Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana

Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana

Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana

Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana

Synopsis

Who are the people called Hoosiers? What are their stories? Two centuries ago, on the Indiana frontier, they were settlers who created a way of life they passed to later generations. They came to value individual freedom and distrusted government, even as they demanded that government remove Indians, sell them land, and bring democracy. Down to the present, Hoosiers have remained wary of government power and have taken care to guard their tax dollars and their personal independence. Yet the people of Indiana have always accommodated change, exchanging log cabins and spinning wheels for railroads, cities, and factories in the 19th century, automobiles, suburbs, and foreign investment in the 20th. The present has brought new issues and challenges, as Indiana's citizens respond to a rapidly changing world. James H. Madison's sparkling new history tells the stories of these Hoosiers, offering an invigorating view of one of America's distinctive states and the long and fascinating journey of its people.

Excerpt

This is a book about a people two centuries in the making. They call themselves Hoosiers, these citizens of Indiana. They think, many of them, that they are different from other Americans. Who are they? What kind of people were they two centuries ago? What are their stories?

I begin with the word “Hoosier.” Generations of curious researchers have failed to identify its origin or meaning. Many have offered serious speculation and light amusement. One oft-told story is attributed to “the Hoosier poet,” James Whitcomb Riley. After a brawl in a pioneer tavern that included eye gouging, hair pulling, and biting, a bystander reached down to the sawdust-covered floor and picked up a mangled piece of flesh. “Whose ear?” he called out. Perhaps it’s just as well to have a mystery around something so important.

The word was widely used both in conversation and in print by the early 1830s, including in a widely cited 1833 poem titled “The Hoosher’s Nest.” Two years later a newcomer to Richmond explained in a letter to family back home in Pennsylvania that “old settlers in Indiana are called ‘Hooshers’ and the cabins they first lived in ‘Hoosher’s’ nests.” She added, “It takes a year to become a Hoosher.” Near La Porte about the same time, a traveler “in the land of the Hooshiers” wrote that the term “has now become a soubriquet that bears nothing invidious with it to the ear of an Indianian.” Hoosiers have retained the nickname into the twenty-first century, when state records showed twenty-six hundred businesses using “Hoosier” in their official name. It’s true that at times some have ascribed negative connotations to the word, using it to suggest . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.