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Illinois (i /ln/ il-i-noy), the 21st state admitted to the United States of America, is the most populous and demographically diverse Midwestern state and the fifth most populous state in the nation. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and western Illinois, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a broad economic base. Illinois is an important transportation hub; the Port of Chicago connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River. Illinois is often viewed as a microcosm of the United States; an Associated Press analysis of 21 demographic factors found Illinois the "most average state", while Peoria has long been a proverbial social and cultural bellwether.

With a population near 40,000 between 1300 and 1400 AD, the Mississippian-culture city of Cahokia, in what is now southern Illinois, was the largest city within the United States at the time, and kept it's record until after 1790, when it was surpassed by New York City. Gradually Cahokia and the area were abandoned, and at the time of the American Revolution, only about 2,000 Native American hunters and a small number of French villagers inhabited the Illinois area. United States migrant settlers began arriving from Kentucky in the 1810s; Illinois achieved statehood in 1818. The future metropolis of Chicago was founded in the 1830s on the banks of the Chicago River, one of the few natural harbors on southern Lake Michigan. Railroads and John Deere's invention of the self-scouring steel plow made central Illinois' rich prairie into some of the world's most productive and valuable farmlands, attracting immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden.

By 1900, the growth of industrial jobs in the northern cities and coal mining in the central and southern areas attracted immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Its manufacturing made the state a major arsenal in both world wars. The Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to Chicago formed a large and important community that created the city's famous jazz and blues cultures. Today, approximately 74% of the population of Illinois resides in the northeastern corner of the state, primarily within the city of Chicago and the surrounding area.

Three U.S. Presidents have been elected while they were living in Illinois Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Barack Obama. However, the only US President actually born in Illinois was Ronald Reagan, who was born in Tampico, raised in Dixon, and attended college at Eureka. Lincoln is the only president buried in Illinois; he is interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. Today, Illinois demonstrates the importance of Lincoln's legacy to the state by the official state slogan, Land of Lincoln, which is displayed on all state-issued license plates.

"Illinois" is the modern spelling for the early French missionary/explorers' name for the Illinois people, a name that was spelled in many different ways in the early records.

The name "Illinois" is traditionally said to mean "man" or "men" in the Miami-Illinois language, with the original iliniwek transformed via French into Illinois. Sometimes the name Illiniwek is said to mean "tribe of superior men". A more recent theory is that "Illinois" originated as the Miami-Illinois term irenwewa or ni(n)terinwe, meaning "he speaks the regular way" or "I speak the ordinary way". This was then taken into the Ojibwe language, perhaps in the Ottawa dialect, and modified into ilinwe, pluralized as ilinwek, then taken into French, where the plural suffix -wek was changed to -ois. The current form, Illinois, began to appear in the early 1670s. The Illinois's name for themselves, as attested in all three of the French missionary-period dictionaries of Illinois, was Inoka, of unknown meaning and unrelated to the other terms.

Indigenous peoples lived along the waterways of the Illinois area for thousands of years. The Koster Site has been excavated and demonstrated 7,000 years of continuous habitation. Cahokia, the largest regional chiefdom and urban center of the Pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, was located near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. At its peak, the city had 30,000 to 40,000 people, a population not reached again north of Mexico until between 1790 and 1800 in New York. They built more than 100 mounds and a Woodhenge in a planned design expressing the culture's cosmology. The civilization vanished in the 15th century for unknown reasons, but historians and archeologists have speculated that the people depleted the area of resources.

The next major power in the region was the Illinois Confederation or Illini, a political alliance among several tribes. There were about 25,000 Illinois Indians in 1700, but systematic attacks and warfare by the Iroquois reduced their numbers by 90%. Gradually, members of the Potawatomi, Miami, Sauk, and other tribes came in from the east and north. In the American Revolution, the Illinois and Potawatomi supported the American colonists' cause.

French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explored the Illinois River in 1673. In 1680, other French explorers constructed a fort at the site of present day Peoria, and in 1682, a fort atop Starved Rock in today's Starved Rock State Park. As a result of this French exploration, Illinois was part of the French empire until 1763, when it passed to the British. The small French settlements continued; a few British soldiers were posted in Illinois, but there were no British or American settlers. In 1778, George Rogers Clark claimed the Illinois Country for Virginia. The area was ceded by Virginia to the new United States in 1783 and became part of the Northwest Territory.

