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Symbols of Illinois (with Pictures)

Illinois is one of the most popular and visited states in America. While its major city Chicago is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the country, it’s also known for the significant advancement and inventions of various performing arts. With its rich culture and history, Illinois is full of stunning sights to see. It’s also the home of former U.S. president, Barack Obama. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the official and unofficial symbols of the state of Illinois.

Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring Illinois state.

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Last update was on: May 14, 2024 11:05 am

The Flag of Illinois

flag of illinois

The flag of Illinois was officially adopted in 1915 as a result of the efforts of Ella Lawrence (known for her patriotism) as well as the Daughters of the American Revolution. Originally, the flag only featured the state seal in the center of a white field, but in 1969 the state name was added under the seal along with the sun on the horizon of Lake Michigan in the background. This version was then approved as the state flag after which no more alterations were made to the design.

Seal of Illinois

The State Seal of Illinois features an eagle in the center, holding a banner in its beak with the words State Sovereignty, National Union written on the banner. It also contains the date Aug. 26th, 1818 which was when the first constitution of Illinois was signed. The design of the seal has gone through several changes over the years:

  • The first state seal of Illinois was created and adopted in 1819 and used up until 1839 when it was recut.
  • Around 1839, the design was altered slightly, and the result became the second Great Seal of the state.
  • Then in 1867 the Secretary of State, Sharon Tyndale, created a third and final seal which was adopted officially and remains in use to this day.

The seal is the official state emblem, signifying the official nature of documents produced by the state and is used on official documents by the Illinois government.

Adler Planetarium

Adler planetarium

The Adler Planetarium is a museum in Chicago, dedicated to the study of astrophysics and astronomy. It was founded in 1930 by Max Adler, a Chicago business leader.

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At the time, the Adler was the first planetarium in the U.S. It consists of three theatres, the space capsule of Gemini 12 and many antique instruments of science. In addition, it’s home to the Doane Observatory which is one of the very few public urban observatories in the country.

The Adler also has summer camps designed for children aged 5-14 and hosts ‘Hack Days’ to encourage designers, software developers, scientists, artists, engineers and others to gather together to solve problems.

Illinois State Fair

corn dog

The Illinois State Fair is an agriculture-themed festival hosted by the state of Illinois and held in the state capital once a year. Since it first started in 1853, the fair has been celebrated almost every year. It popularized the corn dog and has long been famous for its ‘butter cow’, a life-sized sculpture of an animal made entirely of pure butter. It’s one of the biggest and most important annual festivals held in the state of Illinois, encompassing over 360 acres of land.

Jameson Irish Whiskey – Signature Drink

Jameson Irish whiskey

Jameson Irish Whiskey (JG&L) is a blended whiskey from Ireland that was originally one of the 6 main Dublin whiskeys. Produced from a blend of single pot still and grain whiskey, JG&L is known as the best-selling Irish whiskey worldwide. The founder, Jon Jameson (great-grandfather of Guglielmo Marconi) was a lawyer who established his distillery in Dublin. His production process deviated from the traditional methods used in most Scotch whisky distilleries, resulting in one of the best and most popular whiskey brands in the world.

Illinois State Capitol

Located in Springfield, Illinois, the Illinois State Capitol houses the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. The Capitol was built in the French architectural styles and designed by Cochrane and Garnsey, a design and architecture firm in Chicago. Construction began in March, 1868, and twenty years later the building was finally completed. Topped with a 405-foot dome, the Capitol today is the center of the Illinois government. Visitors are allowed to watch politics from the balcony-level seating whenever in session.

  • Square Dance

Adopted in 1990as the state folk dance of Illinois, the Square Dance is a couple dance. It involves four couples arranged in a square (a couple on each side), facing the middle. This style of dancing first came to North America with European settlers and was considerably developed.

Today, square dancing is strongly associated with the U.S. and is said to be the most widely known form of dance in the world. There are several different styles of square dancing and each represents the American values of community, freedom and equal opportunity. 

