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Prairie tales

The list: 5 facts about Illinois

Illinois Statehood stamp
The Illinois Statehood stamp shows an outline of the state and yellow beams that radiate upward, like rays from a rising sun.

The Postal Service’s new Illinois Statehood stamp shines a spotlight on the nation’s 21st state. Here are five facts you may not have known.

1. There’s a reason Illinois is nicknamed the Prairie State. Illinois has a predominantly flat terrain. The state’s southernmost area has a gently sloping landscape, and the rolling hills in the northwestern corner include the state’s highest point, Charles Mound, at 1,235 feet above sea level.

2. The Windy City will blow you away. Chicago, the largest city in the state and the third largest in the nation, has 2.7 million residents. The city is where the term “jazz” was popularized around 1914. Other Chicago inventions: the Twinkie, which was created in nearby Schiller Park during the Great Depression, and the nation’s first mail-order business, which Aaron Montgomery Ward began in 1872.

3. Four presidents have Illinois connections. Although Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Barack Obama were all born elsewhere, each claimed Illinois as his political base. One president was born in Illinois: Ronald Reagan.

4. Other historic communities dot the state. The notable spots include New Salem, where Lincoln lived from 1831-1837 and served as Postmaster; Grant’s home in Galena; and Oak Park, the home of pioneering architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

5. Many historic figures hail from Illinois, too. Among them: social reformer Jane Addams; entertainer Jack Benny; Native American leader Black Hawk; Carol Mosley-Braun, the first African-American woman to serve as a U.S. senator; writers Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lorraine Hansberry, Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg; musician Miles Davis; and producer Walt Disney.

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