Historically and comparatively, agriculture is the most important industry. In 1900 about nine-tenths of the total land area was inclosed in farms; the value of farm property ($2,004,316,897) was greater than that of any other state; as regards the total value of farm products in 1899 Illinois was surpassed only by Iowa; in the value of crops Illinois led all the states, and the values of property and of products were respectively 35.6% and 87.1% greater than at the end of the preceding decade. During the last half of the 19th century the number of farms increased rapidly, and the average size declined from 158 acres in 1850 to 127.6 acres in 1870 and 124.2 acres in 1900. The prevailing form of tenure is that of owners, 60.7% of the farms being so operated in 1900; but during the decade 1890-1900 the number of farms cultivated by cash tenants increased 30.8%, and the number by share tenants 24.5%, while the increase of cultivation by owners was only 1%. In proportion of farm land improved (84.5%), Illinois was surpassed only by Iowa among the states. Cereals form the most important agricultural product (600,107,378 bushels in 1899—in value about three-fourths of the total agricultural products of the state). In the production of cereals Illinois surpassed the other states at the close of each decade during the last half of the 19th century except that ending in 1890, when Iowa was the leading state. Indian corn and oats are the most valuable crops. The rank of Illinois in the production of Indian corn was first in 1899 with about one-fifth of the total product of the United States, and first in 1907 with nearly one-tenth of the total crop of the country (9,521,000 bushels out of 99,931,000). In 1879, in 1899 and in 1905 (when it produced 132,779,762 bushels out of 953,216,197 from the entire country) it was first among the states producing oats, but it was surpassed by Iowa in 1889, 1906 and 1907; in 1907 the Illinois crop was 101,675,000 bushels. From 1850 until 1879 Illinois also led in the production of wheat; the competition of the more western states, however, caused a great decline in both acreage and production of that cereal, the state’s rank in the number of bushels produced declining to third in 1889 and to fourteenth in 1899, but the crop and yield per acre in 1902 was larger than any since 1894; in 1905 the state ranked ninth, in 1906 eighth and in 1907 fifth (the crop being 40,104,000 bushels) among the wheat-growing states of the country. The rank of the state in the growing of rye also declined from second in 1879 to eighth in 1899 and to ninth in 1907 (when the crop was 1,106,000 bushels), and the rank in the growing of barley from third in 1869 to sixteenth in 1899. In 1907 the barley crop was 600,000 bushels. Hay and forage are, after cereals, the most important crops; in 1907 2,664,000 acres produced 3,730,000 tons of hay valued at $41,030,000. Potatoes and broom corn are other valuable products. The potato crop in 1907 was 13,398,000 bushels, valued at $9,647,000, and the sugar beet, first introduced during the last decade of the 19th century, gave promise of becoming one of the most important crops. From 1889 to 1899 there was a distinct decline in the production of apples and peaches, but there was a great increase in that of cherries, plums and pears. The large urban population of the state makes the animal products very valuable, Illinois ranking third in 1900 in the number of dairy cows, and in the farm value of dairy products; indeed, all classes of live stock, except sheep, increased in number from 1850 to 1900, and at the end of the latter year Illinois was surpassed only by Iowa in the number of horses and swine; in 1909 there were more horses in Illinois than in Iowa. Important influences in the agricultural development of the state have been the formation of Farmers’ Institutes, organized in 1895, a Corn Breeders’ Association in 1898, and the introduction of fertilizers, the use of which in 1899 was nearly seven times the amount in 1889, and the study of soils, carried on by the State Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The growth of manufacturing in Illinois during the last half of the 19th century, due largely to the development of her exceptional transportation facilities, was the most rapid and remarkable in the industrial history of the United States. In 1850 the state ranked fifteenth, in 1860 eighth, in 1870 sixth, in 1880 fourth, in 1890 and again in 1900 third, in the value of its manufactures. The average increases of invested capital and products for each decade from 1850-1900 were, respectively, 189.26% and 152.9%; in 1900 the capital invested ($776,829,598, of which $732,829,771 was in establishments under the “factory system”), and the product ($1,259,730,168, of which $1,120,868,308 was from establishments under the “factory system”), showed unusually small percentages of increase over those for 1890 (54.7% and 38.6% respectively); and in 1905 the capital and product of establishments under the “factory system” were respectively $975,844,799 and $1,410,342,129, showing increases of 33.2% and 25.8% over the corresponding figures for 1900.
The most important industry was the wholesale slaughtering and packing of meats, which yielded 22.9% of the total manufactured product of the state in 1900, and 22.5% of the total in 1905. From 1870 to 1905 Illinois surpassed the other states in this industry, yielding in 1900 and in 1905 more than one-third of the total product of the United States. The increase in the value of the product in this industry in Illinois between 1900 and 1905 was over 10%. An interesting phase of the industry is the secondary enterprises that have developed from it, nearly all portions of the slaughtered animal being finally put to use. The blood is converted into clarifying material, the entrails are used for sausage coverings, the hoofs and small bones furnish the raw material for the manufacture of glue, the large bones are carved into knife handles, and the horns into combs, the fats are made to yield butterine, lard and soap, and the hides and hair are used in the manufacture of mattresses and felts.
