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Event Timeline

Woodland Culture

Woodland culture Indians develop maize agriculture, build villages and burial mounds, develop the bow and arrow for hunting, and begin making pottery. The constant development and cultural advancements increase sophistication for the Woodland peoples, and provide the opportunity to develop permanent settlements.

See Albany Mounds

900-mississippian culture

Mississippian Culture

Indians of the Mississippian culture improve agricultural methods, build temple mounds and large fortified villages. Their works include Cahokia Mounds, home to thousands of people. At the time, it was the largest North American city outside Mexico. Most of the Mississippian settlements are abandoned prior to the arrival of European explorers.

Illinois has two major Mississippian sites: Cahokia Mounds and Kincaid Mounds


1673 First Europeans

Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, a missionary and a fur trader, become the first Europeans to explore Illinois. Following the course of the Mississippi River, they head south and encounter the Peoria tribe. They continue downriver, past the mouth of the Arkansas River, before a warning of foreigners ahead causes them to return north by way of the Illinois River. On their return to Quebec, they come across the Kaskaskia tribe and spend the winter at what is now Chicago.

Read more about French settlement and learn about a French fort

1680 Fort Crevecoeur

French traders build Fort Crevecoeur (or "Broken Heart") near present-day Peoria, but it is soon abandoned. Meanwhile, Iroquois Indians destroy the Great Village of the Illinois tribe.

More on the French in Illinois

1696 Guardian Angel

The Jesuits establish the Guardian Angel Mission in what is now Chicago. Disputes among different religious groups led to the mission being abandoned several years later.


1699 Permanent Settlement

Cahokia, Illinois' first permanent European settlement, is established along the Mississippi River across from what is now St. Louis. The area for the French village is selected to be the site of the Mission of the Holy Family and settled by the French Seminary of Foreign Missions of Quebec.

A building from the French era is still standing Cahokia Courthouse.


1720 Fort de Chartres

Fort de Chartres becomes the center of French military and civilian government in the region. The settlement attracted a mix of settlers, soldiers, voyageurs, converted Indians and administrators. A 1723 census found 126 people living at Fort de Chartres.

Find out more about this historic fort

1730 Massacre

French troops kill about 500 Fox Indians, including women and children, after a three-week siege at a hastily built fort near present-day Bloomington. The Fox, or Meskwaki, opposed French meddling in the fur trade, leading to raids and skirmishes.

Read about the dramatic decline of Native Americans in Illinois

1763 British Control

The French and Indian War, or Seven Years' War, comes to an end with a victory for Britain, which gains control over the Illinois country.

A kid-friendly look at the British in Illinois

1769 Starved Rock

Chief Pontiac is murdered in Cahokia by a member of the Peoria tribe. According to legend, angry Ottawa and Potawatomi Indians seek retribution against the Illini, the confederacy of tribes that includes the Peoria. The Illini flee to a butte but are trapped and eventually starve to death. The site known as Fort St. Louis becomes known as Starved Rock.

Fact vs. fiction at Starved Rock


1778 Kaskaskia Captured

On July 4, George Rogers Clark seizes Kaskaskia from the British without firing a shot, one of the western-most military actions of the American Revolution. Jubilant townspeople ring a bell, known today as the "Liberty Bell of the West."

More about Kaskaskia's famous bell

1779 du Sable in Chicago

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable establishes a trading post at present-day Chicago, becoming the area's first permanent resident. Du Sable was African-American but little else is known about his life before settling in "Eschecagou." 

1783: Revolution Ends

With the end of the American Revolution, Illinois becomes United States territory -- technically part of the state of Virginia.

1788 Territorial governor

​Arthur St. Clair becomes first governor of the Northwest Territory, which includes Illinois. One of Illinois' oldest buildings, from the period when this was part of the Northwest Territory


1803 Kaskaskia Indians

Kaskaskia Indians give up nearly all of their land in Illinois. U.S. Army establishes Fort Dearborn in Chicago's future location.

