In Illinois, as in most places, people and communities have sought to connect with other places through nodes of transportation and communication for cultural, economic and political reasons. After Illinois was created state and private companies have worked to bind our different regions together through infrastructure. Such links vastly expanded the spaces used by people and the connections between communities. They turned our state from merely a designated area on a map into a more unified functional territory and contributed to our character and identity.
Historical geographer Norman Moline will provide a broad survey of the development of Illinois’ connections since 1818. After noting how our state’s shape was determined, he will review how the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Hennepin Canal increased the range of navigable waterways. Beginning in the 1840s, the arrival and rapid expansion of railroad, including the nationally significant Illinois Central and numerous regional lines gave us one of the densest networks in any state with Chicago as both the state and national hub. The arrival of electric interurbans added a new form of rail travel. The evolution of postal connections also was important as more post offices were added year by year and free urban delivery and then rural free delivery were provided. Beginning in the early 1900s the most significant intrastate connections emerge: automobiles and roads. Going from the Good Roads movement to the interstate expressways, he will note key developments in our state’s highway history. In conclusion, while our current transportation network binds our state together, it also leaves some people and communities less connected than others. Yet, these developments are worth remembering and appreciating.