The State of Illinois became a State of the Union on December 3rd, 1818, being the 21st to be granted inception. The territory's history, however, dates back to the 17th century when French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Juliet first visited the expanse in 1673. By 1699 the area encountered a sizeable French immigrant population. Following the French and Indian conflicts in 1763, Great Britain seized control of the region. The Revolutionary War in 1776 changed the dynamic once again, and the War of 1812 also changed the region's complexion. As Western expansion began to increase, the opening of waterways became especially important for commerce. The construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal started in 1836 and by 1849 the canal opened up for business. Abraham Lincoln also resided there as a US Senator, and during his successful presidential campaign run in 1860.
The State Capital of Illinois is Springfield. Illinois's nickname is The Prairie State, known for having its terrain covered by various prairie grasses. The residents are referred to as Illinoisians, Illinoisans, or Illinoians. The state symbols read as follows: the state flower is the violet and the state bird is the cardinal. The state animal is the white-tailed deer and the state fish is the bluegill. The state insect is the Monarch Butterfly and the state mineral is fluorite. The largest city in Illinois is Chicago, with an estimated population of nearly 3 million people. The state's largest county by population and area is Cook County, with an estimated 5.4 million people, covering an area of 1184 square miles. The state's total land area is 55, 584 square miles and is divided up into 102 counties, as well as having 19 state representatives.
According to the 2010 Census Bureau, the State of Illinois has a population just shy of 13 million, and nearly split down the middle in terms of gender. The state is 67% Caucasian, 15% Hispanic American, 14% African American, and 4% Asian American. Concerning the total population, 6.9% are under 5 years of age, 24.6% are under the age of 18, 12.4% are 65 or older, and the remaining percentage fall between the ages of !8 and 65. The State of Illinois has over 40 universities to choose from, including Chicago State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Illinois State University, the University of Chicago, De Paul University, Loyola University Chicago, and Northwestern University.