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Facts About Illinois History: 5 Things You Might Not Know

By    |   Sunday, 05 Apr 2015 05:58 AM

When most people think of historical facts about Illinois, images such as Al Capone and bootleggers in the prohibition come to mind. However, several interesting events in Illinois history are less well-known.

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Let’s take a look at five of these noteworthy facts about Illinois.

1. The Race Riot of 1908

Ignited by the presumed rape of a white woman by a black man, the Race Riot of 1908 was also fueled by the alleged murder of a white engineer by a black man. According to Illinois periodicals, these events caused some white residents to take out their anger and frustration on the black race. Blue-collar workers joined with white youth gangs to attack predominately black communities of the city. As a result of the confrontations, two blacks were lynched and four whites were shot dead. The riot, which lasted three days, ended when the Illinois governor ordered more than 3,700 militiamen to get the situation under control. 

2. Lincoln’s Totem Pole

A 50-foot totem pole with an 8-foot statue of Lincoln on the top you say? This out-of-the-ordinary piece of history stands in front of the entrance to the Illinois State Museum, honoring one of the state’s most famous citizens. Named the Proud Raven pole, Lincoln’s totem pole was carved in 1883 by a chief of the Raven clan in Alaska. According to KTUU Publications, legend says the carver created it because he wanted to honor the fact that a member of his family was among the first in his area to see a white man. What makes this more interesting is what was included in the required price: a case of oranges and a case of Coca-Cola. 

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3. Finding New Salem

The reason Lincoln came to live in New Salem, Illinois, is an interesting bit of history. While sailing a flatboat down the Sangamon River, the boat became stranded at New Salem. Lincoln freed it by a manner that involved unloading it and drilling a hole in it. While performing this task, he became impressed with the city. According to Magazine USA, after delivering his goods to New Orleans, Lincoln caught a boat ride to St. Louis and walked back to New Salem, Illinois to stay for good.

4. Springfield and The Civil War

The Mason-Dixon Line, the defined boundary between the North and the South, existed less than 5 miles south of the Old State Capitol. When Lincoln left his home in Springfield to become president of the United States in 1851, the South seceded from the Union. According to the Northern Illinois University Library, this happened because the South didn’t want a Republican running the country. Shortly afterward, the Civil War broke out. 

5. The Great Chicago Fire

An ordinary fire started in Patrick and Catherine O’Leary’s barn in Chicago, Illinois, on October 8, 1871, but in a city of wooden structures, it was quickly out of control, the Chicago Historical Society said. The simple barn fire spread into an inferno that destroyed about 18,000 buildings, left 100,000 people homeless, and killed 200-300 people. 

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When most people think of historical facts about Illinois, images such as Al Capone and bootleggers in the prohibition come to mind. However, several interesting events in Illinois history are less well-known. Let's take a look at five noteworthy facts.
facts, illinois, history
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2015-58-05
Sunday, 05 Apr 2015 05:58 AM
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