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The State of Illinois is a state of the United States of America, the 21st to be admitted to the Union. Illinois is the most populous and demographically diverse state in the Midwest and the fifth most populous in the nation. Its balance of vast suburbs and the great metropolis of Chicago in the northeast, rural areas, small industrial cities, and renowned agricultural productivity in central and western Illinois, and the coal mines of the south give it a highly diverse economic base. Its central location, connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River, made it a transportation hub for 150 years. With a mixture of factory and farm, urban and rural, Illinois is a microcosm of the United States; an Associated Press analysis of 21 demographic factors determined Illinois was the "most average state."

Before European settlement, Illinois was the site of Cahokia, a center of the Mississippian culture. At its peak between 1300 and 1400 CE, some 40,000 Native Americans lived in the urban center, making it the largest city within the future United States until its population was exceeded by Philadelphia in the 1800s. About 2,000 Native American hunters and a small number of French villagers inhabited the area at the time of the American Revolution. American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1810s; they achieved statehood in 1818. Yankees arrived a little later and dominated the north, founding the future metropolis of Chicago in the 1830s. Railroads and John Deere's invention of the self-scouring steel plow made central Illinois' rich prairie into some of the world's most productive and valuable farmlands, attracting immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. Northern Illinois provided major support for Illinoisans Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War. By 1900, factories were being rapidly built in the northern cities, along with coal mines in central and southern areas. This industrialization attracted large numbers of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, and also led to the state's material contribution as a major arsenal in both world wars. In addition, large numbers of blacks migrated to Chicago from the South, where they formed a large community and created the city's famous jazz and blues cultures.

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Last updated: 15 February, 2010 02:43:16