1902 Encyclopedia > Illinois


ILLINOIS, the twenty-first in the order of admission and the fourth in rank of population of the States of the American Union, is one of the group of States formed out of the "North-West Territory." Its boundaries, begin-ning at the point where the Wabash river joins the Ohio, pass thence north by that river, by the west line of Indiana, and by Lake Michigan to 42° 30' N. lat., thence west to the Mississippi river, thence south by that river to its con-fluence with the Ohio river, and thence, by that, north-easterly to the mouth of the Wabash. It has an area of 55,414 square miles, extending with varying width from 42° 30' to 36° 59' N. lat..

Surface and Soil.—Illinois is a great plain, with its highest section in the north, on Lake Michigan; thence it imperceptibly declines to the south-west, in which direction its principal rivers flow to the Mississippi. A small tract in the north-west, which includes the lead mines, is hilly and broken, and there are bluffs along the Mississippi, some of which rise 300 to 400 feet. A ridge extends across the south end of the State, constituting the fruit district of the region, called "Egypt" on account of its never-failing fertility. On this ridge or swell of clay land are grown all the varieties of berries, grapes, plums, peaches, apples, and all kinds of vegetables in great profusion, which find prompt sale in Chicago and the northern counties by reason of reaching market at early dates in the season. Excepting along the rivers, and where there has been extensive tree planting, the greater part of the State consists of a vast level or slightly undulating treeless prairies. Much of this has been reclaimed from swamp land by systematic drainage, and is found to be the strongest and most productive soil of the State. To the eye the surface of the State is as level as that of an ocean in calm. The general slope from the watershed rarely exceeds 1 foot to the mile, and the fall of the Illinois river in a course of 300 miles to the south-west, is, for most of the distance, but 1 inch to the mile. The origin of the prairies is still a matter of speculation, but there is an opinion that in a former geological age the whole State was the bed of a vast shallow freshwater lake. The prairie soil is a black fine humus mould, formed of the decayed vegetation, and underlain at varying depths by clay. The soil is of great fertility, and much of it seemingly inexhaustible. Over these prairies for hundreds of miles the plough never touches stone, pebble, or even sand. A luxuriant native grass formerly sustained herds of buffalo, and from the still unbroken prairie surface are annually mown thousands of tons of the wild grass for hay, which is as nutritious and brings as high a price in market as " tame hay." All the cereals, roots, fruits, grasses, and vegetables of the temperate zone are grown in Illinois, and some of the semi-tropical productions, as cotton and amber cane. Because of the richness of the soil, cultivators still plough very shallow, and neglect manuring, or even rotation of crops, in the larger portion of the State. It is usual to plant maize for ten or twenty years in succession, only changing the crop to wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, or rye when the market prices of these cereals promise larger profits than maize. Upon any sign of exhaustion, the pro-ductiveness may be restored by deeper ploughing, grass-ing, fallowing, and applying barnyard manure. In half a century there has never been a bad failure of crops; twice or thrice there has been insufficient rain, and as often too much, and once a frost in summer; but the injury in no one year was so great or so widespread as to produce gene-ral distress among farmers.

Minerals.—Coal is found in nearly all parts of the State; it is bituminous, a small proportion being cannel. The beds vary from 3J to 8 feet in thickness. The Coal-measures are part of the general formation extending from beyond the Mississippi river in Missouri, across Illinois and parts of Indiana and Ohio, and into Kentucky. It is esti-mated that three-fourths of the surface area of the State are underlain by beds of coal. There are twelve separate and well-defined beds of from 4 to 8 feet in thickness. The State is supplied with coal for consumption, not only from the mines of Illinois, but also from those of Indiana and Ohio by rail, and with anthracite from Pennsylvania by lake. The coal mined in the State is between 3,500,000 and 4,000,000 tons annually. Near Galena, in the north-west part of the State, are lead mines which have been worked for half a century, and which at one time made Galena the most prosperous city in the State. Salt springs are found in the south-east counties. Stone suitable for building is found in various parts of the State. An inexhaustible field of limestone, called " Lemont marble," is found near Chicago, and has been largely used in rebuilding that city.