The manufacture of iron and steel products, and of products depending upon iron and steel as raw material, is second in importance. The iron for these industries is secured from the Lake Superior region, the coal and limestone from mines within the state. Indeed, in the manufacture of iron and steel, Illinois was surpassed in 1900 only by Pennsylvania and Ohio, the 1900 product being valued at $60,303,144; but the value of foundry and machine shop products was even greater ($63,878,352). In 1905 the iron and steel product had increased in value since 1900 44.9%, to $87,352,761; the foundry and machine shop products 25.2%, to $79,961,482; and the wire product showed even greater increase, largely because of a difference of classification in the two censuses, the value in 1905 being $14,099,566, as against $2,879,188 in 1900, showing an increase of nearly 390%. The development of agriculture, by creating a demand for improved farm machinery, has stimulated the inventive genius; in many cases blacksmith shops have been transformed into machinery factories; also well-established companies of the eastern states have been induced to remove to Illinois by the low prices of iron and wood, due to cheap transportation rates on the Great Lakes. Consequently, in 1890, in 1900 and again in 1905, Illinois surpassed any one of the other states in the production of agricultural implements, the product in 1900 being valued at $42,033,796, or 41.5% of the total output of agricultural machinery in the United States; and in 1905 with a value of $38,412,452 it represented 34.3% of the product of the entire country. In the building of railway cars by manufacturing corporations, Illinois also led the states in 1900 and in 1905, the product being valued at $24,845,606 in 1900 and at $30,926,464 (an increase of nearly one-fourth) in 1905; and in construction by railway companies was second in 1900, with a product valued at $16,580,424, which had increased 53.7% in 1905, when the product was valued at $25,491,209. The greatest increase of products between 1890 and 1900 was in the manufacture of electrical apparatus (2400%), in which the increase in value of product was 37.2% between 1900 and 1905.
Another class of manufactures consists of those dependent upon agricultural products for raw material. Of these, the manufacture of distilled liquors was in 1900 and in 1905 the most important, Illinois leading the other states; the value of the 1900 product, which was nearly 12% less than that of 1890, was increased by 41.6%, to $54,101,805, in 1905. Peoria, the centre of the industry, is the largest producer of whisky and high-class wines of the cities in the United States. There were also, in 1900, 35 direct and other indirect products made from Indian corn by glucose plants, which consumed one-fifth of the Indian corn product of the state, and the value of these products was $18,122,814; in 1905 it was only $14,532,180. Of other manufactures dependent upon agriculture, flour and grist mill products declined between 1890 and 1900, but between 1900 and 1905 increased 39.6% to a value of $39,892,127. The manufacture of cheese, butter and condensed milk increased 60% between 1890 and 1900, but between 1900 and 1905 only 3.1%, the product in 1905 being valued at $13,276,533.
Other prosperous industries are the manufacture of lumber and timber products (the raw material being floated down the Mississippi river from the forests of other states), whose output increased from 1890 to 1900 nearly 50%, but declined slightly between 1900 and 1905; of furniture ($22,131,846 in 1905; $15,285,475 in 1900; showing an increase of 44.8%), and of musical instruments ($13,323,358 in 1905; $8,156,445 in 1900; an increase of 63.3% in the period), in both of which Illinois was second in 1900 and in 1905; book and job printing, in which the state ranked second in 1900 ($28,293,684 in 1905; $19,761,780 in 1900; an increase of 43.2%), newspaper and periodical printing ($28,644,981 in 1905; $19,404,955 in 1900; an increase of 47.6%), in which it ranked third in 1900; and the manufacture of clothing, boots and shoes. The value of the clothing manufactured in 1905 was $67,439,617 (men’s $55,202,999; women’s $12,236,618), an increase of 30.1% over 1900. The great manufacturing centre is Chicago, where more than seven-tenths of the manufactured products of the state were produced in 1900, and more than two-thirds in 1905.
In this development of manufactures, the mineral resources have been an important influence, nearly one-fourth (23.6%) of the manufactured product in 1900 depending upon minerals for raw material. Although the iron ore, for the iron and steel industry, is furnished by the mines of the Lake Superior region, bituminous coal and limestone are supplied by the Illinois deposits. The great central coal field of North America extends into Illinois from
- The statistics for years prior to 1900 are taken from reports of the U.S. Census, those for years after 1900 from the Year Books of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It should be borne in mind that in census years, when comparison can be made, the two sets of statistics often vary considerably.