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Mastering Illinois Trivial Facts -- For All Illinois Residents

Sep 9, 2008
New to Illinois? Considering buying real estate in Illinois? Still feel new to the Prairie State? Don't feel new, but don't know squat about the Land of Lincoln? It's a state with very deep historic roots. Many of the most important groundbreaking events in the country and on the planet started, occurred, or landed in Illinois.

Brush up your Illini lore and get acquainted with your chosen home, the Land of Lincoln. Put your seat belts on, strap on your life jackets, and grab a tasty Oreo and a cool drink from the diner car. Here's a myriad of well-known, not so well-known, and maybe a few not-so's to entertain and edify you.

Illinois Firsts

In 1883, the first aquarium opened in Chicago. The first McDonald's is in Des Plaines. The first Mormon Temple is in Nauvoo. The first round Silo for farm storage of silage was built on a farm in Spring Grove. Illinois was the first state to abolish slavery and ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.

In 1885, the world's first skyscraper went up in Chicago, was ten stories high, and was the first to use an internal steel structure giving birth to the "Chicago skeleton" style of tall buildings.

Chicago's Sears Tower at 1,705 feet is the tallest building on the North American continent. There is still some dispute to which is the tallest in the world. Taipei 101's building structure in Taiwan is technically taller than Sears, but Sears's antenna's still reach the highest. So far.

The first nuclear fission reactor was built on a squash court under the football stadium at the University of Chicago after Enrico Fermi and a small group of scientists and engineers showed that a simple construction of graphite bricks and uranium lumps produced controlled heat.

The Land and State

Illinois got its name from a Native American word that means "tribe of superior men". Immense winter storms, deadly annual tornadoes, smothering heat, and bitter cold are the typical and diverse weather patterns Illinois is known for.

Square dancing is the state dance. "State Sovereignty, National Union" is the state motto. "Illinois" is the state song and the state nickname is "The Prairie State".

Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for population, third in the nation for interstate highway miles, and has more units of government than any other state in the union; over six thousand.

"Land of Lincoln" was adopted as the state slogan by the General Assembly in 1955 and the state retains a copyright for the slogan's exclusive use.


The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station are the only buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Chicago's Mercy Hospital was the first hospital opened in the Prairie State. The epithet, "Windy City", was dubbed by Charles Dana, a New York Sun editor because he was tired of hear Chicagoans boast about the world's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

A bear cub was the first animal purchased for the Lincoln Park Zoo in 1874, thus the name origin for the Chicago Bears. The original designation of O'Hare airport was Orchard Field, thus the abbreviation "ORD". Chicago is the nation's third largest city.

The Chicago Public Library has a collection of more than 2 million books making it the world's largest public library. The Chicago Post Office on West Van Buren is the world's only postal facility you can drive a car through.

Illinois Oddities

The ice cream "sundae" was invented in Evanston because pious members of the town resented the Sunday soda fountain gatherings. The town government passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of ice cream sodas on Sunday. Ingenious confectioners began serving ice cream with your choice of syrup, but with no soda. They mockingingly christened the dish the"Sundae".

The president of the Chicago Cubs in 1905 filed charges against a fan for catching a fly ball and keeping it. The world's largest cookie and cracker factory is in Chicago. Nabisco made 16 billion Oreo cookies there in 1995.

The Chicago River used to flow backward into Lake Michigan until 1900. Engineers reversed the river flow when they completed the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. On Saint Patrick's Day, the Chicago River is dyed green.

And Finally, Oh My's!

Illinois boasts the highest number of personalized license plates, more than any other state. The highest death rate in a prison camp during the Civil War was at Rock Island.

The Chicago Bears' original name was the Staley Bears. They were organized in Decatur in 1920.

In Mount Pulaski, it is illegal for boys to hit trees with snowballs. Girls, however, are allowed to hurl tree-bound snowballs all they want. Superman's home of Metropolis really exists in Southern Illinois.
About the Author
Looking for Illinois real estate? Visit RE/MAX at http://www.illinoisproperty.com/illinois-real-estate.aspx for a complete guide to your new home. Browse online or contact your nearest RE/MAX Realtor for your real estate tour of magnificent Illinois. Art Gib is a freelance writer.
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