A look at the Native Americans of Illinois


1804 Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery spends the winter in Illinois, near present-day Wood River, to train and prepare for their cross-country journey and then depart in May

Explore the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site

1811 First Coal Mine

​Illinois first coal mine opens in Jackson County. A massive earthquake shakes the entire region, and another quake hits in 1812.


1812 Dearborn Massacre

Potawatomi Indians massacre 52 soldiers and civilians as they leave Fort Dearborn, on the site of present-day Chicago, for Fort Wayne. Indians burn the fort, and few people live in the area until soldiers rebuild the fort in 1816. The fort is finally demolished in 1857.

A children's guide to early Chicago

1814 First Newspaper

The state's first newspaper, the Illinois Herald, is published at Kaskaskia by Matthew Duncan. He begins to publish the paper after receiving a contract to print the territorial laws in 1813.

Newspapers on the Illinois frontier

1816 First Bank

The state's first bank opens at Shawneetown. The town, center of the territory's lucrative salt-making industry, later will be home to the Bank of Illinois.

Shawneetown Bank State Historic Site

1818 Statehood

Illinois, with 34,620 residents, becomes the 21st state. Kaskaskia is the capital, and Shadrach Bond is the first governor. Most people live in the south of the state along rivers and forested areas. The prairies are largely unsettled, and Chicago is an unimportant village.

The fort designed to protect the key village of Kaskaskia

1819 Kickapoo Withdraw

Many Kickapoo Indians move west of the Mississippi, relinquishing most claims to central Illinois lands. Others linger in Illinois under the leadership of Kenekuk, who incorporated aspects of Christianity into the Kickapoo religion.

The Kickapoo in Illinois

1820 New Capital

Vandalia, founded in 1819 specifically to replace flood-prone Kaskaskia as the state capital, officially becomes the seat of government. Vandalia is also the western end of America's first interstate, the National Road.

The Vandalia State House historic site

1823 Lead Mining

Galena, named for a variety of lead ore, becomes a center for lead mining. By 1845, the county was producing 80 percent of the nation's lead, according to some estimates.

The hub of the lead-mining industry

1824 Slavery Rejected

Voters defeat a constitutional convention call to permit slavery in the state. The anti-slavery forces were led by Gov. Edward Coles, a former slave-owner, and future Illinois governor John Wood.

The convoluted history of slavery in illinoisr

1830 Lincoln Arrives

Abraham Lincoln and his family leave Indiana, crossing the Wabash River into Illinois. (A bridge and memorial now mark the site where the crossing took place.) Traveling by ox-drawn wagons, the Lincolns reach the Decatur area and build a small cabin.

Learn more about Lincoln's arrival

1832 Black Hawk

1832 Black Hawk War

War leader Black Hawk brings about 1,500 Sauk and Fox (or Meskwakis) back into Illinois territory their tribes had given up in 1804. Their presence panics settlers into violence and triggers the Black Hawk War. After three months of skirmishes, Black Hawk's band -- mostly women, children and elders -- is massacred in Wisconsin at the Battle of Bad Axe.

Black Hawk and his people are honored today at a state historic site

1836 I and M Canal

​Construction begins on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a 96-mile waterway linking Lake Michigan and the Illinois River. The canal makes Chicago a transportation hub that will flourish in the decades ahead.

The secrets of the canal

1837 Lovejoy Murdered

​At Alton, a pro-slavery mob murders newspaper editor and minister Elijah Lovejoy, who had been writing strident anti-slavery editorials and organizing an abolitionist group. In northern Illinois, John Deere designs a self-scouring steel plow that will cut through prairie sod, making farming realistic for vast swaths of the country.

Monument to a martyr

1839 Third capital

1839 Third capital

​With Illinois' population moving northward, officials decide the state capital should move northward, too. After intense competition and legislative dealmaking -- some of it involving Abraham Lincoln -- Springfield becomes the new capital. In western Illinois, Mormons who have been driven out of Missouri begin settling in Nauvoo and turning it into a major power center.

