1850 Illinois

Illinois sometimes called the "Prairie State", is situated between 37 and 4230' north latitude and 8749' and 9130' longitude west from Greenwich; it is bounded on the north by Wisconsin, east by Lake Michigan and Indiana, south by the Ohio river, which separates it from Kentucky, and west by the Mississippi river, which separates it from Missouri & Iowa.  Its superficial area is 55,500 square miles

Physical Aspects--The general surface of this state may be regarded as a gentle plain, more or less rolling inclined in the direction of its rivers.  The northern and southern sections, however, are somewhat broken, but no portion of the territory is traversed by ranges of mountains or hills.  It is estimated that Illinois contains more arable land than any other state in the Union.  In that portion north of Kaskaskia river the prairie country predominates; and it is computed that two thirds of the state are covered with this class of lands.  Many portions of them are undulating, entirely dry, and abound in wholesome springs; but as a general rule, they consist of plains; and in the true meaning of the term, in French, they are "meadows," presenting every degree of fertility, down to extreme barrenness. Many of them exhibit alluvial deposits, which prove that they have once been morasses, and perhaps lakes.  In numerous instances, there are thickets, or groves of timber, amid these prairies, containing from 100 to 2000 acres each, which resembles oases in the desert, or islands in the sea.  Along the boarders of many of the streams are rich "bottoms," or alluvial deposits.  The "American Bottoms" commences at the confluence of the Mississippi and Kaskaskia rivers, extending northward to the mouth of the Missouri, a distance of about 80 miles, and comprises an area of 288,000 acres.  It is bound on the east by a chain of "bluffs" some of which occur in parallel ridges, while others are of a conical shape, formed of lime rock, from 50 to 200 feet in eight.

Rivers & Lakes--The principle rivers are, the Mississippi, which bounds the state on the west, the Ohio, which bounds it on the south, Kankokee, Kaskaskia, Sangamon, Little Wabash, Muddy, Saline, Rock, Embarras, Fox, the Wabash, the principle river in the state, which forms a portion of the eastern boundary, Des Plaines and Vermilion.  Besides Lake Michigan, which lies on the northwest corner, this state contains Peoria lake, an expansion of Illinois river.

Climate--The climate of this state is generally healthy, and the air pure and serene, except in the vicinity of wet, low lands, or stagnant pools.  The winters, which are cold, are somewhat milder than those of the Atlantic states in the same latitude.  Snow seldom falls to the depth of 6 inches, and it rarely remains on the ground more than 10 or 12 days.  The Mississippi is sometimes frozen over as far down as St Louis, sufficiently strong to be crossed on the ice.  The summers are warm, particularly in the southern part, but the intensity of the heat is modified by the breeze.

Productive Resources--The staple products are, horses, mules, neat cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, butter, cheese, wool, cotton, hemp, flax, hops, hay, wine, wheat, barley, buckwheat, potatoes and Indian corn.  Among the mineral resources are, zinc, copper, iron and lime.  Bituminous coal may be found in nearly every county in the state.  Common salt is procured by evaporating the water of salt springs.  The lead mines in the vicinity of Galena are very extensive, and of great value to the state.  The mineral has been found in every portion of a tract for more than 50 miles in extent.  The ore lies in beds, or horizontal strata, varying in thickness from one inch to several feet.

Manufacturing-- In 1850, there were, in Illinois, 3,099 manufacturing establishments, producing each $500 and upward annually.  The manufactures consist mostly of woollen fabrics, machinery, saddlery, agricultural implements, etc.

Railroads & Canals--There are about 1,200 miles of railroad completed and in course of construction in this state; some of them, particularly the Central railroad are very important.  The Illinois and Michigan canal, connecting the waters of Lake Erie, at Chicago, with those of the Illinois river at Peru, is one of the most important works of internal improvement, in the country.  It is the connecting link of an unbroken internal water communication from the Atlantic, off Sandy Hook, NY, by the way of the lakes, the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, to the Gulf of Mexico.  The canal is 112 miles long, 60 feet wide, and 6 feet deep, and designed for boats of 120 tons.  It cost over $8,000,000.

Commerce--The direct foreign commerce of Illinois is, of course, from its insular position, very small; but its coasting and lake trade is important, amounting in 1850 to over $10,000,000.

Education--The principle collegiate institutions in Illinois are, the Illinois college at Jacksonville, founded in 1829; McKendree college at Lebanon in 1834; Shurtleff college at Upper Alton in 1835; Knox Manual Labor college at Galesburg in 18378; and the College of St Mary of the Lakes at Chicago in 1846.  There are about 100 academies and 2000 common schools in the state.

Government--The legislative authority is vested in a senate, the members of which, 25 in number, are elected for 4 years, one half every two years; and a house of representatives, 75 in number, elected for 2 years.  Senators must be 30 years of age, and five years inhabitants of the state.  Representatives must be 25 years of age, citizens of the United States, and 3 years inhabitants of the state.  The executive power is vested in a governor and lieutenant-governor, chosen by a plurality of votes, once in four years, on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, who must be 35 years of age, citizens of the United States for 14 years and residents of the state for 10 years.  The governor is not eligible for 2 consecutive terms. A majority of members elected to both houses may defeat the governor's veto.  A majority of the members elected to each house is required for the passage of any law.  The legislature meets biennially at Springfield, on the first Monday in January.  The judicial power is vested in a supreme court, of three judges, elected by the people for a term of 9 years, one being chosen triennially; also in circuit courts, of one judge each, elected by the people in nine judicial circuits, into which the state is divided, for six years; and county courts of 1 judge each, elected by the people for 4 years.  All white male citizens, 21 years of age, resident in the state for one year, may vote at elections.  No state bank can be created or revived.  Acts creating banks must be submitted to the people.  Stockholders are individually liable to the amount of their shares.

Population--In 1810 was 12,282; in 1820 was 55,211; in 1830 was157,455; in 1840 was 476,183; and in 1850 was 851,470.

History--This state embraces a part of Upper Louisiana, as held by the French prior to 1763, when it was ceded to England, together with Canada and Acadia.  The first permanent settlement was made at Kaskaskia, in 1685, although La Salle had built a fort, called Crevecoeur, on the Illinois river, five years before.  At the close of the Revolutionary War, in 1783, the country was claimed under the charter of Virginia and held by that state until ceded to the United States in 1787.  It was then made a part of the territory northwest of Ohio river.  When Ohio was made a separate territory, in 1800, Illinois and Indiana were formed into another territory, and remained as such until 1809, when they were divided into two.  In 1812, a territorial government was formed, with a legislature and one delegate to Congress.  In 1818 a state constitution was formed, and Illinois was admitted into the Union as an independent state.  The present constitution of the state was adopted by a state convention in Aug 1847, and accepted by the people in Mar 1848.  Motto of the seal, "State Sovereignty: National Union."