State Lands.-—The lands in the State were thus classi-fied in the years 1878 and 1880:—in the former year there were 25,639,304 acres of improved and 8,635,953 of unimproved lands (total, 34,275,257), while in the latter year the numbers were 26,174,566 and 8,204,505 (total, 34,379,071 acres). The city and town lots num-bered 365,344 improved and 486,731 unimproved in 1878, and 374,664 improved and 484,932 unimproved in 1880. The railroads hold 13,253 acres of land and 3028 city and town lots.
The improved lands were under cultivation in 1878 and 1880, as follows :—

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Agricultural Products.—The great crops of Illinois are maize or Indian corn, wheat, and hay ; and much atten-tion is also given to the raising of live stock. The State produces more wheat than any other State in the Union. The farms number about 247,000. We give full agricul-tural returns for 1879, and those for 1880 so far as com-pleted to December of that year:—

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The following table gives returns for 1879 :—

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Railways.—In 1850 Congress granted to the State, to aid in the construction of a railway from Cairo to Galena and Chicago, alternate sections of land along the route; the State transferred the grant of land to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, a corporation composed mainly of English capitalists, conspicuous among whom was Richard Cobden. These capitalists furnished the money and con-structed the road, and they and their successors still own the property. The railway lies wholly within the State, though it works other lines extending south to New Orleans and west to the Missouri river. Its completion gave that impetus to the construction of railways to Chicago and across the State which has contributed so largely to the rapid development of the resources of Illinois. The State is now admirably supplied with railways, their extent reach-ing 6849 miles. They cross every county in the State ; indeed, they are so numerous and so interlaced that there are few if any localities more than 10 miles from a railway, while a large proportion of the shipping points have the benefit of more than one route by which to ship and receive merchandise. The great trunk lines leading west from the Atlantic and from Canada have their termini at Chicago, or at some other point in Illinois, while those leading from the States west of the Mississippi also ter-minate in Illinois, or crossing the State run further east. The system of railway government somewhat resembles that of England. A railway commission, appointed by the State, exercises a general supervision, and enforces the penalties for violations of law. The receipts of the forty-six rail-ways doing business in Illinois amounted in 1879-80 to $138,659,155 : the working expenses to $73,089,185 ; and the net income to $61,093,612.

Inland Navigation.—In addition to the railway traffic, there is much business done by steamboats at Cairo, East St Louis, Alton, Quincy, Rock Island, and other points on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, though transportation by river has declined much of late years. The Illinois and Michigan canal is 93 miles long, and connects Lake Michigan at Chicago with the Illinois river, at the head of the navigation of that river. This canal has cost $17,000,000, but is now too small for the service needed. The Illinois river is formed by the anion of the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers, which junction occurs 45 miles south-west of Chicago. It receives, besides the rivers named, the waters of the Fox, Sangamon, and Vermilion rivers, and of some smaller streams. Its general direction is south-west to the Mississippi, into which it falls. The State has expended much money improving the navigation by locks and dams, and this improvement when completed, with the enlargement of the canal to the capacity of steamboat navigation, will be one of the most extensive works of interior water communication in the world, being over 400 miles long, and connecting the waters of the Atlantic, through the St Lawrence river and the lakes, and through the Mississippi river, with the Gulf of Mexico. Rock river rises in Wisconsin, flows rapidly to the south-west through Illinois, and joins the Mississippi near Rock Island. On this river manufacturing establishments are rapidly increasing, the water power being regarded as equal to any in the country. The other rivers are the Kaskasjria, Embarras, Little Wabash, Big Muddy, and Chicago river, the last-named an inlet from Lake Michigan, furnishing a commodious harbour, 8 miles long, in which an average of 400 vessels find shelter during the winter season. The extent of the commerce on the lake is shown by the custom-house returns. During 1880 the steam vessels arriving at Chicago had a total burthen of 2,141,879 tons, the sailing-vessels 2,456,337 tons; the clearances showed about the same figures.

Manufactures.—The statistics of manufactures for 1870 gave as results 13,597 establishments, employing 82,979 operatives. Since that date the increase in manufactures throughout the State has been general, embracing all branches of manufacturing industry. The following are the statistics for Cook county (including Chicago) in 1880 : —number of establishments, 3752 ; capital, $80,693,102; average numberof hands, 113,507; wages paid, $37,615,381; value of material used, $180,807,706 ; value of products, $253,405,695. These figures for Cook county alone in 1880 exceed in several particulars those for the whole State in 1870; and the increase in the State during the ten years may be regarded as proportionate to that in Cook county. The abundance of coal, the proximity to the Lake Superior iron and copper mines, the unlimited means of transportation, the supply of lumber, the cheapness of food, the superior water power in various parts of the State, have all tended to make Illinois a large and convenient seat of manufactures. The iron and steel establishments of the State rank with the largest in the country. On Rock Island, in the Mississippi river, the U. S. Govern-ment has an arsenal for the manufacture of ordnance. The establishment is the most extensive in the United States, and the buildings and workshops cover nearly the entire island.