Another new capital

1844 Anti-Mormon Violence

1844 Anti-Mormon Violence

Mormon leader Joseph Smith is murdered by a mob on June 27. About 200 men invade the Carthage Jail where Smith is being held on charges of treason against the state of Illinois. Smith attempts to flee through a window but is shot several times and falls to the ground below. No one is convicted of killing him.

1846 Bishop Hill

1846 Bishop Hill

Swedish immigrants found the utopian religious community of Bishop Hill, one of many waves of immigration throughout Illinois history.

Seeking utopia

1847 Chicago Tribune

1847 Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune founded.

1850 Population Climbs

Illinois population reaches 851,470 -- nearly 25 times the population it had when it entered the union.

1853 Blacks Barred

1853 Blacks Barred

At the urging of John A. Logan -- a future Union general and U.S. senator -- the General Assembly passes one of the nation's harshest "black laws." It bars free blacks from spending more than 10 days in Illinois. Violators are jailed and fined $50. Those who can't pay are auctioned off and required to work until their "debt" is paid.

1856 Railroad Completed

​Illinois Central Railroad is completed between Chicago, Galena and Cairo to link the northern and southern parts of the state. Illinois Central was chartered on February 10, 1851, by the Illinois General Assembly, and is now the longest railroad in the world.

Travel on the frontier

1858 Historic Debates

1858 Historic Debates

Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, rivals for a U.S. Senate seat, hold seven debates across Illinois on the subject of slavery. Douglas espouses "popular sovereignty" -- the idea that voters in each state and territory should decide whether to accept or reject slavery. Lincoln takes the position that slavery must not be allowed to expand. Douglas wins the Senate seat, but the national attention given to the debates sets Lincoln on a path to the presidency. 

1860: Lincoln Elected

1860: Lincoln Elected

Abraham Lincoln is nominated for president in Chicago after his top aides cut deals and pack the "Wigwam" convention hall. Lincoln goes on to win the presidency of a country that is falling apart. His name didn't even appear on the ballot in many southern states.

Justice Davis builds a mansion

1861 Civil War

1861 Civil War

Civil War begins. Ulysses S. Grant recruits troops in Galena and resumes a military career that will take him to the head of the Union Army.

A gift for the victor

1864 Lincoln Victorious

Lincoln re-elected to a second term

1865 13th Amendment

Illinois repeals law against free blacks and becomes first state to ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery. Lincoln is assassinated and buried in Springfield Rest in Peace.

1867 University Founded

General Assembly establishes the Illinois Industrial University at Champaign-Urbana, renamed the University of Illinois in 1885. George M. Pullman founds the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago, manufacturing railroad sleeping cars.

1868 President Grant

1868 President Grant

Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War general from Galena, is elected President of the United States. He oversees Reconstruction of the former Confederacy and faces the financial Panic of 1873. His presidential reputation is tarnished by repeated scandals.

Grant goes to the White House

1871 Chicago Fire

1871 Chicago Fire

​Chicago Fire destroys 18,000 buildings, kills about 300 people and leaves one-third of the city's residents homeless. The fire did indeed start in the barn of a Mrs. O'Leary (Catherine O'Leary of 137 DeKoven Street, to be exact) but a reporter invented the story that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern. Rebuilding from the fire triggered a period of growth and innovation for Chicago.


1872 Black Officeholder

1872 Black Officeholder

John Jones becomes a Cook County commissioner, the first African-American to hold elective office in Illinois. Jones arrived in Chicago in 1845 as an illiterate tailor. He turned himself into one of the nation's richest African-Americans, wrote influential anti-slavery pamphlets and made his home a stop on the Underground Railroad.

1873 Barbed Wire

Joseph Glidden of DeKalb develops barbed wire fencing. Women's Christian Temperance Union founded in Evanston.

