Unforgettable moments include sorrow, joy
Lincoln’s death, Cubs’ victory are voted the top unforgettable moments in Illinois history

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[December 05, 2018] 

Events of deep sorrow and tremendous joy – the funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory – top the list of unforgettable moments chosen by voters in the final Illinois Top 200 category.

They were followed by Illinois becoming the first state to ratify the constitutional amendment ending slavery and by Lewis and Clark starting their famous expedition to the west. The historic debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas came in at No. 5 in the online voting.

Lincoln’s 1865 assassination shocked the whole country, but the loss was especially painful in his home state. Hundreds of thousands of people filed by his casket when he lay in state in Chicago and Springfield. Others lined up alongside railroad tracks to see the car carrying his body to its final resting place in Springfield.

The second spot on the list goes to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series after a record-breaking 108 years of disappointment and frustration. The celebration afterward brought millions of people together.

“The range of events on this list is incredible. It includes expanded civil rights, exploration of the continent and the atom, and two great moments in Lincoln’s life,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “Of course, it also includes tragedies like Lincoln’s death, but all of it is part of the state’s fascinating history.”

The Top 200 project allowed Illinoisans to vote on the state’s most inspiring leaders, greatest inventions, top businesses and much more. By choosing a top 10 in 20 different categories, voters produced a list of the 200 most amazing things about Illinois, just in time for the state’s 200th birthday on Dec. 3.

Here are the most unforgettable moments chosen in online voting:

1. Mourning Lincoln – Nobody knew Abraham Lincoln better than his fellow Illinoisans. When he was killed, the state went into mourning and then welcomed him back to rest forever in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery.

2. Victorious Cubs – When the Cubs finally managed to win a World Series, much of the state went wild. Millions (just how many millions is a subject of debate) lined the parade route or gathered at Grant Park for the official celebration.

3. Ending Slavery –President Lincoln and his congressional allies passed the 13th Amendment on Jan. 31, 1865. The very next day, Illinois became the first state to ratify the amendment, which officially ended slavery.

4. Lewis and Clark – The Lewis and Clark expedition began from a base in Illinois. The explorers spent the winter of 1803-4 near Wood River, where they prepared their troops and equipment, and then started west on May 14, 1804.

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5. Lincoln-Douglas Debates – When Lincoln faced Stephen Douglas in an 1858 Senate race, they held seven debates around the state. The debates put Lincoln on the path to the White House and set a new standard for political discourse.

6. Women Voting – In 1913 Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi River to let women vote. But it was a limited right at first. Women could vote for president and for local offices but not for state offices or Congress.

7. Obama Elected – Barack Obama addressed the nation from Grant Park after winning the presidency. Some 240,000 people attended, and millions more watched on TV. For friends and foes alike, it was a remarkable moment.

8. World’s Fair – The World's Columbian Exposition celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus arriving in the Americas. It was a huge success, with a profound influence on architecture, the arts and Chicago’s image.

9. The Nuclear Age – Chicago Pile-1, the world’s first nuclear reactor, went into operation on Dec. 2, 1942. It produced about half a watt for less than five minutes but paved the way for the atomic bomb and nuclear power plants.

10. (tie) Blagojevich Arrested – On Dec. 9, 2008, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for extortion, demanding campaign donations in exchange for state services and trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat. He was removed from office on Jan. 29.

(tie) Native Americans Leave – Unable to stop a flood of settlers, the Ottawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi gave up all their Illinois land in the 1833 Treaty of Chicago. They performed one last war dance two years later, then left for good.

The nominees who did not make the top 10 were the 1968 Democratic National Convention; Al Capone being convicted of tax evasion; the “Black Sox” scandal; the 1894 Pullman strike; Mormons being driven out of Illinois in 1846; Illinois voters rejecting slavery; the “Liberty Bell of the West” ringing in Kaskaskia; the strange flood in downtown Chicago; and Harold Washington being elected mayor of Chicago.

The Illinois Top 200 is a joint initiative of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.

The presidential library and museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. For more information, visit www.President Lincoln.illinois.gov

[Christopher Wills]

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