Administration.—The territory embraced in the present State of Illinois was ceded in 1765 by France to Great Britain; then it became a possession of the colony of Virginia; in 1787 it was made a county in the North-West Territory; from 1800 to 1809 it was a county in the territory of Indiana; in 1809 it was erected into a terri-tory ; and in December 1818 was admitted into the Union as a State. On its admission to the Union a constitution providing a form of government was adopted ; in 1848 this was superseded by another, and this again was set aside in 1870 by the third and present constitution, which pro vides the ordinary State government of three departments, executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive,, con-sisting of a governor and other officers, are elected "every four years; the legislature, or general assembly, consists of a senate of 51 members, elected by as many districts ; the term of senators is four years, one half, or as near as may be, retiring every two years. The house of repre-sentatives consists of 153 members, 3 elected in each senatorial district every two years. In electing representafives, the voter may give his three votes for one, two, or three candidates. This cumulative voting is peculiar to the constitution of Illinois ; it has become popular. The judi-ciary consists of one supreme court of seven judges, seve-ral district appellate courts of limited jurisdiction, circuit courts in such number as may be needed, and one county court, including probate jurisdiction, in each county. Each county and each township has its own local govern-ment. Every male citizen resident one year in the State may vote. This constitution when adopted was regarded as a great improvement and advance in State government, and many of its provisions have since been adopted by other States. The sessions of the legislature are held at Spring-field, which since 1836 has been the capital of the State.

Revenue, Debts, Taxation.—In 1836-38 the State was seduced into a scheme of internal improvements. The population was then less than half a million, but the debt created was $14,000,000, to construct railways and a canal. In three years the scheme was abandoned, and the State in July 1841 suspended payment of in-terest. In 1845 the legislature levied a tax to pay the current in-terest; in 1848 an irrepealable tax was levied to pay the principal; all the overdue and unpaid interest was funded in interest-bearing bonds. Credit was restored, and in December 1880 the State was free of all debt. Taxation is imposed by a rate levied on all real and personal property, according to a previous valuation, made by local assessors, revised by county boards, and again revised and equalized by a State board. The total assessment or valuation of the property in the State for taxation averages not more than one-fourth of the value at which the property can be sold. The consti-tution limits the rate of taxation (except to pay debts) by counties to 75 cents on each $100 of the official valuation. The same valu-ation governs all taxation, the maximum rate being fixed by law. In like manner all municipal corporations are (since 1870) prohibited from incurring any debt, for any purpose, exceeding, with previ-ous debts, 5 per cent, on the official valuation of the property with-in their territorial jurisdiction. An annual tax is required in each municipality to pay the interest and a portion of the principal of all existing debts. Under these stringent requirements, municipal debts in Illinois are gradually decreasing. The State, without be-coming responsible for municipal debts, acts as trustee, and through its officers collects and disburses the taxes to pay principal and in-terest of these local debts. The latter were contracted mainly in aid of railroads, and bore an average rate of 9 per cent, interest.
The gross taxation for all purposes, including schools, for 1878 and 1879 was as follows:—

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The valuation of all the property in the State for taxable pur-poses, for the year 1880, was $786,616,394. The rate of tax levied for State purposes, and to pay cost of assessment and collection, is 36 cents on each $100 of the property valuation given, which, as above stated, is about one-fourth of the real value. In 1880 lands (except railroad lands) were valued at $390,594,627, and city and town lots at $182,808,928 ; total lands and lots, $573,403,555.
The State is in receipt of a permanent revenue from the Illinois Central Railroad Company. In consideration of the cession of land, in 1850, by the State, the company contracted to pay into the State treasury half-yearly 7 per cent, of the gross annual earn-ings of the line. This was to be in lieu of all other taxes on the property of the company. This contract is now a source of large revenue to the State. Up to November 1, 1855, the payment to the State was $29,752 ; the payment in 1880 was $368,349. The total pavments to the State, at the close of 1880, amounted to $8,307,217.

Education and Charities.—The public school system is liberally supported in Illinois. The permanent school fund yields about $60,000, to which the State adds $1,000,000 annually, and this is distributed among the counties. Many counties and districts have invested school funds. The aggregate of these local funds is $5,500,000, the interest of which is applied to support schools. In addition each school district levies such taxes as may be needed for its schools, and may borrow money to build schoolhouses. In


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