1883 First Skyscraper

William LeBaron Jenney designs the 10-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago, generally known as the world's first skyscraper. The building is supported by a steel frame instead of stone, reducing the building's weight and allowing for large windows. Chicago would continue to be a world leader in architectural innovation for decades to come.

Reach for the sky

1886 Haymarket Riot

1886 Haymarket Riot

A bombing and riot in Chicago's Haymarket Square results in at least 11 deaths. Activists were rallying in favor of an eight-hour workday when police moved to disperse the crowd. Someone threw a bomb at the police, killing one instantly and inflicting mortal wounds on six others, and police reacted by opening fire on the crowd, killing four people.

Violence erupts

1889 Hull House

Hull House, one of the nation's first settlement houses for immigrants, opens in Chicago. Illinois State Historical Library, now part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, is established by the state legislature.

Immigrants welcome

1890 Black Hospital

African-American surgeon Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931) sees the limited opportunities for black medical personnel and the inadequate care offered to black patients at white-run hospitals and decides the answer is for African-Americans to open their own hospital. He organizes Provident Hospital in Chicago, the nation's first black hospital, and becomes a national advocate for opening similar hospitals elsewhere. Williams was also a skilled surgeon and won acclaim for repairing a tear in the lining of a man's heart in 1893.

Trailblazing doctor

1892 Female Lawer

1892 Female Lawyer

Chicago attorney Myra Bradwell becomes the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Construction to reverse the Chicago River flow begins.

1892 Female Lawer

1893 World s Fair

World's Columbian Exposition is held in Chicago, commemorating the 400th anniversary of European exploratory voyages to the western hemisphere.

1894 Pullman Strike 2

1894 Pullman Strike

George Pullman cuts pay to factory workers who make his railroad cars but refuses to lower the rent he charges those workers in the company town he had built outside Chicago. Thousands of Pullman workers go on strike, and railroad laborers across the country refuse to handle trains with Pullman cars, crippling rail traffic in the western United States. The administration of President Grover Cleveland sends in U.S. marshals and Army troops to end the boycott city by city. After violent clashes in which 30 strikers are killed and 57 wounded, the boycott collapses. Eugene V. Debs, leader of the American Railway Union, is sentenced to six months in prison.

A company town explodes

1898 Labor Violence

A series of violent clashes begins between striking miners, African-American strikebreakers and armed guards. Seven strikers and five guards are killed in Virden. Five strikebreakers die in Pana, along with two other people caught up in the violence. A woman is killed in Cambria when a train carrying strikebreakers is attacked. Five African-Americans are shot to death in Carterville.

Massacre at the mine

1899 Juvenile Court

General Assembly creates the first juvenile court system in the nation.

1900 Frank Lloyd Wright

1900 Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright establishes a studio in Oak Park for designing "prairie style" architecture. Population of the state is 4,821,550.

Perfecting the Prairie Style

1903 Deadly Fire

​Fire destroys the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, killing at least 600 people who are trapped inside. The tragedy leads to safety improvements at theaters around the country.

1906 World Series

Chicago White Sox defeat crosstown rival Chicago Cubs in the baseball World Series.

1908 Springfield Riot

1908 Springfield Riot

Thousands of white Springfield residents go on a rampage after being foiled in their attempts to lynch two African-American men accused of violent crimes. They descend on African-American neighborhoods and start destroying homes and businesses. The rioters shoot one man to death and hang another. Five white rioters are killed, some by accidents amid the rampage and some by armed African-Americans who were defending themselves. The shock of this kind of violence in Abraham Lincoln's hometown helps inspire formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

White rampage

1909 Mine Disaster

Coal mine fire at Cherry, resulting in 259 deaths, is one of the worst mine disasters in history.

Underground horrors

1913 Women's Vote

General Assembly grants women the right to vote for presidential electors.

