Illinois was early on the American scene. A prehistoric city dating from 800-1400AD was discovered at Cahokia. Chicago was founded as a fort in 1803, a year before the Lewis and Clark Expedition made their voyage to the Pacific Ocean and the Illinois Territory was created in 1809. Mormons settled at Nauvoo in 1839 and the Amish began moving to central Illinois early on. The state is called the Land of Lincoln because President Abraham Lincoln spent most of his life in the state. Interestingly, since Illinois touches both the Midwest and the South, slaves were brought in for labor in the southern portion until the 1840s. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed over 20,000 buildings. Much of the debris was dumped into Lake Michigan as landfill, forming the underpinnings for what is now Grant Park, Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. Yet the state named for the Algonquin word “warriors” is not just about history. It has had many firsts which have impacted American life at every turn. The first McDonald’s was opened in Illinois, as well as the first Dairy Queen. Twinkies were invented here, along with the first ice cream sundae. The first modern skyscraper was built for the Home Insurance Company, paving the way for cities with sky high buildings. The first John Deere tractors were produced in Moline, Illinois, making farming tremendously more efficient. Deere’s monthly magazine, focused on helping farmers grow better crops, that went out to a million farmers was likely the first content marketing program in America. And, American cultural icon Walt Disney was born in Illinois.  But life in the state is not all glitz and glamour. 80% of Illinois is still devoted to farming, producing crops that are shipped all over the world, in contrast to the huge northern manufacturing band near the Great Lakes. Chicago, the third largest city in the US, hosts world class art and architecture and first-rate shopping on the Magnificent Mile. Enjoy the contrasts as you move through the state on its beautiful Byways. 

Illinois Scenic Byways