Indiana State Facts - Indiana History Firsts

Catch up on your state trivia with these Indiana history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.

Official Name Indiana
Capital Indianapolis
39.77640 N, 086.14619 W
Constitution Ratified 1851
Statehood December 11, 1816
19th state
Number of Counties 92 Counties in Indiana
Largest County
(by population)
Marion County
396 sq. mi.

Indiana History Firsts & State Facts

  • 1679 - The first European known to have visited Indiana was French Explorer Rene'-Robert Cavalier sierur de La Salle. After LaSalle and others explored the Great Lakes region, the land was claimed for New France, a nation based in Canada.
  • 1700 - 1700s the first 3 Non-native American settlements in Indiana were the 3 French forts of Ouiatenon, Ft. Miami, and Ft. Vincennes. Although they had few settlers in the region, French presence in Indiana lasted almost 100 years. After the British won the French and Indian War, and upon the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French surrendered their claims to the lower Great Lakes region.
  • 1794 - Ft. Wayne, Indiana's 2nd Largest city, had its beginnings in 1794, after the Battle of Fallen Timbers, when General "Mad Anthony" Wayne built Ft. Wayne on the site of a Miami Indian village.
  • 1800 - True to its motto, "Cross Roads of America." Indiana has more miles of Interstate Highway per square mile than any other state. The Indiana state Motto, can be traced back to the early 1800s. In the early years river traffic, especially along the Ohio, was a major means of transportation. The National Road, a major westward route, and the north-south Michigan Road crossed in Indianapolis. Today more major highways intersect in Indiana than in any other state.
  • 1804 -The Indiana Gazette Indiana's first newspaper was published in Vincennes.
  • 1811 - North of Lafayette is the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe, where on November 7, 1811, William Henry Harrison's forces defeated the Native American confederacy formed by the famous Shawnee chief Tecumseh.
  • 1816 -
    • Before Indianapolis, Corydon served as the state's capitol from 1816-1825. Vincennes was the capital when Indiana was a territory.
    • The state constitution of 1816 directed the legislature to establish public schools, but it was not until the 1850s that state government was able to establish a public school system.
    • The state seal depicts Indiana as it was in 1816.
  • 1825 - Pendleton, Indiana was the site of the first hanging of a white man for killing Indians. January 12, 1825
  • 1830 - In the 1830s canals were dug linking the Great Lakes to Indiana's river systems. The canals proved to be a financial disaster. Railroads made the canal system obsolete even before its completions.
  • 1845 - Johnnie Appleseed is buried at Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  • 1847 - Indiana's first major railroad line linked Madison and Indianapolis and was completed.
  • 1862 - Richard Gatling, of Indianapolis, invented the rapid-fire machine gun.
  • 1863 - Corydon was the scene of the only Civil War battle on Indiana ground. The battle was fought July 9, 1863 when General John Hunt Morgan attacked the city.
  • 1871 - The first professional baseball game was played in Fort Wayne on May 4, 1871.
  • 1880 - Wabash became the first city in the United States to have electric streetlights.
  • 1881 - The American Federation of Labor (AFL) was organized in Terre Haute.
  • 1882 - Crawfordsville is the home of the only known working rotary jail in the United States. The jail with its rotating cellblock was built in 1882 and served as the Montgomery County jail until 1972. It is now a museum.
  • 1899 - The first successful goldfish farm in the United States was opened in Martinsville.
  • 1900 - From 1900 to 1920 more than 200 different makes of cars were produced in the Hoosier State. Duesenbergs, Auburns, Stutzes, and Maxwells - are prize antiques today.
  • 1905 - Sarah Walker, who called herself Madame J.C. Walker, became one of the nation's first woman millionaires. Sarah Breedlove McWilliams Walker developed a conditioning treatment for straightening hair. Starting with door-to-door sales of her cosmetics, Madame C.J. Walker amassed a fortune.
  • 1906 - US Steel laid out the city of Gary, naming it after its chairman of the board, Elbert H. Gary. By 1920 the Calumet region was one of the leading industrial centers in North America. The city of Gary, Indiana was built on fill brought from the bottom of Lake Michigan through suction pipes.
  • 1911 - The first long-distance auto race in the U. S. was held May 30, 1911, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The winner averaged 75 miles an hour and won a 1st place prize of $14,000. Today the average speed is over 167 miles an hour and the prize is more than $1.2 million. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the site of the greatest spectacle in sports, the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis 500 is held every Memorial Day weekend in the Hoosier capital city. The race is 200 laps or 500 miles long.
  • 1914 - Marcella Gruelle of Indianapolis created the Raggedy Ann doll.
  • 1920 - Albert Beveridge won the Pulitzer Prize in biography for "The Life of John Marshall.'
  • 1921 - The first regulated speed limit on Indiana roads was initiated in 1921. 25 mph!!
  • 1925 - Tomato juice was first served at a French Lick, Indiana hotel in 1925
  • 1930 - During the great Depression of the 1930's 1 in every 4 Hoosier factory hands was out of work, farmers sank deeper in debt, and in southern Indiana unemployment was as high as 50%.
  • 1931 - James Dean, was born February 8, 1931 in Marion. A popular movie star of the 1950s in such movies as "East of Eden" and "Rebel without a Cause", He died in an auto crash at age 24.
  • 1933 - Indiana State Bird, the cardinal, was adopted by the General Assembly
  • 1934 - Harold Urey won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery of deuterium.
  • 1934 - Chicago Gangster John Dillinger escaped the Lake Country Jail in Crown Point by using a "pistol" he had carved from a wooden block.
  • 1944 - Ernie Pyle won the Pulitzer Prize in foreign Correspondence.
  • 1947 - David Letterman, host of television's "Late Show with David Letterman," was born April 12, 1947, in Indianapolis.
  • 1957 - Indiana General Assembly adopted the peony as the Indiana state flower.
  • 1970 - Paul Samuelson won the Nobel Prize in economics.
  • 1972 - Indiana University's greatest swimmer was Mark Spitz, who won 7 gold medals in the 1972 Olympic games. No other athlete has won so many gold medals in a single year.
  • 1987 - In the summer of 1987, 4,453 athletes from 38 nations gathered in Indianapolis for the Pan American Games.