Bringing the vote to women

1915 Deadly Excursion

1915 Deadly Excursion

More than 2,500 Western Electric Co. employees crowd aboard the excursion boat Eastland to enjoy a day of picnicking in Indiana. But the Eastland is an unstable ship with a tendency to list to one side or another. On this day, the ship lists to port and then rolls onto its side, killing 844 people who were trapped inside and drowned or were crushed. Twenty-two entire families are killed

1917 East St. Louis Riots

1917 East St. Louis Riots

White mobs rampage through East St. Louis in May, attacking African-American residents at random. The National Guard brings order to the city but soon leaves. Mobs form again on July 2, this time escalating the violence even further. They set buildings on fire and kill African-Americans as they run from the flames. They hang others or beat them to death. At least 40 people are murdered, although some estimates put the death toll three or four times higher

1917 East St. Louis Riots

1919 Chicago Riots

A week of rioting by white mobs in Chicago leaves 38 dead and more than 500 injured. The National Guard is called in, and parts of the city are shut down for days.

Racial violence flares in Chicago

1920 Labor Leader

​John L. Lewis of Springfield is elected president of the United Mine Workers of America.

1921 Chicago Bears

The Decatur Staleys football team moves to Chicago and becomes the Bears.

1922 Herrin Massacre

In the "Herrin Massacre," three union miners and twenty strikebreakers are killed in mob violence at a strip mine.

1929 Chicago Violence

1929 Chicago Violence

​Gunmen of Al Capone murder seven rival Chicago mobsters in the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." Two men in civilian clothes and two dressed as police line the seven victims up against a wall in a North Side garage and mow them down with Tommy guns and shotguns. Outrage over the shocking act of violence helped intensify pressure for police to end Capone's criminal career, and in 1931 he was sent to prison for tax evasion.

1932 Great Depression

1932 Great Depression

The number of unemployed Chicago workers during the Great Depression reaches 750,000.

1937 Police Violence

On Memorial Day, Chicago police fire on strikers at Republic Steel, resulting in ten deaths.

1939 Native Son

1939 Native Son

Chicago author Richard Wright (1908-1960) publishes "Native Son," the first major novel about the black experience in modern America. The book, a huge success commercially and critically, tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a poor, frustrated African-American in Chicago who kills, goes on the run and finally is sentenced to die. The watershed book offers an unprecedented peek into the frustrations of many African-Americans.

Black renaissance

1942 Nuclear Age

University of Chicago scientists, led by Nobel Prize-winner Enrico Fermi, achieve the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Their reactor -- described as "a crude pile of black bricks and wooden timbers" -- has no radiation shielding or cooling system. A mistake could have led to disaster in the heart of Chicago. The successful test of "Chicago Pile 1" ushered in the nuclear age and allowed the Manhattan Project to move forward on an atomic bomb.

Ferris to Fermi: Technology in Illinois

1945 Cubs Last Series

Chicago Cubs lose the World Series and don't return to the series for the rest of the century.

1949 O Hare

1949 O Hare

Orchard Place Airport in Chicago is renamed O'Hare Field for Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. O'Hare, Medal of Honor recipient killed in World War II.

History of O’Hare International Airport

1950 Gwendolyn Brooks

1950 Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks becomes the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Important African-American authors

1952 Stevenson Nominated

Gov. Adlai Stevenson is the Democratic nominee for president but loses to Dwight Eisenhower. He is nominated again, and loses again, four years later.

1953 Government Corruption

State Auditor Orville Hodge is convicted of $1.5 million theft of state funds.

1955 Daley Elected

1955 Daley Elected

Richard J. Daley is elected to the first of six terms as Chicago mayor. Daley builds himself into the nation's most powerful mayor, allowing him to dominate Chicago and influence national politics. "Da Mare" maintains the city's health while midwestern cities like Detroit and Cleveland decline. He builds universities, airports and convention centers. But he fails to take strong action against segregation and poverty. When rioting breaks out after the assassination of Martin Luther King, he says police can "shoot to kill" anyone about to set a fire. And during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, his police force uses excessive violence to shut down demonstrations, creating a national scandal.

1957 Nuclear Power

Nation's first nuclear power generating station is activated at Argonne National Laboratory in DuPage County.

