Illinois was a detailed, full scale mockup of an Indiana-class battleship, constructed as a naval exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, in 1893.
U.S. Battleship Illinois
In the decade preceding the Columbian Exposition, the United States Navy initiated a fleet modernization program. Sometimes referred to as the ‘New Navy’, the first steel-hulled warships were constructed to replace the wooden and ironclad ships from the American Civil War period. In 1891, the first class of modern American battleships, the Indiana-class, was laid down. These warships included modern technologies absent in their Civil War-era predecessors, particularly electricity and electrically-driven devices.
When the Columbian Exposition was being planned, it was decided to showcase this new naval technology. However, the Rush–Bagot Treaty forbade warships to operate on the Great Lakes. Furthermore, a battleship built on the Great Lakes would have been confined there for its entire existence because, prior to opening of the Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1900, there was no way for it to leave. As a result, it was decided that a full-scale replica of a battleship would be constructed instead. This mock-up would permit the demonstration of new technologies being used in the Indiana-class warships. In keeping with the Navy’s policy of naming battleships after states and in honor of the Exposition’s location, the facsimile battleship was called Illinois.