The land of Lincoln, that gets its name from a French interpretation of the indigenous tribe that lived there before colonisation named iliniwek, is more than presidents and rivers. Get to know the Prairie State a bit better with some facts that you probably never heard of, like their bizarre antipathy towards ketchup.

Nature Kingdom

Agriculture is a really important part of their economy, being the largest producer of pumpkins, the second-largest producer of corn and the first to have an official state soil. A silty clay loam covering over 1.5 million acres of Illinois has received the name of Drummer soil series, perfect for growing corn and soybeans. Another particularity about the land is that the Chicago River is one of the few ones in the world that flows backwards to usual river flows. From 1892 to 1922 a system of three canals was built so it could reverse the flow and empty it into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan, keeping the natural river system functioning nation-wide.

Plane as Paper

Illinois’s highest natural point is called Charles Mound and is just 1,235 feet above sea level, making the state one of the flattest ones in the country. Chicago’s low elevation even caused serious flooding and disease outbreaks in the 19th century, combined with a lack of municipal sewer system. Engineers had to raise every city building up to get out of the mud, elevating them six feet higher and taking the old structures to the suburbs. The funny part about the Charles Mound landmark is that lays at the top of a family’s driveway and not out in the public, but they allow visitors a few weekends a year so they can enjoy the view.

Playing with Names

Metropolis, Superman’s fictional hometown, actually exists in Illinois 36o miles south of Chicago. The city takes this sharing pretty seriously, having a Metropolis Planet newspaper and a Super Museum that has an outdoor phone booth and hosts a Superman Celebration every year. Another famous city name is Springfield, the hometown of The Simpsons. However, creator Matt Groening revealed in 2012 that Springfield was one of the most common names for cities in the US, so he thought it was funny to make people argue about whether it was their town. And speaking of misconceptions, even though weather in Chicago can be pretty rough sometimes, the city’s nickname “Windy City” has nothing to do with meteorology. A New York City journalist actually coined the term previously but not popularly used about the breezes of Lake Michigan for referring to the conceited and long-winded politicians campaigning during the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893.

Science and Technology

The state has its own mythological creature, the Tully Monster, a carnivorous invertebrate that no one can assure where it came from. Founded in 1958 and the star of a lot of studies, it looked like a cuttlefish (but nobody knows to which species or families is related to) and lived around 300 million years ago. On the other hand, after said exhibition in 1893, the state became a worldwide focus for innovation, introducing the original Ferris Wheel, the moving walkway, the first zipper (named clasp locker in the era), Shredded Wheat and the mechanical dishwasher.