More Indiana History Firsts & State Facts

  • Abraham Lincoln moved to Indiana when he was 7 years old. He lived most of his boyhood life in Spencer County with his parents Thomas and Nancy.
  • Explorers Lewis and Clark set out from Fort Vincennes on their exploration of the Northwest Territory.
  • The movie "Hard Rain" was filmed in Huntingburg.
  • During WWII the P-47 fighter-plane was manufactured in Evansville at Republic Aviation.
  • Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis is the burial place for many famous figures in Indiana History. Benjamin Harrison, Oliver P. Morton, Kin Hubbard, James Whitcomb Riley and John Dillinger are among those buried here
  • Santa Claus, Indiana receives over one half million letters and requests at Christmas time.
  • Indiana has earned the nickname "Mother of Vice-Presidents". There have been five men from Indiana elected as vice-presidents: Schuyler Colfax, Thomas A. Hendricks, Charles W. Fairbanks, Thomas Marshall and Dan Quayle.
  • Many Mennonite and Amish live on the farmland of Northwestern Indiana.
  • Historic Parke County has 32 covered bridges and is the Covered Bridge Capital of the world.
  • Most of the state's rivers flow south and west, eventually emptying into the Mississippi. However, the Maumee flows north and east into Lake Erie. Lake Wawasee is the states largest natural lake.
  • Indiana's shoreline with Lake Michigan is only 40 miles long, but Indiana is still considered a Great Lakes State.
  • More than 100 species of trees are native to Indiana. Before the pioneer's arrive more than 80% of Indiana was covered with forest. Now only 17% of the state is considered forested.
  • Deep below the earth in Southern Indiana is a sea of limestone that is one of the richest deposits of top-quality limestone found anywhere on earth. New York City's Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center as well as the Pentagon, the US Treasury, a dozen other government buildings in Washington D.C. as well as 14 state capitols around the nation are built from this sturdy, beautiful Indiana limestone.
  • Although Indiana means, "Land of the Indians" there are fewer than 8,000 Native Americans living in the state today.
  • Indiana was part of the huge Northwest Territory, which included present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, which were ceded to the United States by the British at the end of the Revolutionary war.
  • Many Mennonite and Amish live on the farmland of Northwestern Indiana. One of the United States largest Mennonite congregations is in Bern. According to Amish ordnung (rules) they are forbidden to drive cars, use electricity, or go to public places of entertainment.
  • At one time Studebaker Company of South Bend was the nation's largest producer of horse-drawn wagons. It later developed into a multimillion-dollar automobile manufacturer.
  • In Fort Wayne, Syvanus F. Bower designed the world's first practical gasoline pump.
  • Indianapolis grocer Gilbert Van Camp discovered his customers enjoyed an old family recipe for pork and beans in tomato sauce. He opened up a canning company and Van Camp's Pork and Beans became an American staple.
  • Muncie's Ball State University was built mostly from funds contributed by the founders of the Ball Corporation, a company than made glass canning jars.
  • Thomas Hendricks, a Democrat from Shelbyville, served Indiana as a United States Senator, a United States representative, governor, and as Vice President under Grover Cleveland. Indiana has been the home of 5 vice presidents and one president.
  • Peru Indiana was once known as the "Circus Capital of America".
  • East Race Waterway, in south Bend, is the only man-made white-water raceway in North America.
  • Before public schools families pitched in to build log schoolhouse and each student's family paid a few dollars toward the teachers salaries.
  • At one time 12 different stagecoach lines ran through Indiana on the National Road. (Now US Interstate 40)
  • The farming community of Fountain City in Wayne County was known as the "Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad." In the years before the civil war, Levi and Katie Coffin were famous agents on the Underground Railroad. They estimated that they provided overnight lodging for more than 2,000 runaway slaves who were making their way north to Canada and freedom.
  • The Saturday Evening Post is published in Indianapolis.
  • Comedian Red Skelton, who created such characters as Clem Kadiddlehopper, and Freddie the Freeloader, was born in Vincennes.
  • The Poet Laureate of Indiana, James Whitcomb Riley was born in a two-room log cabin in Greenfield. He glorified his rural Indiana childhood in such poems as "The Old Swimmin' Hole" "Little Orphant Annie", and " When the frost is on the Pumpkin".
