Illinois flag

Illinois State Motto

"State Sovereignty, National Union"

The Illinois state motto was adopted in 1819 and also figures as an element of the state seal. The Illinois motto symbolically reflects the power and pride of being a small state within a larger state. 

The Illinois motto therefore intends to represent the, at the same time, independency of the state of Illinois and the strength it provides when being part of a greater union. In this way the Illinois motto may be perceived as a kind of paradox.

Illinois State Nicknames

Whereas there is only one Illinois motto, there exist a number of state nicknames for Illinois:

"Land of Lincoln"
Whereas the Illinois state motto, "State Sovereignty, National Union", is not official there is an official Illinois state nickname, "Land of Lincoln", which dates back from 1955.

In this way both the Illinois state motto and the official Illinois state nickname focus on proud, patriotic values such as 'union', 'indpendency' and strong leadership.

Illinois is the state where Lincoln started out his political career with four terms in the Illinois General Assembly (1834-1841). It was only later, in 1861, he became President of America.

Illinois nickname: Land of Lincoln - statue of Lincoln

"The Prairie State"
About 20 million years ago the grass of the prairie began to take form. Today in some areas only 1% remains, so the state of the prairie is in high danger of being destroyed. In an attempt to honour the prairie, Illinois has reserved a full week in September for "... holding appropriate events and observances in the public schools and elsewhere to demonstrate the value of preserving and reestablishing native Illinois prairies."

"The Garden of the West" or the "The Garden State"
This Illinois nickname was earned because of the miles and miles of old prairie land and the unending fields of corn and soy beans.

"The Corn State"
Corn is one of the pillars in the agricultural economy of Illinois. The region referred to as "The Corn Belt" is found in Iowa and Illinois.

Illinois nickname: The Corn State - picture of corn

"The Sucker State"
The origin of this Illinois state nickname has spread out from three different legends:

  1. The first story refers to an analogy made between ... miners going to and from the Galena Lead Mines in 1822 ... and fish.

    In Malcolm Townsend's "U.S.: An Index to the United States of America" 1890 it is written: "An old miner said to them 'Ye put me in [the] mind of suckers, they do go up the river in the spring spawn, and all return down ag'in in the fall."

  2. There is also another possible source of the Illinois nickname. This is a suggestion also put forward by Malcolm Townsend.

    In the prairies there were many crawfish holes which travellers benefitted from by sucking up the water with long hollow reeds. Malcolm Townsend wrote that when a traveller spotted such a water hole, he would cry: "A sucker, a sucker!"

  3. A third story is that this Illinois state nickname was created by Thomas Ford in "A History of Illinois" in 1854 as a reference to the poor people that moved into the southern Illinois in an attempt to escape suppression from dominant landowners of the southern states.

    Ford compared these poor immigrants to the sprouts of the tobacco plant's main stem and roots - suckers that nourish from and is a burden to the rich main source and which then strip themselves off and go away to perish (like the suckers are taken off the plant and thrown away by farmers). The name applied to Illinoisans at the Galena Mines.

This is a reference to the fertile ground around Egypt's Cairo after the flooding of the Nile.

Illinois State Slogans

Whereas the Illinois state motto intends to describe the proud and patriotic 'soul' of Illinois: "State Sovereignty, National Union" - Illinois state slogans focus especially on attracting tourists, and as you will see in both 'serious' and funny ways:

"Illinois: Mile After Magnificent Mile"
This is slogan of the official web site of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism:

"Right Here. Right Now"
In the year of 2000, Governor George H. Ryan today announced a new marketing campaign for Illinois:

"The new theme we've adopted for Illinois is Right Here. Right Now., which I believe captures the energy and forward-looking vision that my administration has taken in addressing the challenges and opportunities facing our great state."

"Illinois: Gateway to Iowa"

"Illinois: Please Don't Pronounce the "S""

"Illinois: Only Morons Pronounce the "S""

"Illinois: Menage a Trois"

"Illinois Won't Annoy You"

Some of these Illinois funny state slogans may be bought on t-shirts, aprons, caps etc.

USA map with Illinois highlighted