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In the Last 200 Years

Becoming a State

The year is 1816. Representatives of the soon-to-be-state of Indiana are gathered in Corydon, Indiana, to write and vote on Indiana’s first state constitution. The issue then moved to then-President James Madison’s desk.

On December 11, 1816, Indiana officially became the nineteenth state to join the Union.

Before the legislation was passed, most of the population of the soon-to-be state was concentrated in the southern region of the state, which is why Corydon became the state’s first capital. Travis Childs, the director of education at The History Museum, said most people settling in that area  were coming across the Ohio River. Many of these people were descendants of those who had heard of Daniel Boone’s adventures.

Northern Indiana, on the other hand, was mostly inhabited by French fur trappers and tribes of Native Americans, Childs said.

While deciding upon the border’s of the infant state, some decisions were easy; according to Childs, the Ohio River’s meandering waters made sense as a southern border.

The eastern border was already defined by Ohio, which had joined the Union in 1803, and surveyors had identified the western border when the southern part of the state was settled, Childs said.

“Most of the land that would become Indiana was pretty well set up,” he added.

The northern border was not as simple. Originally, Childs said, the northern border of Indiana was supposed to just graze Lake Michigan, but that would have left Indiana without a port of commerce. Congress agreed that a port was a necessary for the state and moved the border 10 miles further north to provide Indiana an access point to the Great Lakes, Childs said.

The year is 1820. Almost 150,000 people call Indiana home, according to Census data. That is just over 1.5 percent of the total population of the United States at the time.

Now that it was officially a part of the Union, Indiana’s population began to move north, taking over Native American tribal lands through treaties, Childs said. It was then decided in 1825 to move the capital the 130 miles from southern Corydon to the more centralized city of Indianapolis.

Industries and Farming

Thirty years later, railroads came to Indiana. Coal had been mined in Indiana since 1830, Childs said, and was used to power steamboats for the Ohio River. The railroads sped up the transport of the coal, and the trains also used the coal to run.

All told, underground mining, Childs said, has produced around 900 million tons of coal.

The railroads also brought people with them. Between 1850 and 1860, Indiana’s population grew by over 350,000 people, bringing Indiana to a population of over one million people.

Around 1876, natural gas was discovered in Indiana.

“One of the main reasons the Ball Brothers located in Muncie is because of the discovery of natural gas, which they used to heat their ovens for glass making,” Childs said. By the turn of the century, he continued, most of those wells had been used up.

Twenty years later, in 1896, the Haynes-Apperson company opened up in Kokomo. The company was renamed in 1901 to the Haynes Automobile Company.

“There were lots and lots of others that followed,” James Madison, Indiana historian and author of the book, “Hoosiers,” said. Studebaker came to South Bend in the early 1900s, and General Motors later opened its doors in Muncie in 1935, to name a few.

In 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was constructed, and the first Indy 500, then called the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race, was run in 1911. Ray Harroun steered his Marmon Wasp, fitted with his landmark invention of the rearview mirror to the finish line, becoming the first winner of the race.

The Indy 500, according to Madison, is a reflection of both the Hoosier love of cars and the legacy created by automobile manufacturing.

The average speed of the Indy cars in 1911 was less than 75 mph. The average speed in this year’s running was 166 mph.

The Last 100 Years

Five years after that marked Indiana’s centennial, which the state celebrated in many ways. Local pageants, newly published historical volumes and the establishment of state parks were some of the many ways Hoosiers celebrated 100 years of statehood.

While much has changed in Indiana to make it the state it is today, much has also stayed the same. Farming, coal, steel and cars continue to be the biggest industries the state has to offer.

“Native peoples of Indiana found the land to be excellent for farming. This is probably due to the last Ice Age and the material pushed and deposited here from northern regions,” Childs said.

Today, 83 percent of the land in Indiana is either farmland or forest. Indiana is also, according to Madison, among the top five producers in the United States of both corn and hogs. In 2012, according to the Indiana Ag Fact Sheet, Indiana was ranked 5th in corn, soybeans and hogs and pigs.

In 2012, in fact, corn in Indiana was a $4 billion industry. Soybeans added to that an extra $2.9 billion. Also in 2012, an estimated 37,000 acres of vegetables were harvested in Indiana.

“Because of Indiana’s relative closeness to major hubs of transportation, products farmed here get almost immediate transportation to other parts of the U.S. and the world,” Childs said.

Indiana is also the top producer of steel in the United States, Childs added, as well as one of the top producers of pharmaceuticals. Automobile manufacturing, including Kokomo Casting, which produces parts for Chrysler, Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. in Lafayette, which produces the Subaru Legacy and Outback, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, which produces the Toyota Highlander, Sienna and Sequoia, also continues to contribute jobs to Indiana’s economy.

“All of these [factors]…have created a state that is equally farming-friendly as well as factory-friendly,” Childs said.

In the last 200 years, Indiana has moved capitals, become home to over six million people, held 100 Indy 500 races and contributed to the nation’s food supply, among other contributions. Who knows what the next 100 years hold?