Carbondale is a city in Jackson County, Illinois, United States, within the Southern Illinois region. It is located at the junction of Illinois Route 13 and U.S. Route 51, southeast of St. Louis, Missouri, on the northern edge of the Shawnee National Forest. Carbondale is the home of the main campus of Southern Illinois University.
As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 25,902, and it is the state's 20th-most-populated city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area. In addition, the city is the most populous in Southern Illinois outside of the St. Louis Metro-East region, and the most populous city in the Carbondale-Marion-Herrin, Illinois Combined Statistical Area and the Metro Lakeland area. The CSA has 126,575 residents, the sixth-most-populous Combined statistical area in Illinois.
In August 1852, Daniel Harmon Brush, John Asgill Conner, and Dr. William Richart bought a parcel of land between two proposed railroad sites (Makanda and De Soto) and two county seats (Murphysboro and Marion). Brush named Carbondale for the large deposit of coal in the area. The first train through Carbondale was on the main line north from Cairo on Independence Day 1854.
By the time of the Civil War, Carbondale had become both a regional center for business and transportation, and an educational center with the founding of Carbondale College (which became Southern Illinois College in 1869). Carbondale won the bid for the new teacher training school for the region, and Southern Illinois Normal University opened in 1874. This gave the town new industry, new citizens, and a supplement to public schools. In 1947, the name was changed to Southern Illinois University which now has 21,000 students enrolled.
In the early 20th Century Carbondale was known as the "Athens of Egypt" thanks to Southern Illinois Normal University, as SIU was then known, and the region's moniker of Little Egypt. The phrase dates to at least 1903, when the local paper copied a social item from the Mt. Vernon News. "Mrs. Dr. McAnally, nee Pace, of Carbondale has returned to the Athens of Egypt after a week's visit with her sisters..." By 1922, the Carbondale Free Press was using the phrase on its flag.