Illinois became the 21st US state on December 3rd, 1818. Illinois was founded by two French explorers, Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673. In 1679, French settlers arrived and established the first settlement of Cahokia. Great Britain later gained the area during the French and Indian Wars in 1763.
Illinois originally had a state flag in 1913 which chose Lucy Derwent’s submission of the Great Seal of the State of Illinois, which had been created in 1868, on a white background. The flag depicts a bald eagle, symbolizing the United States, perching itself on a rock while carrying a shield in its talons. The shield is of the original 13 stars and stripes. In its beak is also a red ribbon, reading State, Sovereignty, National, and Union. However, Sovereignty is upside down. The dates on the rock, 1818 and 1868 are the years Illinois became a state and when the current Great Seal was picked up. The flag was eventually redesigned in 1970 by a Mrs. Sanford Hutchinson. In the newer version, the name Illinois now reads underneath the eagle in blue. There is also ground around the rock the eagle sits on alongside a sea and a sun in the background. The ground by the rock represents the soil of Illinois.
Illinois is known as the Land of Lincoln, for Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Although Lincoln was born in Kentucky and spent his childhood in Indiana, he moved to Springfield, Illinois (which eventually became Illinois’ capital) in 1830 where he eventually became a lawyer. He gained fame during his campaign for Senator of Illinois thanks to his debates with his Democratic opponent Stephen A. Douglas. Although Lincoln lost the election, it helped pave the way for his presidential nomination just a few years later.
Lincoln, as President, helped abolish slavery during his term. He created the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that freed the slaves within the Confederacy. He also delivered his most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, that same year. He delivered it at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in which he began with the famous, “Four score and seven years ago”.
Tragically, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington by John Wilkes Booth, who was an actor. He was there with his wife to see a play called “Our American Cousin”. Booth’s motive for the assassination was that he believed he was helping the South. Lincoln is interred just outside Springfield at the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.