The Illinois-Wabash Company was an early claimant to much of Illinois. The Illinois Territory was created on February 3, 1809, with its capital at Kaskaskia. In 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. state. The new state debated slavery, finally rejecting it, as settlers poured into southern Illinois from Kentucky.

Due to the efforts of Nathaniel Pope, the delegate from Illinois, Congress shifted the northern border 41miles (66km) north to 42 30' north, which added 8,500square miles (22,000km2) to the state, including Chicago, Galena and the lead mining region. The capital remained at Kaskaskia, but in 1819 was moved to Vandalia. In 1832, the Black Hawk War was fought in Illinois and current day Wisconsin between the United States and the Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo Indian tribes. The Indians withdrew to Iowa; when they attempted to return, they were defeated by U.S. militia and forced back to Iowa.

The winter of 18301831 is called the "Winter of the Deep Snow"; a sudden, deep snowfall blanketed the state, making travel impossible for the rest of the winter, and many travelers perished. Several severe winters followed, including the "Winter of the Sudden Freeze". On December 20, 1836, a fast-moving cold front passed through, freezing puddles in minutes and killing many travelers who could not reach shelter. The adverse weather resulted in crop failures in the northern part of the state. The southern part of the state shipped food north and this may have contributed to its name: "Little Egypt", after the Biblical story of Joseph in Egypt supplying grain to his brothers.

By 1839, the Mormon utopian city of Nauvoo, located on the Mississippi River, was created, settled, and flourished. In 1844, the Mormon leader Joseph Smith was murdered in the Carthage jail. After close to six years of rapid development, the Mormon city of Nauvoo, which rivaled Chicago as Illinois' largest city, saw a rapid decline after the Mormons left Illinois in 1846 for the West in a mass exodus.

The state has a varied history in relation to slavery and the treatment of African Americans in general. Some slave labor was used before it became a territory, but slavery was banned by the time Illinois became a state in 1818. As the southern part of the state, known as "Little Egypt", was largely settled by migrants from the South, the section was sympathetic to the South and slave labor. For a while, the section continued to allow settlers to bring slaves with them for labor, but citizens were opposed to allowing blacks as permanent residents. The Illinois Constitution of 1848 was written with a provision for exclusionary laws to be passed. In 1853, John A. Logan, later a Union general in the American Civil War, introduced such bills. Laws were passed to prohibit all African Americans, including freedmen, from settling in the state.

Chicago gained prominence as a Great Lakes port and then as an Illinois and Michigan Canal port after 1848, and as a rail hub soon afterward. By 1857, Chicago was Illinois' largest city. With the tremendous growth of mines and factories in the state in the 19th century, Illinois played an important role in the formation of labor unions in the United States. The Pullman Strike and Haymarket Riot in particular greatly influenced the development of the American labor movement. From Sunday, October 8, 1871, until Tuesday, October 10, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned in downtown Chicago, destroying 4square miles (10km2).

In 1847, after lobbying by Dorothea L. Dix, Illinois became one of the first states to establish a system of state-supported treatment of mental illness and disabilities, replacing local almshouses.

During the American Civil War, over 250,000 Illinois men served in the Union Army, a figure surpassed by only New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Beginning with President Abraham Lincoln's first call for troops and continuing throughout the war, Illinois mustered 150 infantry regiments, which were numbered from the 7th to the 156th regiments. Seventeen cavalry regiments were also gathered, as well as two light artillery regiments.

In the 20th century, Illinois emerged as one of the most important states in the union, with a population of nearly 5 million bolstered by continued immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and by African-Americans from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. By the end of the century, the population would reach 12.4 million. The Century of Progress World's Fair was held at Chicago in 1933. Oil strikes in Marion County and Crawford County lead to a boom in 1937, and, by 1939, Illinois ranked fourth in U.S. oil production.

Following World War II, Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago, activated the first experimental nuclear power generating system in the United States in 1957. By 1960, the first privately financed nuclear plant in United States, Dresden 1, was dedicated near Morris. Chicago became an ocean port with the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959. The seaway and the Illinois Waterway connected Chicago to both the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1960, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's franchise in Des Plaines (which still exists today as a museum, with a working McDonald's across the street).

In 1970, the state's sixth constitutional convention authored a new constitution to replace the 1870 version, which was ratified in December. The first Farm Aid concert was held in Champaign to benefit American farmers, in 1985. The worst upper Mississippi River flood of the century, the Great Flood of 1993, inundated many towns and thousands of acres of farmland. It also flooded many homes and streets slowing transportational services.

