Illinois History - the history of Illinois
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Vacation 2 USA   >   Illinois   >   History
Vacation 2 USA   >   History   >   Illinois History


Illinois History

Cahokia, the center of the Native American Mississippian culture was located in southern Illinois near present-day Collinsville. When the Mississippian culture disappeared, a political alliance of several tribes, the Illinwek Confederation dominated the region, until they in turn were replaced by the Potawatomi, Miami and Sauk tribes.

Probably the first Europeans to visit the area were the French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, in 1673. As a result, Illinois was part of the French empire until 1763. However, following the Seven Years' War (generally known in the US as the "French and Indian War"), control of the area passed to Britain. In 1783, after the American Revolution, the area became part of the United States' Northwest Territory.

The Illinois Territory was created in 1809, and in 1818 Illinois was admitted to the United States as the 21st state, the last Native American tribes being driven out in 1832.

Illinois served an important part in the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), and contributed over 250,000 men to the Union Army, more than any other northern state except New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. These men in total mustered 150 infantry regiments, 17 cavalry regiments, and 2 light artillery regiments.

The state was struck by disaster in 1871 when fire broke out in Chicago. This fire, known as the "Great Chicago Fire" killed hundreds and destroyed about 4 square miles (10 km2). Even today, this event is remembered: the second star of the city's municipal flag commemorates the event.

Illinois was continued to grow in the 20th century, and among other things is notable as the site of the first nuclear power generating reactor (Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago in 1957), and the first McDonald's franchise (Des Plaines in 1960).

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The Illinois Chronicles: The Story of the State of Illinois -- From its Birth to the Present Day

By Mark Skipworth

What on Earth Books
Released: 2018-02-14
Hardcover (42 pages)

The Illinois Chronicles: The Story of the State of Illinois -- From its Birth to the Present Day
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In celebration of its official Bicentennial year, take a trip through the incredible history of Illinois with this fascinating timeline book that brings to life 200 years of the State’s history

Beautifully illustrated and hugely engaging, The Illinois Chronicles’ show-stopping main feature is a 6-foot-long, fold-out timeline with more than 100 stunning images and illuminating captions that take readers on the Prairie State’s remarkable journey. The informative text is written in the form of nearly 50 “newspaper” articles, capturing important events in Illinois history in an engaging way. Experience key moments such as the birth of Illinois as the 21st state, the Chicago fire, Abraham Lincoln’s political rise, the Chicago World Fair, Barack Obama’s presidential election, the Chicago Cubs’ first world championship, and more. With features such as an Illinois Honor Roll – 36 mini biographies of important people in Illinois history – as well as 27 places to visit, a map, and information on the government branches and state flags, it all adds up to an exciting story of the people and events whose unique legacy can still be felt today.

Illinois: A History of the Land and Its People

By Roger Biles

Brand: Northern Illinois University Press
Paperback (351 pages)

Illinois: A History of the Land and Its People
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Crossroads of the continent, Land of Lincoln, hub of commerce—or, as Charles Dickens viewed it, a landscape "oppressive in its barren monotony"—Illinois boasts a rich and varied past. In this far-reaching but compact history, Roger Biles provides a much-needed, up-to-date account of the state’s development, from the early native settlements to the present. Focusing on Illinois’s demographic changes over time, he highlights the key figures who contributed to the state’s government, economy, culture, and the arts.

While devoting attention to the touchstones of history, Illinois illuminates also the achievements of ordinary people, including the women, the African Americans, and the other minorities who—along with the politicians, the captains of industry, and the military heroes—contributed to the state’s growth and prosperity. National events shaped the state as well, and Biles explores the impact of such crises as the Civil War and World War II on the people of Illinois.

No history of Illinois can ignore the state’s largest city, the dynamic metropolis on Lake Michigan—Chicago. Drawing on extensive research, Biles illuminates Chicago’s past—its outbursts of labor unrest and racial tensions as well as the splendors of two world’s fairs and an artistic renaissance—while at the same time relating Chicago to the larger story of Illinois and its people.

