The Flag of Illinois: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: January 10, 2023
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Where is Illinois?

Illinois is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is the fifth most populous state in the country, with a population of 12.7 million people. Lake Michigan borders the state to the north and the Mississippi River to the west. The capital of Illinois is Springfield, located in the central part of the state.

When Was Illinois Founded?

Illinois was founded on December 3, 1818, as the 21st state of the United States. It was originally part of the Northwest Territory and later became known as the Illinois Territory when it was created in 1809. In 1818, three delegates from each county met in Kaskaskia to draft a constitution for Illinois, which Congress then accepted. The first Governor, Shadrach Bond, took office on April 20 and Illinois officially entered into union shortly after that. Since then, it has become one of America’s most populous states and is home to many major cities, such as Chicago, Springfield, and Peoria.

Map of the state of Illinois
Illinois, founded in 1818, is located in the Midwestern region of the United States.

©Mio Buono/

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What is the Geography of Illinois?

Illinois is divided into three regions; Northern, Central, and Southern. The Northern region of Illinois is made up of rolling hills and low mountains. It is home to the largest section of the state’s forestland, as well as scenic rivers and streams. The Central region has a mix of flat plains, rolling hills, and swamps. This area includes the majority of metropolitan cities in Illinois, like Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, and Peoria. 

On the other hand, the Southern region consists mostly of gently sloping prairies with large areas dedicated to farming land. It also contains some small mountain ranges, including Shawnee National Forest, which covers over 280,000 acres across five counties in southern Illinois.

Shawnee National Forest in Illinois
Shawnee National Forest spans over 280,000 acres across five counties in southern Illinois.


What is the Climate of Illinois?

Illinois has a humid continental climate characterized by hot and humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The average temperature in the summer is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average temperature in the winter is about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The state receives an average of 35 inches of snow each year, with some areas receiving up to 60 inches.

What is the Culture and Cuisine of Illinois?

Illinois has a rich cultural history, with influences from many different ethnic groups. The cuisine of Illinois is highly influenced by the different ethnicities that have called the state home, such as German, Polish, Irish and African-American. This influence is seen in classic dishes like deep-dish pizza from Chicago’s Italian immigrants, Italian beef sandwiches with slow-cooked roast beef served on a French roll; and jibarito sandwiches made with flattened plantains instead of bread. The state also has its own spin on classic American dishes, like hot dogs topped with mustard, onion sauce, pickles, tomatoes, and celery salt – known as a Chicago dog. There are lots of other regional favorites to explore throughout Illinois’ cities and towns!

Chicago dog from Illinois
Illinois is home to the Chicago dog, a hot dog topped with mustard, onion sauce, pickles, tomatoes, and celery salt.

©Matthew Yoder/

What Animals are Found in Illinois?

Illinois is home to a wide variety of animals, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, red foxes, beavers, raccoons, opossums, and river otters. The state is also home to many different species of birds, such as bald eagles, cardinals, and blue jays.

What Plants are Found in Illinois?

Illinois is home to many plant species, including conifers, deciduous trees, grasses, ferns, wildflowers, and shrubs. The state is also home to many different species of wildflowers, such as black-eyed Susan, daisies, and lilies.

The Flag of Illinois: Description

The flag of Illinois is composed of a white background with the state seal emblazoned in the center. The state seal was designed in 1819 and is composed of an eagle grasping a shield in the national colors of red, white, and blue. The shield has thirteen stars and thirteen stripes. The eagle is standing on a rock with the dates 1868 and 1818 in black print. In the eagle’s mouth is a banner with the words State Sovereignty National Union written across a red background. The background shows a plain, a river, and a rising sun.

The Flag of Illinois: Symbolism

The flag of Illinois is a symbol of the state’s commitment to the union of the United States. The bald eagle is a symbol of the nation, and the streamer in his beak is the state motto. The motto describes Illinois’ commitment to govern itself under the government of the country. The shield and the number thirteen stand for the first thirteen states in the union. The two dates printed on the boulder are the dates of Illinois statehood (1818) and the date of the Illinois State Seal (1868). The background images symbolize the rich prairie soil of the state.

Flag of Illinois waving in the wind
The flag of Illinois is a symbol of the state’s commitment to the union of the United States.

©railway fx/

Flag of Illinois: Previous Version

1915-1968. The flag during this time looked very similar to the current version. The eagle is standing on a rock, holding a shield, with a red streamer in his mouth. The streamer has the state motto written on it. The flag has a white background and does not feature the prairie, river, or sunrise. No dates are printed on the rock in this flag variation.

What are the State Symbols of Illinois?

Illinois has a number of state symbols, including the eastern tiger salamander as the state amphibian and the white-tailed deer as the state animal. The state artifact is a pirogue, a canoe made from a hollowed-out tree trunk. There is even a state exercise, cycling!

The state fish of Illinois is the bluegill, and the state flower is the violet. Violets grow naturally in lawns, prairies, woodlands, and wetlands throughout Illinois.

Does Illinois Have a State Song?

Yes, Illinois has an official state song. The song is titled “Illinois” and was written by C.H. Chamberlain and Archibald Johnston in 1925. It was adopted as the official state song of Illinois on July 6, 1929, after being approved by Governor Louis Emmerson. The lyrics to the song pay homage to all aspects of life within the state, from its people’s loyalty to their home, its prairies full of beauty and splendor, to the Grand Old Flag that flies over it all.

Does Illinois Have a State Dance?

Yes, Illinois has an official state dance called the Square Dance. The dance was adopted in 1990 and still remains a popular pastime.

Does Illinois Have a State Nickname?

Yes, Illinois has a state nickname called the “Prairie State.” Some of the first settlers to the state gave it this nickname. It was given to the state due to its wide open prairies and vast farmlands.

Illinois prairie
Illinois is often referred to as the “Prairie State” because of its wide open prairies and vast farmlands.


Does Illinois Have a State Motto?

Yes, Illinois has an official state motto called “State Sovereignty, National Union.” This motto was adopted in 1818 and is still the official state motto of Illinois.

The state slogan of Illinois, “Land of Lincoln,” was adopted in 1955 as a reminder of the influence and legacy that Abraham Lincoln left on the state. Since then, it has been an integral part of the culture and identity of Illinoisans that honors both its history and its people. The phrase also serves to represent not only what makes up the Land but also how it is perceived by others – a place where freedom, equality, democracy, and justice are valued. Furthermore, this motto gives recognition to those who fought for these principles throughout our nation’s history, such as Abraham Lincoln himself, whose actions had profound effects on our country’s future.

10 Fun Facts About Illinois

  1. Illinois was explored by Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673.
  2. Before Abraham Lincoln was elected president, he served in the Illinois legislature and practiced law in Springfield. Abraham Lincoln is buried in Springfield at Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.
  3. Former President Ulysses S. Grant lives in Illinois.
  4. The world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago, Illinois, in 1885.
  5. The hottest temperature recorded in Illinois was 117°F in 1954.
  6. Illinois is home to 400 species of bird, 200 fish, and 60 different mammals.
  7. Illinois is the top producer and processor of pumpkins in the U.S.
  8. Illinois has the second largest airport system, with over 137 airports in the state.
  9. Illinois is home to 69 state parks and zero national parks.
  10. Every year in Chicago, the rivers and canals are dyed bright green.

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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  3. Washington County Illinois, Available here: