Portal:Illinois

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Illinois is a state in the Midwestern United States. It is the 5th most populous and 25th largest state, and is often noted as a microcosm of the country. With Chicago and its suburbs in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base and is a major transportation hub.

Prehistoric Illinois was the site of Cahokia, the largest urban center of the Mississippian culture. The Illinois Confederation, from which the state takes its name, dominated the region during the contact period, but by the time of the American Revolution, only about 2,000 Native Americans and a small number of French villagers inhabited the area. Anglo-American settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1810s. Illinois achieved statehood in 1818. Northerners arrived later via the Great Lakes, founding Chicago in the 1830s. The invention of the steel plow and growth of railroads made it possible to profitably farm the rich prairie land of central Illinois, attracting large numbers of immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden. Northern Illinois provided major support for Illinoisans Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War. By 1900, industry was growing rapidly in the northern cities, along with coal mines in central and southern areas. This industrialization attracted large numbers of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and many African Americans in the Great Migration from the Southern United States, who developed renowned jazz and blues cultures in the city.

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Elgin (Illinois) Centennial half dollar obverse.jpg

The Elgin, Illinois, Centennial half dollar was a fifty-cent commemorative coin issued by the United States Bureau of the Mint in 1936, part of the wave of commemoratives authorized by Congress and struck that year. Intended to commemorate the centennial of the founding of Elgin, the piece was designed by local sculptor Trygve Rovelstad. The obverse depicts an idealized head of a pioneer man. The reverse shows a grouping of pioneers, and is based upon a sculptural group that Rovelstad hoped to build as a memorial to those who settled Illinois, but which was not erected in his lifetime.

Rovelstad had heard of other efforts to gain authorization for commemorative coins, which were sold by the Mint to a designated group at face value and then retailed to the public at a premium. In 1935, through his congressman, he had legislation introduced into the House of Representatives for a commemorative coin in honor of Elgin's centennial that year. Rovelstad hoped that the proposed coin would both depict and be a source of funds for his memorial to the pioneers. Unlike many commemorative coins of that era, the piece was not bought up by dealers and speculators, but was sold directly to collectors at the issue price. Art historian Cornelius Vermeule considered the Elgin coin among the most outstanding American commemoratives. (Read more...)

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William D. Boyce

William D. Boyce (June 16, 1858 – June 11, 1929) was an American newspaper man, entrepreneur, magazine publisher, and explorer. He was the founder of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, he acquired a love for the outdoors early in his life. With his first wife, Mary Jane Beacom, he moved to Chicago to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions. There he established the Mutual Newspaper Publishing Company and the weekly Saturday Blade, which catered to a rural audience and was distributed by thousands of newspaper boys. With his novel employment of newsboys to boost newspaper sales, Boyce's namesake publishing company maintained a circulation of 500,000 copies per week by 1894. Boyce strongly supported worker rights, as demonstrated by his businesses' support of labor unions and his concern for his newsboys' well-being.

Boyce learned about Scouting while passing through London during his first expedition to Africa in 1909. On his return to the United States, he formed the BSA. From its start, Boyce focused the Scouting program on teaching self-reliance, citizenship, resourcefulness, patriotism, obedience, cheerfulness, courage, and courtesy in order "to make men". Boyce received many awards and memorials for his efforts in the U.S. Scouting movement, including the Silver Buffalo Award. (Read more...)

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Corn fields near Royal, Illinois.jpg
Corn fields near Royal in Champaign County. Corn was introduced to Illinois in the Late Woodland period. In 2012, Illinois sowed 12.8 million acres of corn in 2012, ranking fourth in corn production in the United States.
Photo credit: User:Dschwen

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