Illinois is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is the 6th-most populous U.S. state and 25th-largest state in terms of land area, and is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in northern and central Illinois, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. The Port of Chicago connects the state to other global ports around the world from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean; as well as the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway on the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world’s busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and politics.
The capital of Illinois is Springfield in central Illinois. Although today, the state’s largest population center is in and around Chicago in the northeastern part of the state, the state’s European population grew first in the west, with French who settled along the Mississippi River, and gave the area the name Illinois Country. After the American Revolutionary War established the United States, American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1780s via the Ohio River, and the population grew from south to north. In 1818, Illinois achieved statehood. After construction of the Erie Canal increased traffic and trade through the Great Lakes, Chicago was founded in the 1830s on the banks of the Chicago River, at one of the few natural harbors on southern Lake Michigan. John Deere’s invention of the self-scouring steel plow turned Illinois’s rich prairie into some of the world’s most productive and valuable farmland, attracting immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. The Illinois and Michigan Canal (1848) made transportation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley faster and cheaper. New railroads carried immigrants to new homes, as well as being used to ship commodity crops to Eastern markets. The state became a transportation hub for the nation.