French missionaries Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were the first Europeans to explore the region. They had been ordered by the governor of the French colony of New France to explore and map the course of the Mississippi River.. They left Quebec in 1673, arriving in the region of present-day Illinois in 1675. Joliet was the one that gave name to the region of Illinois, in reference to the Illiniwek confederation, with which both missionaries established friendly relations. This same year, Marquette founded a Catholic mission in the region. In 1699, other French missionaries founded a commercial establishment, and a village in 1703. At that time, the region was already part of New France, having been annexed by René Robert Cavelier de La Salle in 1682. The two settlements founded by the missionaries were they became the main French-speaking centers in the region.
In 1763, the British won the Seven Years’ War against the French. By the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the French ceded all regions east of the Mississippi River to the British and all regions west of the river to the Spanish. As a result, the Illinois region came under British control. Then the European population of the state was only 2,000 people. Some French moved to the Spanish colonies, unhappy that British Protestants were the new governors. The Illiniwek Confederacy, an ally of the French colonists, rebelled against the British in 1764, but were defeated. In 1778, during the American War of Independence, Illinois was captured by American forces.
According to 800zipcodes, Illinois became part of the Northwest Territory in 1787, and the Indiana Territory in 1800. On February 3, 1809, the Illinois region was separated from the Indiana Territory, and the United States government made this separated region a new territory., Illinois Territory. On December 3, 1818, Illinois became the twenty-first state of the United States of America, although its northern border was then much further south than it is now. However, in 1819, state politicians would successfully pressure Congress to expand the state’s northern border northward. Thus, the region where Chicago is currently located became part of Illinois.
In 1819, Vandalia became the capital of Illinois, having been its capital until 1839, when it moved to Springfield, which is to this day the state capital. Illinois’ population began to grow dramatically after the 1820s, with the opening of the Erie Canal in New York State, thus facilitating travel from the American East to the North-Central. The population of the state in 1820 was approximately 55,000. Ten years later, this number would have risen to 157,000. Illinois’ population grew even more after US military forces defeated the region’s Algonquian tribes, who until then constantly attacked the state’s city and country populations. These Indians were forced to move to areas west of the Mississippi River.
Chicago was founded in 1833, then with a population of 350. The opening of the Erie Canal a few years earlier, its strategic position along the Great Lakes (and, thanks to the Erie Canal, which allowed travel to the Atlantic Ocean), made the city an important rail hub. Just four years later, in 1837, Chicago was elevated to city status, with a population of 4,000. The opening of the Illinois-Michigan Canal, which connected the Great Lakes with the Mississippi-Missouri River hydrographic system, definitely made the city one of the largest port centers in the country, and the largest railroad center in the United States. In just a few decades Chicago would become the second largest city in the country, behind only New York.
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas hotly contested a seat for Senator, who would serve as the state’s representative in Congress. Both senatorial candidates participated in a total of seven heated debates, with Douglas ultimately winning the seat. However, these debates projected the state nationally, and would help Lincoln win the 1860 presidential election. A year later, the American Civil War would break out.
The State of Illinois fought on the side of the Union, the United States proper, against the Confederates. There were some threats of secession from the southern regions of the state, which were mainly rural, and many of its residents sympathized with the Confederates. However, most of the population of Illinois was on the side of the Union. President Abraham Lincoln and one of the Union’s top commanders, Ulysses S. Grant, were natives of the state. About 250,000 Union soldiers came from Illinois, more than from any other Union state except New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
The increasing migration of African Americans created great tensions between the white and African American population of the state. Here, image of an African American being lynched in public by the white population of Cairo. During the first decades of the 20th century, various labor laws were passed. In addition to that, in 1911 Illinois passed a law that offered financial assistance to poor families with young children. Illinois was the first state to pass such a law.
Throughout the first decades of the 20th century, thousands of African-Americans went on to emigrate en masse from the southern states of the country to Illinois. One of the reasons was Chicago’s African-American culture newspaper, Black Defender, which encouraged this migration. The African-American population of the state’s cities increased rapidly, especially in Chicago, where African-Americans currently make up approximately 37% of the city’s population. The greater African-American presence bothered certain sectors of the white people of the state, generating friction between the white and African-American population, which culminated in three great popular riots, which took place in 1908 (in Springfield), in 1917 (in East St. Louis) and in 1919 (in Chicago).
Illinois prospered economically during the years of World War I, as well as in the years after the war. In 1920, Congress prohibited the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages (the “Prohibition Law”). Numerous gangs illegally trafficked alcoholic beverages in the state. Most of these gangs were led by Al Capone. They were often confronted with each other and with the police, and many of these clashes resulted in deaths. Crime rates exploded in Illinois, especially Chicago. The Prohibition Law was abolished in 1933.
The Great Depression of 1929 seriously affected the state’s economy. Many factories and shops had to close due to bankruptcy and thousands of people were left without work. In 1932, the state went on to provide financial aid to the unemployed. The economic recession ended with the discovery of large oil reserves in 1937, which made Illinois the fourth largest national producer in just two years.
Illinois’ economy grew dramatically during the years of World War II, with thousands of factories built in the state. Besides that, Enrico Fermi and other scientists managed to carry out the first artificial nuclear reaction in the history of mankind, at the University of Chicago. The possibility of provoking controlled nuclear reactions opened the possibility of the construction of nuclear reactors for the generation of electricity. The nuclear industry became one of the largest in the state’s economy. Construction began on the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (abbreviated to Fermilab) particle accelerator in 1968, opening four years later. In addition to that, during the 1960s, Illinois government tax incentives attracted numerous industries to the region, such as the automotive and aerospace industries.
In 1970, Illinois approved a $ 750 million project to treat wastewater and industrial pollutants — until then, most of these wastes were dumped directly into the water. In 1973, the Illinois government created a state bingo with the goal of raising funds for the state’s educational system. During the 1980s, several high-tech industries were established in the Chicago metropolitan area. In 2000, then-Illinois Governor George Ryan, declared a moratorium on the laws that approved the death penalty in the state. In January 2003, shortly before the end of his term as governor of Illinois, Ryan reduced the sentences of all those sentenced to death to life imprisonment.