The Northeastern border of Illinois is Lake Michigan. Its eastern border with Indiana is the Wabash River and a north-south line above Post Vincennes, 873130 west longitude. Its northern border with Wisconsin is fixed at 4230' north latitude. Its western border with Missouri and Iowa is the Mississippi River. Its southern border is with Kentucky and runs along the northern shoreline of the Ohio River. Illinois also borders Michigan, but only via a water boundary in Lake Michigan.

Though Illinois lies entirely in the Interior Plains, it has three major geographical divisions. The first is Northern Illinois, dominated by the Chicago metropolitan area, including the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and the adjoining exurban area into which the metropolis is expanding. As defined by the federal government, the Chicago metro area includes a few counties in Indiana and Wisconsin and stretches across much of northeastern Illinois. It is a cosmopolitan city, densely populated, industrialized, and settled by a wide variety of ethnic groups. The city of Rockford, the forth largest metropolitan area and the state's third largest city sits along Interstates 39 and 90 some 75miles (121km) northwest of Chicago.

Southward and westward, the second major division is Central Illinois, an area of mostly prairie. Known as the Heart of Illinois, it is characterized by small towns and mid-sized cities. The western section (west of the Illinois River) was originally part of the Military Tract of 1812 and forms the distinctive western bulge of the state. Agriculture, particularly corn and soybeans, as well as educational institutions and manufacturing centers, figure prominently. Cities include Peoria, the third largest metropolitan area in Illinois at 370,000; Springfield, the state capital; Quincy; Decatur; Bloomington-Normal; and Champaign-Urbana. The Illinois Quad Cities, as of 2008, had a population of 377,625 and is almost at the same latitude as Chicago. They are sometimes grouped in Central Illinois due to economic, political, and cultural ties to this region. This population actually makes it the third largest metropolitan area in Illinois. However, since its area spans two states, namely Illinois and Iowa, it is not usually considered the third largest metropolitan area.

The third division is Southern Illinois, comprising the area south of U.S. Route 50, and including Little Egypt, near the juncture of the Mississippi River and Ohio River. This region can be distinguished from the other two by its warmer climate, different variety of crops (including some cotton farming in the past), more rugged topography (the southern tip is unglaciated with the remainder glaciated during the Illinoian Stage and earlier ages), as well as small-scale oil deposits and coal mining. The area is a little more populated than the central part of the state with the population centered in two areas. First, the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis comprise the second most populous metropolitan area in Illinois with nearly 600,000 inhabitants, and are known collectively as the Metro-East. The second area is Williamson County, Jackson County, Franklin County, Saline County and Perry County. It is home to around 210,000 residents and is known collectively as Metro Lakeland.

The region outside of the Chicago Metropolitan area is often described as "downstate Illinois". However, residents of central and southern Illinois view their regions as geographically and culturally distinct, and do not necessarily use this term.

In extreme northwestern Illinois, the Driftless Area, a region of unglaciated and therefore higher and more rugged topography, occupies a small part of the state. Charles Mound, located in this region, has the state's highest elevation above sea level at 1,235 feet (376m). The highest structure in Illinois is Willis Tower with a roof elevation of approximately 2,034feet (620m) above sea level. [Chicago elevation (580ft) + tower height (1454ft) = 2034.]

The floodplain on the Mississippi River from Alton to the Kaskaskia River is the American Bottom, and is the site of the ancient city of Cahokia. It was a region of early German settlement, as well as the site of the first state capital, at Kaskaskia which is separated from the rest of the state by the Mississippi River.

A portion of southeastern Illinois is part of the extended Evansville, Indiana Metro Area, commonly referred to as the Tri-State with Indiana and Kentucky. Seven Illinois counties are in the area.

Because of its nearly 400miles (644km) length and mid-continental situation, Illinois has a widely varying climate. Most of Illinois has a humid continental climate (Kppen climate classification Dfa), with hot, humid summers and cool to cold winters. The southernmost part of the state, from about Carbondale southward, borders on a humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa), with more moderate winters. Average yearly precipitation for Illinois varies from just over 48inches (1,219mm) at the southern tip to around 35inches (889mm) in the northern portion of the state. Normal annual snowfall exceeds 38inches (965mm) in the Chicago area, while the southern portion of the state normally receives less than 14inches (356mm). The all time high temperature was 117F (47C), recorded on 14 July 1954, at East St. Louis, Illinois, while the all time low temperature was 36F (38C), recorded on 5 January 1999, at Congerville, Illinois.

