Indiana History

Indiana (state, United States)

Indiana, midwestern state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Lake Michigan and the state of Michigan (N), Ohio (E), Kentucky, across the Ohio River (S), and Illinois (W).

Facts and Figures

Area, 36,291 sq mi (93,994 sq km). Pop. (2010) 6,483,802, a 6.6% increase since the 2000 census. Capital and largest city, Indianapolis. Statehood, Dec. 11, 1816 (19th state). Highest pt., 1,257 ft (383 m), Wayne co.; lowest pt., Ohio River, 320 ft (98 m). Nickname, Hoosier State. Motto, Crossroads of America. State bird, cardinal. State flower, peony. State tree, tulip poplar. Abbr., Ind.; IN


Northern Indiana is a glaciated lake area, separated by the Wabash River from the central agricultural plain, which is rich with deep glacial drift. The southern portion of the state is a succession of bottomlands interspersed with knolls and ridges, gorges and valleys. Limestone caves, such as the big Wyandotte Cave, and mineral springs, as at French Lick and West Baden Springs, are found there. The unglaciated soil is shallow in S Indiana, and the cutting of timber has caused erosion, but there is still extensive farming.

The capital and largest city is Indianapolis, in the central part of the state. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, with a 3-mi (4.8-km) frontage on Lake Michigan, is noted for its beautiful shifting sand dunes. Formerly a state park, the area was made a National Lakeshore in 1966. Four years earlier, in 1962, the U.S. Congress authorized the establishment of the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in S Indiana. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the site of the famous 500-mi (800-km) auto race, held annually.


Although Indiana is primarily a manufacturing state, about three quarters of the land is utilized for agriculture. With a growing season of about 170 days and an average rainfall of 40 in. (102 cm) per year, Indiana farms have rich yields. Grain crops, mainly corn and wheat, are important and also support livestock and dairying industries. Soybeans and hay are also principal crops, and popcorn and widely varied vegetables and fruits are also produced. Hogs, eggs, and cattle are also important. Meatpacking is chief among the many industries related to agriculture. Although the urban population exceeds the rural, many towns are primarily service centers for agricultural communities.

There are, however, cities with varied heavy industries; prominent, besides Indianapolis, are Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Kokomo, South Bend, and Terre Haute. These cities were among the highest in the nation in unemployment during the recession of the early 1980s. Indiana's leading manufactures are iron and steel, electrical equipment, transportation equipment, nonelectrical machinery, chemicals, food products, and fabricated metals. Rich mineral deposits of coal and stone (the S central Indiana area is the nation's leading producer of building limestone) have encouraged construction and industry.

Throughout the state the products of farms and factories are transported by truck and by train. Indiana calls itself the crossroads of America, and its extreme northwest corner—where transportation lines head east after converging on nearby Chicago from all directions—is one of the most heavily traveled areas in the world in terms of rail, road, and air traffic. Waterborne traffic is also important; improvements on the Ohio River and the opening (1959) of the St. Lawrence Seaway have benefited the state. With the opening in 1970 of the Burns Waterway Harbor on Lake Michigan, Indiana gained its first public port and enhanced its shipping facilities.

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

Indiana's constitution dates from 1851 and provides for an elected executive and legislature. A governor serves as the chief executive for a term of four years. The legislature, called the general assembly, has a senate with 50 members and a house of representatives with 100 members. Indiana elects 9 representatives and 2 senators to the U.S. Congress and has 11 electoral votes.

During the 20th cent. Indiana has been generally conservative and Republican, although Democrats have had some successes in gubernatorial and congressional elections. Evan Bayh, elected governor in 1988 and 1992, was succeeded by another Democrat, Frank O'Bannon, elected in 1996 and reelected in 2000. Lt. Gov. Joseph E. Kernan, also a Democrat, succeeded O'Bannon when the latter died in 2003, but Kernan lost to Republican Mitch Daniels in 2004. Daniels was reelected in 2008, and Republican Mike Pence was elected in 2012. Pence, picked by Donald Trump as his running mate, was elected vice president in 2016, and Republican Eric Holcomb was elected to succeed Pence as governor.

Among the institutions of higher learning in Indiana are Indiana Univ., at Bloomington; Purdue Univ., at West Lafayette; the Univ. of Notre Dame, near South Bend; Indiana Univ./Purdue Univ. at Indianapolis (IUPUI); Indiana State Univ., at Terre Haute; DePauw Univ., at Greencastle; Butler Univ., at Indianapolis; Valparaiso Univ., at Valparaiso; Wabash College, at Crawfordsville; Earlham College, at Richmond; and Goshen College, at Goshen.


From the Mound Builders to Tippecanoe

The Mound Builders were Indiana's earliest known inhabitants, and the remains of their culture have been found along Indiana's rivers and bottomlands. The region was first explored by Europeans, notably the French, in the late 17th cent. The leading French explorer was Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, who came to the area in 1679. At the time of exploration, the area was occupied mainly by Native American groups of the Miami, Delaware, and Potawatamie descents. Vincennes, the first permanent settlement, was fortified in 1732, but for the first half of the 1700s, most of the settlers in the area were Jesuit missionaries or fur traders.

By the Treaty of Paris of 1763 ending the French and Indian Wars, Indiana, then part of the area known as the Old Northwest, passed from French to British control. Along with the rest of the Old Northwest, Indiana was united with Canada under the Quebec Act of 1774 (see Intolerable Acts). During the American Revolution an expedition led by George Rogers Clark captured, lost, and then recaptured Vincennes from the British. By the Treaty of Paris of 1783 ending the Revolutionary War, Great Britain ceded the Old Northwest to the United States.