Connecting lesser-known stories with the main events of the state’s past, Biles writes in an accessible style that is at once entertaining and enlightening. Featuring 67 illustrations, Illinois will captivate readers of all ages and interests.

Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves: A Plain-Spoken History of Mid-Illinois

By James Krohe Jr

Southern Illinois University Press
Paperback (360 pages)

Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves: A Plain-Spoken History of Mid-Illinois
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Winner, ISHS Annual Award for a Scholarly Publication, 2018

In Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves, James Krohe Jr. presents an engaging history of an often overlooked region, filled with fascinating stories and surprising facts about Illinois’s midsection.
Krohe describes in lively prose the history of mid-Illinois from the Woodland period of prehistory until roughly 1960, covering the settlement of the region by peoples of disparate races and religions; the exploitation by Euro-Americans of forest, fish, and waterfowl; the transformation of farming into a high-tech industry; and the founding and deaths of towns. The economic, cultural, and racial factors that led to antagonism and accommodation between various people of different backgrounds are explored, as are the roles of education and religion in this part of the state. The book examines remarkable utopian experiments, social and moral reform movements, and innovations in transportation and food processing. It also offers fresh accounts of labor union warfare and social violence directed against Native Americans, immigrants, and African Americans and profiles three generations of political and government leaders, sometimes extraordinary and sometimes corrupt (the “one-horse thieves” of the title). A concluding chapter examines history’s roles as product, recreation, and civic bond in today’s mid-Illinois.
Accessible and entertaining yet well-researched and informative, Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves draws on a wide range of sources to explore a surprisingly diverse section of Illinois whose history is America in microcosm.

Illinois: A History in Pictures

By Gerald A. Danzer

University of Illinois Press
Paperback (264 pages)

Illinois: A History in Pictures
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Offering a rich and expansive history that extends far beyond the familiar anecdotes about Abraham Lincoln and the Great Chicago Fire, Illinois: A History in Pictures gathers drawings, engravings, photographs, maps, and other illustrations to inspire imaginations young and old to envision the history of Illinois in all its depth and breadth. Gerald A. Danzer distills the story of Illinois from these visual artifacts, exploring the state's history from its earliest peoples and their encounters with European settlers, through territorial struggles and the strife of the Civil War, and into the modern era of industry and urbanization. More than one hundred images capture dramatic moments and illustrate the growth and changes in the Prairie State's history, from the settlement of its territories to the construction of homes, factories, and statehouses. Danzer pays special attention to the maps of Illinois, showing how the state's character and prosperity have been shaped by the Great Lakes and great rivers at its borders and by the roads and railroads built to connect its people. Attending closely to the details of daily life, Illinois: A History in Pictures also focuses on notable people throughout the state's history, including the Ottawa Chief Pontiac and the Sauk Chief Black Hawk, pioneers of social justice Jane Addams and Mother Jones, sports heroes such as Red Grange, and of course American leaders Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Danzer connects personal and local experiences to national affairs and global perspectives, pointing to Illinois's diverse populations and culture in the new millennium.

Illinois History: A Reader (Common Threads)

By Mark Hubbard

University of Illinois Press
Released: 2018-05-15
Kindle Edition (256 pages)

Illinois History: A Reader (Common Threads)
Product Description:
A renaissance in Illinois history scholarship has sparked renewed interest in the Prairie State's storied past. Students, meanwhile, continue to pursue coursework in Illinois history to fulfill degree requirements and for their own edification.


This Common Threads collection offers important articles from the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Organized as an approachable survey of state history, the book offers chapters that cover the colonial era, early statehood, the Civil War years, the Gilded Age and Progressive eras, World War II, and postwar Illinois. The essays reflect the wide range of experiences lived by Illinoisans engaging in causes like temperance and women's struggle for a shorter workday; facing challenges that range from the rise of street gangs to Decatur's urban decline; and navigating historic issues like the 1822-24 constitutional crisis and the Alton School Case.