Illinois Saint Andrew Society Tartan

The Illinois Saint Andrew Society Tartan, designated the official state tartan in 2012, has a field of white and blue. The tartan was specially designed to mark the 150th anniversary of the Illinois St. Andrews Society founded by the Scots in 1854.  The colors represent the Scottish flag, with the white color representing the background of the Illinois’ state flag. The tartan also has a gold strand to associate it with the eagle displayed on the Illinois state flag and Green is incorporated into it to represent the Scottish homeland.

The White Oak

white oak tree

The white oak (Quercus alba) is a preeminent hardwood native to central and eastern North America. In 1973, it was designated as the official state tree of Illinois. White oaks are massive trees that can reach heights of 80-100 ft when fully mature and they can live for about 200-300 years. They’re cultivated as ornamental trees and because the wood is rot- and water-resistant, it’s commonly used to make whiskey and wine barrels. It’s also used to make certain weapons like the jo and bokken in Japanese martial arts because of its density, resiliency and strength.

Goldrush Apples

Goldrush apples are delicious fruits with a sweet-tart taste that came from Purdie in 1992. These apples have a complex flavor making it excellent for the production of hard cider. A cross between an experimental variety of apple and Golden Delicious apples, the fruit itself is yellowish-green with a round or oval shape. The goldrush apple was named the official state fruit of Illinois in 2008 and is symbolic of love, knowledge, wisdom, joy and luxury.

The Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is one of the most loved backyard birds in America, distinctive in both song and appearance. The male cardinals are bright red in color whereas the females are more of a buffy brown color with reddish wings. Both have a pronounced crest, jet-black mask and a heavy bill. Selected as the state bird by the schoolchildren of Illinois, the cardinal was adopted as official state bird in 1929 by the General Assembly of the state.

Lincoln Monument

Lincoln monument

Standing in President’s Park, Dixon, Illinois is the Lincoln Monument, a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln standing on a rock pedestal. This statue was built to commemorate his service in the war against the Black Hawks. Although it’s often mistaken for the Lincoln Memorial, the two are completely different statues located in different parts of the U.S., with the Memorial in Washington. The monument was sculpted in 1930 by artist Leonard Crunelle and today its carefully maintained as a state historic site by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Sears Tower

sears tower

Standing at 1,450 feet, the Sears Tower (also known as the Willis Tower) is a 110-story skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois. Completed in 1973, it became the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center in New York City which had held the title for almost 25 years. The tower stands ahead of other skyscrapers in America when it comes to increasing water and energy efficiency and reducing waste and promoting green practices among all of its tenants.


Pirogue illinois

A pirogue is a small, handcrafted boat shaped like a banana and made by hollowing out a tree trunk and usually propelled by oars with one blade. It was promoted by students at the St. Joseph School in the village of Wilmette in Illinois as a tribute to Native Americans, the first inhabitants of Illinois before it ever became a state. The pirogue was designated as the official artefact of the state of Illinois in 2016  since it recognizes the Native American ‘Illini’ tribe, the state’s namesake. The tribe used pirogues to navigate the lakes and rivers in the region. The boat also reflects the importance of the waterways in Illinois to the development and history of the state.

The Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly

The Monarch butterfly is one of the most well-studied and easily recognizable butterflies in the world, native to both North and South America. These butterflies are brilliantly colored to warn predators that they’re poisonous and foul-tasting. They ingest toxins from milkweed plants which are poisonous and while the butterfly has evolved to tolerate it, it can be poisonous to predators like birds. The Monarch butterfly is known for being the only two-way migratory butterfly, flying to Mexico from the U.S. and Canada and back again with the change of the seasons. The schoolchildren of Illinois suggested the monarch butterfly as the state insect, and it was officially adopted in 1975.

Symbols of Illinois

 To learn about other state symbols in America, check out our related articles:

Symbols of Texas

Symbols of Hawaii

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.