Indiana was still largely unsettled when the Northwest Territory, of which it formed a part, was established in 1787. Native Americans in the territory resisted settlement, but Gen. Anthony Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers in 1794 effectively ended Native American resistance in the Old Northwest. U.S. forces led by Gen. William Henry Harrison also defeated the Native American forces in the battle of Tippecanoe (1811) in the Wabash country.

Indiana Territory and Statehood

In 1800, Indiana Territory was formed and included the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and parts of Michigan and Minnesota. Vincennes was made the capital, which in 1813 was moved to Corydon. A constitutional convention met in 1816, and Indiana achieved statehood. Jonathan Jennings, an opponent of slavery, was elected governor. Indianapolis was laid out as the state capital, and the executive moved there in 1824–25.

Indiana was the site of several experimental communities in the early 19th cent., notably the Rappite (1815) and Owenite (1825) settlements at New Harmony. In the 1840s the Wabash and Erie Canal opened between Lafayette and Toledo, Ohio, giving Indiana a water route via Lake Erie to eastern markets. Also in the 1840s the state's first railroad line was completed between Indianapolis and Madison. The Hoosier spirit of simplicity and forthrightness that developed during Indiana's early years of statehood figured in the writings of Edward Eggleston in The Hoosier Schoolmaster and was represented in much later days by James Whitcomb Riley, George Ade, Gene Stratton Porter, and also in the nostalgic lyric by Paul Dresser (brother of Indiana-born novelist Theodore Dreiser) for the song "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away."

The Civil War and Its Aftermath

The Civil War brought great changes in the state. In the elections of 1860, Indiana voted for Lincoln, who had spent his boyhood in the Hoosier state. Although there was some proslavery sentiment in Indiana, represented by the Knights of the Golden Circle, Oliver P. Morton, governor during the war, held the state unswervingly to the Union cause even after constitutional government broke down in 1862. General John Hunt Morgan led a Confederate raid into Indiana in 1863, but otherwise little action occurred in the state.

Manufacturing, which had been stimulated in Indiana by the needs of the war, developed rapidly after the war. Factories sprang up, and the old rustic pattern was broken. However, Indiana's farmers continued to be an important force in the state, and in the hard times following the Panic of 1873 indebted farmers expressed their discontent by supporting the Granger movement and later the Greenback party in 1876 and the Populist party in the 1890s.

Industrialization and the Labor Movement

Industrial development came to the Calumet region along Indiana's Lake Michigan shoreline in the late 19th cent. Marshy wastelands were drained and transformed into an area supporting a complex of factories and oil refineries. As the 19th cent. drew to a close, industry continued to expand and the growing numbers of industrial workers in the state sought to organize through labor unions. Eugene V. Debs, one of the great early labor leaders, was from Indiana, and the labor movement at Gary in the Calumet area figured prominently in the nationwide steel strike just after World War I. Indiana was an early leader in the production of automobiles. Before Detroit took control of the industry in the 1920s, Indiana boasted over 300 automobile companies.

Indiana society in the first half of the 20th cent. has been described in a number of studies and books. The classic sociological study by Robert S. Lynd and Helen M. Lynd of an American manufacturing town, Middletown (1929), was based on data from Muncie, Ind. Midwestern life and American boyhood were portrayed realistically, and often with humor and optimism, in the novels of Booth Tarkington. Another Indiana author, Theodore Dreiser, wrote more generally of American society in a changing age. In the 1930s and 1940s, Wendell Willkie and Ernie Pyle, both natives of Indiana, became nationally prominent figures in politics and journalism, respectively.

Although Indiana in the latter half of the 19th cent. was regarded as a "swing state" electorally, it has generally been conservative throughout the 1900s. Republican J. Danforth "Dan" Quayle, elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980 and 1986, was elected vice president of the United States in 1988. From the 1980s through the mid-1990s, the northern industrial portion of the state experienced a period of significant decline, along with the rest of the midwestern "rust belt." However, the area around Indianapolis experienced significant growth with a diversified economy.


See H. H. Peckham, Indiana, a History (1978); J. S. Blue, Hoosier Wit & Wisdom (1985); E. E. Lyon and L. Dillon, Indiana: The American Heartland (1986); J. H. Madison, The Indiana Way (1986); R. M. Taylor, Jr., et al., Indiana: A New Historical Guide (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Indiana History: Selected full-text books and articles

Indiana's Constitution as a Document of Special Aspirations By Shepard, Randall T Albany Law Review, Vol. 69, No. 2, Spring 2006
Citizen Klansmen: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-1928 By Leonard J. Moore University of North Carolina Press, 1991
Hoosiers: The Fabulous Basketball Life of Indiana By Phillip M. Hoose Indiana University Press, 2016 (3rd edition)
The Golden Age of Indiana High School Basketball By Greg Guffey Indiana University Press, 2006
Shipshewana: An Indiana Amish Community By Dorothy O. Pratt Indiana University Press, 2004
"For the Good of the Cause and the Protection of the Border": The Service of the Indiana Legion in the Civil War, 1861-1865 By Foster, John Michael, Jr Civil War History, Vol. 55, No. 1, March 2009
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Belgian Settlement and Society in the Indiana Rust Belt* By Hume, Susan E The Geographical Review, Vol. 93, No. 1, January 2003
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Birch Bayh: Making a Difference By Robert Blaemire Indiana University Press, 2019
Richard G. Lugar: Indiana's Visionary Statesman By Dan Diller; Sara Stefani Indiana University Press, 2019
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