In Chicago, a disastrous fire destroys nearly four square miles of the city, leaving 300 people dead and 100,000 homeless. The city soon redevelops and rebuilds, emerging as a major industrial and economic center.
The Black Hawk War began when Black Hawk, chief of the Sauk Indians, crossed the Mississippi River to plant corn on the tribe's old fields in Illinois. Capt. Abraham Lincoln and Lieut. Jefferson Davis took part in the conflict. The Sauk surrendered in August, after many older men, women, and children were massacred in Wisconsin while carrying white flags.
A Memorial Day steel workers strike in Chicago turned violent when tensions between demonstrators and police peaked. The police threw tear-gas bombs into the crowd and opened fire on the demonstrators. Ten people were killed and dozens more injured.
Notorious gangster Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to eleven years in prison. Capone had entereted into a plea agreement with the US Attorney to avoid a trial, but the presiding judge rejected it and insisted that Capone be tried, stating: “It is time for somebody to impress upon the defendant that it is utterly impossible to bargain with a Federal Court.
In a series of seven political debates across the state of Illinois, Senate-hopeful Abraham Lincoln and incumbent Stephen Douglas argued the question of slavery. Though Lincoln lost to Douglas, the debates pushed him into the nation’s consciousness and made him a viable presidential candidate in 1860.
Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois became the first African American elected to the presidency. He defeated Republican nominee Senator John McCain of Arizona. Obama won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173.
In a speech at Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln denounced the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, declaring it “erroneous” and vowing that “we shall do what we can to have [the Supreme Court] over-rule this.”