The Forgotonia movement was a political stunt led by Neal Gamm, a Western Illinois University theater student, in late 1973 to bring attention to the ways in which western Illinois as a region had been forgotten by the state and federal governments. The area had no major highways, terrible road conditions, no mental health facilities, and many other problems. It was comprised of a sixteen county region (pictured below), the shape of which looked remarkably like a smaller version of Illinois. These counties alphabetically were: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Henderson, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Morgan, Pike, Schuyler, Scott, and Warren.

Image from Western Illinois University Archives, “Neal Gamm Collection.”

The initial plan was to secede from the Union, form the nation of Forgotonia, declare war on the United States, immediately surrender, and then apply for foreign aid. Although, upon realizing secession was treason, they did not actually attempt to secede; self-appointed governor Gamm instead pursued all formal channels to propose Forgotonia as the 51st state. The entire thing garnered a shocking amount of support, far surpassing the expectations of even its charismatic figurehead.

Wrought with puns, witty remarks, and other good-spirited approaches, the movement addressed some very serious issues of the region through unconventional but undeniably pleasant methods. To find out more about this unique time in Illinois history, click around!