the 21st state.
  • 1832 - The Black Hawk War is fought between Illinois settlers and the Sac and Fox Indians. The end result is defeat for the Indians, who no longer challenge for supremacy in the state.
  • 1837 - John Deere develops a steel plow that is well-suited for cutting the Midwestern sod.
  • 1846 - Nauvoo, a Mormon settlement on the banks of the Mississippi, is abandoned for the western frontier of Utah. This came two years after the assassination of Joseph Smith.
  • 1847 - Cyrus McCormick begins producing mechanical reapers in Chicago and sells them to Midwestern farmers.
  • 1858 - Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debate seven times in their U.S. Senate campaign. Although Lincoln loses that fall, he defeats Douglas (and several others) in the 1860 Presidential election.
  • 1877 - The Great Railroad Strike becomes the first mass labor stoppage on the railroads, shutting down about half the U.S. track-length. Many of the actions were in Illinois.
  • 1955 - Richard Daley is elected Mayor of Chicago. He holds the office until his death in 1976.
  • 1955 - Ray Kroc opens his first McDonald's franchise (the 9th location overall) in Des Plaines. Kroc turns McDonald's into a global name.
  • 1993 - The Mississippi and Missouri rivers flood at record levels, topping hundreds of levees and causing $15 billion of damage.
  • 2008 - Barack Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected President of the United States.