Contributors: Roger Biles, Lilia Fernandez, Paul Finkelman, Raymond E. Hauser, Reginald Horsman, Suellen Hoy, Judson Jeffries, Lionel Kimble Jr., Thomas E. Pegram, Shirley Portwood, Robert D. Sampson, Ronald E. Shaw, and Robert M. Sutton.


Exploring Nature in Illinois: A Field Guide to the Prairie State

By Michael Jeffords

University of Illinois Press
Paperback (257 pages)

Exploring Nature in Illinois: A Field Guide to the Prairie State
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Loaded with full color photographs and evocative descriptions, Exploring Nature in Illinois provides a panorama of the state's overlooked natural diversity. Naturalists Michael Jeffords and Susan Post explore fifty preserves, forests, restoration areas, and parks, bringing an expert view to wildlife and landscapes and looking beyond the obvious to uncover the unexpected beauty of Illinois's wild places.
From the colorful variety of birds at War Bluff Valley Audubon Sanctuary to the exposed bedrock and cliff faces of Apple River Canyon, Exploring Nature in Illinois will inspire readers to explore wonders hidden from urban sprawl and cultivated farmland. Maps and descriptions help travelers access even hard-to-find sites while a wealth of detail and photography offers nature-lovers insights into the flora, fauna, and other aspects of vibrant settings and ecosystems. The authors also include diary entries describing their own impressions of and engagement with the sites.
A unique and much-needed reference, Exploring Nature in Illinois will entertain and enlighten hikers, cyclers, students and scouts, morning walkers, weekend drivers, and anyone else seeking to get back to nature in the Prairie State.

The State of Southern Illinois: An Illustrated History (Shawnee Books)

By Herbert K. Russell

Southern Illinois University Press
Hardcover (232 pages)

The State of Southern Illinois: An Illustrated History (Shawnee Books)
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In The State of Southern Illinois: An Illustrated History, Herbert K. Russell offers fresh interpretations of a number of important aspects of Southern Illinois history. Focusing on the area known as “Egypt,” the region  south of U.S. Route 50 from Salem south to Cairo, he begins his book with the earliest geologic formations and  follows Southern Illinois’s history into the twenty-first century. The volume is richly illustrated with maps and photographs, mostly in color, that highlight the informative and straightforward text.

Perhaps most notable is the author’s use of dozens of heretofore neglected sources to dispel the myth that Southern Illinois is merely an extension of Dixie. He corrects the popular impressions that slavery was introduced by early settlers from the South and that a majority of Southern Illinoisans wished to secede. Furthermore, he presents the first in-depth discussion of twelve pre–Civil War, free black communities located in the region. He also identifies the roles coal mining, labor violence, gangsters, and the media played in  establishing the area’s image. He concludes optimistically, unveiling a twenty-first-century Southern Illinois filled with myriad attractions and opportunities for citizens and tourists alike.

The State of Southern Illinois is the most accurate all-encompassing volume of history on this unique area that often regards itself as a state within a state. It offers an entirely new perspective on race relations, provides insightful information on the cultural divide between north and south in Illinois, and pays tribute to an often neglected and misunderstood region of this multidimensional state, all against a stunning visual backdrop.

Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society, 2013

Ford's History Of Illinois From 1818 To 1847 (2 Volume Set)

By Gov. Thomas Ford

The Lakeside Press/R.R. Donnelley & Sons
Hardcover (745 pages)

Ford s History Of Illinois From 1818 To 1847 (2 Volume Set)
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Wasco, Illinois: A History

By Adam Daniel Gibbons

Old Adage Press
Paperback (474 pages)

Wasco, Illinois: A History
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The small village of Wasco, Illinois, located in the heart of Kane County, has a fascinating and rich history which until now has never been published. This thoroughly-researched volume, at over 460-pages in length, offers more than one hundred never-before-published images gathered from both private and public records, in addition to a decade-by-decade history of the village, starting with its initial settlement in the 1880s, and continuing forward through the present decade. More than a thousand issues of local newspapers dating between 1885 and 2018 (such as the St. Charles Chronicle, Elburn Herald, Elgin Advocate, Geneva Republican, Kane County Chronicle, and more) were carefully read by the author in order to compile this work, which covers every early family known in Wasco, as well as every historic structure, both past and present, in the village.