Illinois averages around 51 days of thunderstorm activity a year, which ranks somewhat above average in the number of thunderstorm days for the United States. Illinois is vulnerable to tornadoes with an average of 35 occurring annually, which puts much of the state at around five tornadoes per 10,000square miles (30,000km2) annually. The deadliest tornadoes on record in the nation have occurred largely in Illinois. The Tri-State Tornado of 1925 killed 695 people in three states, 613 of whom lived in Illinois. Though this figure can be attributed to the historically higher population of Illinois compared to neighboring states (past to present) as well as modern developments in storm tracking, death tolls due to tornadoes have dramatically declined.

As of 2008, Illinois has an estimated population of 12,901,563, which is an increase of 75,754 from the prior year and an increase of 481,903 or 3.9%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 644,967 people; that is, 1,505,709 births minus 860,742 deaths and a decrease due to the net migration of 159,182 people out of the state. International immigration to the state resulted in an increase of 425,893 people and domestic migration produced a loss of 585,075 people.

As of the 2007 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 1,768,518 foreign-born inhabitants of the state or 13.8% of the population, with 48.4% from Latin America, 24.6% from Asia, 22.8% from Europe, 2.9% from Africa, 1.2% from Northern America and 0.2% from Oceania. Of the foreign-born population, 43.7% were naturalized U.S. citizens and 56.3% were not U.S. citizens. Additionally, the racial distributions were as follows: 65.0% White American, 15.0% African American, 14.9% Latino American, 4.3% Asian American, 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Natives, and 0.1% Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander American. In 2007, 6.9% of Illinois' population was reported as being under age 5, 24.9% under age 18 and 12.1% were age 65 and over. Females made up approximately 50.7% of the population.

According to the 2007 estimates, 21.1% of the population had German ancestry, 13.3% had Irish ancestry, 7.9% had Polish ancestry, 6.7% had English ancestry, 6.4% had Italian ancestry, 4.6% listed themselves as American, 2.4% had Swedish ancestry, 2.2% had French ancestry, other than Basque, 1.6% had Dutch ancestry, 1.4% had Norwegian ancestry and 1.3% had Scottish ancestry. Also, 21.8% of the population age 5 years and over reported speaking a language other than English, with 12.8% of the population speaking Spanish, 5.6% speaking other Indo-European languages, 2.5% speaking Asian and Austronesian languages, and 0.8% speaking other languages.

At the northern edge of the state on Lake Michigan lies Chicago, the nation's third largest city. In 2000, 23.3% of the population lived in the city of Chicago, 43.3% in Cook County and 65.6% in the counties of the Chicago metropolitan area: Will, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties, as well as Cook County. The remaining population lives in the smaller cities and rural areas that dot the state's plains. As of 2000, the state's center of population was at 411642N 882249W / 41.278216N 88.380238W / 41.278216; -88.380238, located in Grundy County, northeast of the village of Mazon.

Chicago is the largest city in the state and the third most populous city in the United States, with its 2008 estimated population of 2,853,114. The U.S. Census Bureau currently lists seven other cities with populations of over 100,000 within Illinois. Based upon the Census Bureau's official 2008 population estimates, they are: Aurora, a Chicago outlier which at 171,782, eclipsed Rockford for the title of "Second City" of Illinois in 2006. However, at 157,272, Rockford is not only the number three city, it also remains the largest city in the state not located within the Chicago metropolitan area. Joliet, located southwest of Chicago, is the fourth largest city in the state, with a population of 146,125. It is also one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Naperville, a suburb of Chicago, is fifth with 143,117, it shares its western border with the state's second largest city, Aurora, along Illinois Route 59. Springfield, the state capital of Illinois, comes in sixth with 117,352. Peoria, which decades ago was the second largest city in the state, comes in seventh with 114,114. The eighth largest and final city in the 100,000 club is Elgin, an outlying northwest suburb of Chicago with a 2008 estimated population of 106,330.

Other major urban areas include the Illinois portion of Greater St. Louis (often called the Metro-East area), which has a population of over 691,000 people, the Illinois portion of the Quad Cities area, which has a population of 215,000, the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Area, which has a combined population of 210,000 and the Bloomington-Normal area with a combined population of over 125,000.

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