Illinois – The “S” is Silent


What do they have to do with our new destination? Hopefully by the end of this month’s States Well Stated we will both know. So, what follows Idaho? Lucky for me, not Iowa (which I am still sick of). Off we go to Illinois!

The area was first “discovered” by Europeans in 1673 when two French trappers, Marquette and Joliet, stumbled upon the area while searching for a way to the Pacific Ocean. A permanent settlement came in 1699. After the French and Indian War, what would eventually become Illinois was ceded to the British and became part of the Colony of Virginia. As if Virginia was not already big enough….
One item I really wanted to be able to report was, what did “Illinois” mean? After the debacle of Idaho being just made up by someone, I was anxious to see if Illinois came from someone else’s flight of fancy. I was rather surprised to find several versions of how Illinois got it’s name. So just pick your favorite and relax, I know I did.
Contender #1: Illinois comes from the language of the Illiniwek tribe and means “ordinary speaker”.
Contender #2: Illinois comes from a French translation of a native American word meaning “man” or “warrior”.
Contender #3: Illinois got its name from the Illinois River, which was named by the French for the native peoples they found there.
Contender #4: Illinois is the modern spelling for the name Illinois native Americans found there. This sort of makes #3 superfluous.
Regardless of how it got its name, Illinois does not appear to be just made up, so I can rest easy (at least until I have to address Iowa).
Illinois was the 21st State to join the Union, coming aboard on December 3, 1818. But they were FIRST to ratify the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) on February 1, 1865.
The current capitol is Springfield, but there were two other capitol cities before that, Kaskaskia and Vandalia. Springfield is a lot easier to spell, and easier to work into the credits for “The Simpsons”.
` Currently known as the “Land of Lincoln”, that was not always the State’s nickname. Previously it was called the “Prairie State” as most of the area was covered by prairie grass. (I think Land of Lincoln is a lot classier.) That kind of soil is probably part of the reason that nearly 80% of the State is devoted to agriculture. Illinois is the country’s largest grower of pumpkins and second largest for corn. Speaking of corn, the official snack food is popcorn. I think this is a mistake. Illinois is missing a good bet, the official snack food should be something first created in Illinois.
Now, some contend that the sundae was created in Evanston by soda jerks giving in to the more strict religious folks in town who felt that ice cream sodas on Sunday were blasphemous. As a work around, they just served the ice cream in a bowl with the syrup of choice and called it a Sunday. The church folks were still not happy about it, so the name was changed to “sundae” and everyone left well enough alone. But Evanston is not the only place to claim to have invented the sundae, so what would be a more native snack food be?
Twinkies. Twinkies were invented in River Forest, Illinois on April 6, 1930.
Illinois is a somewhat flat State. The highest point in the State is Charles Mound, just 1,235 feet above sea level. Unlike most landmarks, this one’s at the top of a family’s driveway. They allow visitors just a few weekends a year and set up lawn chairs for taking in the view. Admission is free.
Chicago, probably the State’s most famous city, is known as “The Windy City”. Like many, I always assumed this must have something to do with the weather. Nope. The term “windy city” was coined by a New York City journalist to describe the boastful, long-winded politicians campaigning for the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893.
Chicago is also home to the Chicago River. This is the only river in the world that flows backwards. It was not always the case. A system of three canals was built from 1892 to 1922 to reverse the flow and empty sewage into the Mississippi, instead of Lake Michigan. I have not been able to find any public statement from the residents along the Mississippi River in reaction.
Chicago’s other main claim to fame is as the site of a catastrophic fire allegedly caused by a clumsy bovine and an ill placed oil lamp in the possession of the O’Leary family. The 1871 fire destroyed almost the entire city. The Chicago Water Tower was one of the only buildings to survive, possibly because it was a water tower. The building was also the inspiration for the design of the of White Castle restaurants. Oscar Wilde described it as “a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it.” I assume he was referring to the water tower and not the restaurants. I would have to think that had Oscar Wilde ever eaten in a White Castle, he would have had something devastatingly pithy to say about it.
So, I have given you Earth (the mound), Wind (the windy city), and Fire (fire). All that is left to do is to leave you with a smattering of the usual ridiculous laws.
In Mount Pulaski, Illinois, it is illegal for boys (and only boys) to hurl snowballs at trees. Girls are allowed to do that however.
In Decatur, it’s against the law to drive a car without a steering wheel.
It’s against the law to urinate on a street sign in Normal, Illinois. So be sure to aim for the street.
In Galesburg, no person may keep a smelly dog.
In Kenilworth, a rooster must step back 300 feet from any residence if he wishes to crow. Not too sure how they enforce that one. Just how do you ticket a rooster?
In Chicago, it is forbidden to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck. It is also illegal to fish while naked, or wearing pajamas. I guess if you fish while naked on the back of a giraffe’s neck they throw the book at you.
In Champaign it is forbidden to pee in your neighbor’s mouth.
I could go on and on about Illinois, but I can feel my editor’s steely gaze reminding me that I already take up too much space.

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Betsey Ellis

Betsey is a recovering agent of Satan (.i.e. a legal professional) now working towards a lifetime goal of becoming a perfectly sane cat lady, medieval clothing designer, and occasional playwright. Maybe even finish my doctorate.....nyah, probably not, who needs another expert in Elizabethan Law and its effect on the growth of the middle class.