Brief histories of dozens of businesses spanning Wasco's past and present are included here, including the Bergland/Hummel Lumberyard and store, Erickson's blacksmith shop, King's Mill, the Wasco Blacksmith Shop, Mather's store and service station, the Wanzer Dairy, the Wasco Inn, the Wasco Garage, The Farm Restaurant, White Brothers Trucking, Country Gas, the Wasco Nursery, and more. Daily life in the village has not been neglected, and several interviews with long-time Wasco residents has helped paint an accurate and compelling picture of how the region has changed over the past eighty or more years. Sports in Wasco (particularly baseball and softball) are covered in this work, and there is extensive material related to both the Wasco Baptist Church and Wasco School. Hundreds of deeds and several family archives were also used in the compilation of this book, which should prove to be of interest to anyone with a link to Campton Township, Campton Hills, Kane County, or early "railroad towns."

Major social organizations important to Wasco's past and present are covered in this publication as well. Some of the most influential and interesting of these include the Wasco Ladies Aid, the Pure Milk Association (Wasco local), the Wasco American Legion, the Wasco Glad Game Club, the Wasco Home Bureau, the Pollyanna Club, the Christian Endeavor Society, Modern Woodmen of America, the Wasco Mothers' Club, the Shrinking Matrons, and the U-Go-I-Go Club. A full surname index, bibliography, and complete table of contents offers researchers an aide to finding information about their Wasco friends relatives.

Some of the families covered in this work include: the Austin family, the Edward Swanson family, the Bergland family, the Gustaf Swanson family, the John Swanson family, the Higgins family, the Hawkins family, the Peterson family, the Charles Anderson family, the Bell family, the Rice family, the Whitney family, the Leonard White family, the Millen family, the Bert Brown family, the Waterhouse family, the Carpenter family, the Fischer family, the Isaac Johnson family, the George Brown family, the Stevens family, the Mather family, the Erickson family, the Denker family, the Bowgren family, the Ekstrom family, the Jay family, the Langrill family, the Vanderhoof family, the Lathrop family, the Hagaman family, the Anderson/Barber family, the Chrystal family, the Harold Anderson family, the Ross family, the Theodore Johnson family, and the two Olson families.

Wall's History of Jefferson County, Illinois (Classic Reprint)

By John A. Wall

Forgotten Books
Paperback (638 pages)

Wall s History of Jefferson County, Illinois (Classic Reprint)
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All life and achievement is evolution; present wisdom comes from past experience, and present commercial prosperity has come only from past exertion and suffering. The deeds and motives of the men that have gene before have been instrumental in shaping the destinies of later communities and states. The development of a new country was at once a task and a privilege. It required great courage, sacrifice and privation. Compare the present conditions of the residents of Jefferson county, I llinois, with what they were one hundred years ago. From a trackless wilderness and virgin prairie it has come to be a center of prosperity and civilization, with millions of wealth, systems of intersecting railways, grand educational institutions, marvelous industries and immense agricultural productions. Can any thinking person be insensible to the fascination of the study which discloses the incentives, hopes, aspirations and efforts of the early pioneers who so strongly laid the foundation upon which has been reared the magnificent prosperity of later days? To perpetuate the story of these people and to trace and record the social, political and industrial progress of the community from its first inception is the function of the local historian. A sincere purpose to preserve facts and personal memoirs that are deserving of preservation, and which unite the present to the past is the motive for the present publication. The work has been in the hands of able writers, who have, after much patient study and research, produced here the most complete biographical memoirs of Jefferson county, I llinois, ever offered to the public.
(Typographical errors above are due to OCR software and don't occur in the book.)

About the Publisher

Forgotten Books is a publisher of historical writings, such as: Philosophy, Classics, Science, Religion, History, Folklore and Mythology.

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