  • The Indiana Dunes region provides habitat for many unusual plants, including prickly pear cactus, lichen mosses, bearberry, and more than 20 varieties of orchids.
  • The world's largest orchid species collection is found at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana
  • In a typical year, almost half of all cropland in Indiana is planted in corn.
  • It's illegal in Indiana for liquor stores to sell milk or cold soft drinks. They can, however, sell unrefrigerated soft drinks.
  • Indiana's Lost River travels 22 miles underground.
  • The birthplace of the automobile, the pneumatic rubber tire, the aluminum casting process, stainless steel and the firstnpush-button car radio was in Kokomo , Indiana
  • Purdue is Indiana's land grant college.
  • An average of 400 funnel clouds are sighted each year in Indiana
  • The exteriors of the hit movie 'Hoosiers' was filmed just 25 miles from the Purdue campus at New Richmond, Indiana.
  • Another hit movie - "Breaking Away' was filmed in Bloomington, Indiana and partially on the campus of Indiana University
  • Much of the movie 'A League of Their Own' was filmed in Indiana.
  • There are only two Adams fireplaces in the United States. One is in the White House and the other in the Diner Home in Indiana.
  • Infamous bank robber, John Dillinger, declared he would never rob any banks in Anderson, Indiana because there were railroad tracks over every exit road.
  • Josie Orr, wife of former Indiana Governor Robert Orr, flew bombers and cargo planes during World War II.
  • The Indianapolis Methodist Hospital is the largest Hospital in the Midwest.
  • Aviatrix Amelia Earhart was once a Professor at Purdue University.
  • One of the first evaporated milk companies was started by an Indiana Dentist, Dr. Wilson.
  • Crown Hill Cemetery (Indianapolis) is the largest cemetery in the U.S.
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana Library houses one of the largest genealogy libraries in America.
  • Indianapolis has the most Interstate legs in the U.S. earning it the title of "Crossroads of America".
  • The Courthouse roof in Greensburg, Indiana has a tree growing from it. (That's why they call it the TREE CITY!)
  • The world's first transistor radio was made in Indianapolis.
  • Clark Gable and wife Carole Lombard (a Hoosier) honeymooned at Lake Barbee near Warsaw, Indiana.
  • The American Beauty Rose was developed at Richmond, Indiana.
  • Elkhart, Indiana is the band instrument capitol of the World.
  • Batesville Casket Company, Batesville, Indiana is the largest casket manufacturer in the world! 30 miles down the road in Aurora, Indiana, is the second largest such company in the world - the Aurora Casket Company!
  • Frank Sinatra first sang with the Tommy Dorsey band at the Lyric Theater in Indianapolis.
  • Purdue Alumnus, Earl Butz, served as the Secretary of Agriculture ..... U.S. 231 is the longest highway in Indiana (231miles)
  • The singing McGuire Sisters spent their childhood summers at the Church of God Campground in Anderson, Indiana.
  • There is 154 acres of sculpture gardens and trails at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
  • La Porte County is the only county in America having 2 functioning Courthouses
  • Nancy Hanks Lincoln is buried in Spencer County, Indiana.
  • Crawfordsville, Indiana (Montgomery County) is the only site in the world where Crinoids are found.
  • The Lincoln Museum in Allen County contains the world's largest private collection of President Abraham Lincoln
  • Buffaloes roamed in Indiana at the Needmore Buffalo Farm in Harrison County.
  • Pendleton, Indiana was the site of the "Fall Creek Massacre". A museum housing 3500 artifacts of pioneer heritage now exists on that site.
  • St. Meinrad Archabbey is located in Spencer County and is one of only 2 archabbey in the U.S. and seven in the world. Abbey Press is an operation of the archabbey.
  • A Buzz Bomb (German - WWII), believed to be the only one on public display in the Nation, can be found on the Putnam  County Courthouse lawn in Greencastle.
  • You can't ship wine to Indiana.
  • Indiana has one of the highest-rated scholastic rankings in the United States and is home to some of the most famous universities in the world (i.e. IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, etc...)
  • The much sought after Hoosier Cabinets are an Indiana product.
  • 90% of the world's popcorn is grown in Indiana.
  • Indiana has earned the nickname "Mother of Vice-Presidents". There have been five men from Indiana elected as vice-presidents: Schuyler Colfax, Thomas A Hendricks, Charles W. Fairbanks, Thomas Marshall and Dan Quayle
  • Al Capone had a famous shoot out at a roadside speakeasy in McCordsville, Indiana.
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State Fun Facts - History Firsts