Sand Burg

1962 Sandburg Honored

General Assembly names Pulitzer Prize-winner Carl Sandburg the first poet laureate of Illinois. Sandburg, born in Galesburg in 1878, wrote ambitious biographies of Abraham Lincoln and labeled Chicago the "city of big shoulders" in one of his most famous poems.

1968 Democratic Convention

​Civil disorder erupts during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

1969 Income Tax

Illinois adopts its first income tax. It was championed by two Republicans, Gov. Richard Ogilvie and Senate leader Russell Arrington. Both men pay a heavy political price. Ogilvie is defeated in his 1972 re-election bid, and the GOP loses its majority in the state Senate.

1970 Mysterious Cash

Shoeboxes become a new symbol of Illinois corruption when $750,000 in cash is found in the hotel room of Secretary of State Paul Powell after his death. The money is stuffed in a shoebox, briefcases and strongboxes, and another $50,000 turns up in his state office. While some officials suggest Powell, whose annual salary never topped $30,000, was able to save the money legitimately, it becomes clear the cash came from illicit sources.

1973 former Governor Convicted

Otto Kerner is convicted on charges involving the sale of racetrack stock while governor.

1974 Record Skyscraper

​The Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world, is completed in Chicago. It reaches 108 stories or 1,451 feet into the sky. It would hold the record as the world's tallest for 25 years. Today the building has been renamed the Willis Tower.

Female Mayor 1979

1979 Female Mayor

Jane Byrne becomes the first female mayor of Chicago.

1980 Reagan Elected

Illinois native Ronald Reagan is elected president. The "Cutback Amendment" championed by future Gov. Pat Quinn reduces the size of the Illinois house by one-third, from 177 members to 118. Critics today argue that this reduction hardened party lines and concentrated power in the hands of House leadership.

1982 ERA

​Amid protests and conflict, the Equal Rights Amendment fails in the Illinois General Assembly.

Remembering the ERA battle

1983 Harold Washington

1983 Harold Washington

Harold Washington (1922-1987) is elected the first African-American mayor of Chicago. The achievement requires defeating the incumbent mayor and the son of political legend Richard J. Daley in the Democratic primary and then beating a Republican candidate who suddenly gained important Democratic support. As mayor, he faced harsh opposition from many white Democrats on the city council, a period known as "council wars." Ultimately, additional Washington supporters were elected to the council and he was able to enact more of the policies he wanted. Washington died at his desk just seven months into his second term.

1984 Court Corruption

Seventeen Chicago attorneys, police officers and judges are indicted in Operation Greylord on charges of improperly influencing court cases.

1991 Chicago Bulls

Led by Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls win their first of six NBA championships. The team won 1991-1993 and 1996-1998.

1992 Historic Senator

Carol Moseley-Braun becomes the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

1993 Floods

1993 Floods

The worst floods in the state's history ravage western and southern Illinois. The flooding lasts 195 days at Grafton and 152 days in Quincy. The entire town of Valmeyer was moved to higher ground to escape future floods. New flooding records were set at six Illinois measuring points on the Mississippi River and one on the Illinois River.

2000 Executions Halted

Gov. George Ryan declares a moratorium on executions after investigations show 13 men on death row were innocent or convicted improperly. Before finally leaving office, Ryan empties death row by commuting all death sentences to life in prison or issuing pardons. Future governors continue his moratorium and Illinois abolishes the death penalty in 2011.

2006 Governor Convicted

Former Gov. George Ryan convicted of eighteen corruption-related charges and is sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison.

2008 Obama Elected

2008 Obama Elected

Chicagoan Barack Obama elected president, becoming the first African-American to reach that office. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is arrested by the FBI on a long list of corruption charges

2009 Governor Convicted

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is thrown out of office after legislators find sufficient reason to believe the legal charges against him, including the accusation that he tried to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate. Blagojevich's first criminal trial ends in a hung jury on most charges, but he is convicted in a second trial and sentenced to 14 years in prison.