Sitting comfortably in the Midwestern portion of the United States, the state of Illinois is the 5th most populated of the 50 U.S. States. This place is often known as a microcosm of the U.S. This term refers to the representation of all the things that the nation has to offer in this one place. Everything from large industrial cities, to small rural agricultural communities can be found here.
So much diversity and variety is hard to find in any one place. Today we'll look at the geography, climate, and culture of this place to showcase how widely varied it truly is. Firstly though, we should look at some key information:
When we say that Illinois is a microcosm of the nation, we are referring to a number of factors that make it represent almost all of the aspects of the country in a single place. For starters, you have the massive city of Chicago in the northeast that is joined by smaller industrial cities around it.
The central and northern portions of the area are rife with agricultural production and natural resources which include coal, timber, and petroleum. As a major hub for transportation, IL enjoys a diverse economic and demographic spread. The Port of Chicago is one such place where the location is connected to many other ports via the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway which takes them to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great Lakes also provide passage to the Mississippi River as well. Combine this with O'Hare International Airport, a place consistently ranked in the top five of the world's busiest airports, and you'll see why there is so much diversity in this place.
While most of the population today is concentrated in Chicago and the northern regions, the original settlers began in the western portion of the state. French Canadians first settled near the Mississippi River. After the American Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States, the area received its modern name.
The first U.S. settlers came from Kentucky in the early 1800s by traveling along the Ohio River. This population grew in the south and gradually moved toward the north. It was the 21st state to be admitted to the Union in 1818. The invention of the steel plow from John Deere allowed the people to turn the prairies in the area into some of the most valuable farmlands in the nation.
This new attention brought immigrants from Germany and Sweden to work on the farms. Railroads were the primary form of transportation for people and goods. In the north, mining and industrial jobs were also growing, and in 1900, immigrants began to arrive from Eastern and Southern Europe.
During World War I and II, this state was major contributor to manufacturing items for the war effort. An event known as The Great Migration brought with it a community of African Americans who settled in Chicago and brought forth the iconic jazz and blues cultures that the state is known for.
This place is home to The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is located in the capital of Springfield.
Geography and Climate
IL is located in the Midwest Region of the United States and is one of nine states to be in the Great Lakes Region of North America. The northern border is drawn at a north-south line by Lake Michigan, and the south border is marked by the Wabash and Ohio Rivers. Much of the western line is composed of the Mississippi River.
The entirety of the area is located in the Interior Plains. Despite this, it does have variations in the elevation throughout the area. For example, in northwestern IL, you'll find the Driftless Area which is unglaciated and therefore higher and more rugged than the topography around it. In this area you'll find Charles Mound, which is the highest elevation above sea level at 1.235 feet.
Other notable areas include the Shawnee Hills in the south and the floodplain on the Mississippi River from Alton all the way to the Kaskaskia River which is known as the American Bottom.
The climate here changes vastly over the course of any given year. The distance between the north and south is almost 400 miles which is what creates such a vastly diverse climate. Most of the state enjoys a humid continental climate that has hot, humid summers and cold winters.
The southern portion teeters on the humid subtropical climate classification and has less harsh winters. The average rainfall ranges from 35 inches in the south to 48 inches yearly in the north. With 51 days of thunderstorm activity each year, it does have a higher than average rate of stormy weather.
Art and Culture Information
While there are a large number of Museums in IL, the majority of them are in Chicago. Some of these locations are known as the best in the world. The locations that enjoy this classification are the following:
John G. Shedd Aquarium
Field Museum of National History
Art Institute of Chicago
Museum of Science and Industry
In addition to these locations, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is the largest and most widely attended presidential library in the United States. There are two major zoos in the Chicago area, the most notable being the Brookfield Zoo which has over 2,300 animals across 216 acres of land.
Since 1946, the state has hosted the Midwest Clinic: An International Band and Orchestra Conference. It is also the location of the Illinois Music Educators Association, also known as IMEA which is one of the largest music educator organizations in the U.S.
All of this information showcases how varied and diverse this state truly is. If you're hungry for more though, be sure to check out our Illinois state facts to improve your knowledge of this place.