Indiana makes up the smallest US state west of the Appalachian mountains, while ironically having the biggest state capital east of the Mississippi River. In fact, Indiana’s capital also counts as the second-largest of the USA’s state capitals. Learn more about Indiana with these 50 Indiana facts.
- Indiana covers an estimated area of 94,000 km².
- Water covers an estimated 1400 km² or 1.5% of the state’s area.
- An estimated 6.76 million people live in the state today.
- This gives Indiana an estimated population density of 71 people for every km².
- At its lowest point on the Ohio and Wabash Rivers, Indiana has an average elevation of 97 meters above sea level.
- Humans first arrived in what would become Indiana around 8000 BC.
- Agriculture in Indiana goes back to around 1500 BC.
- The Mississippian Civilization included Indiana between the 10th and 15th Centuries AD.
- French explorers first arrived in Indiana during the late 17th Century.
- The Europeans began settling in the region in the early 18th Century.
- The US government formed the Indiana Territory after breaking off Ohio from the preceding Northwest Territory in 1800.
- Indiana finally became a US state in its own right, the 19th, in 1816.
- Indiana later stayed loyal to the Union during the American Civil War.
- Industry steadily grew in Indiana from the 1900s to the 1970s.
- The state’s economy slumped in the 1970s, only to recover in the 1980s onward.
- The people of Indiana call themselves Hoosiers and their state as the Hoosier State.
- They also consider their state as the Crossroads of the USA.
- Most of Indiana falls into the USA’s Eastern Time Zone, or GMT-5.
- Parts of the state fall into the USA’s Central Time Zone, or GMT-6, instead, however.
- The state keeps its capital in its largest city, Indianapolis.
The name Indiana has a history of its own.
It literally means Land of the Indians or Indian Land, and first used by a land company from Philadelphia. They did so in 1768 to honor the land’s occupants, the Iroquois, with the Indiana Land Company also using the name on taking control. The Virginia colonial government contested private control of the land, but it would remain until after the American Revolution to resolve the issue.
This finally took place in 1798, when the US Supreme Court stripped the Indiana Land Company of its ownership of the land. The US government itself used the name Indiana for the western half of the Northwest Territory. This became the Indiana Territory, and later became the modern State of Indiana.
Indiana has an official state song.
Specifically, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”, which was composed by Paul Dresser in 1897. It became one of the bestselling songs at the end of the 19th century and earned over $100,000 for its publisher, the Tin Pan Alley. Only a year after its publishing, the song gained an anti-war remix and even a Swedish translation. It also became one of the first songs to become recorded on a phonograph record. The song’s popularity lasted for decades, eventually leading to the Indiana state legislature to name it the official state song in 1913. It also later inspired a film that used the song’s name, and which appeared in theaters in 1923.
The state also has various other icons.
These include the cardinal as the official state bird, the peony as the official state flower, and the tulip tree as the official state tree. Indiana also has an official state insect, the Say’s firefly, and even an official soil type, the Miami. It also has an official state firearm, the Grouseland rifle, and an official state food in the sugar cream pie. Blue and gold make up Indiana’s official state colors, while Salem limestone counts as the official state rock. The Wabash River counts as Indiana’s official state river, with the state also having an official slogan, “Honest to Goodness Indiana”.
Indiana has distinct geography.
Both Northern and Central Indiana belong to the Central Lowlands of North America. In both areas, the glaciers of past Ice Ages have left their mark behind on the land. In Central Indiana, the glaciers flattened the land beneath their weight, leaving only low and rolling hills to rise from the plains at various places. That said, the rivers born of melting ice from the glaciers cut deep valleys through the plains.
Northern Indiana has more of the same, but here the glaciers left a different mark in the form of moraines and kettle lakes. The former marks the limit of glacial growth in past Ice Ages, while kettle lakes originally formed from melting ice but didn’t have enough water to form rivers. In contrast, Southern Indiana has a very rugged geography. Here, the land rises into hills before dropping into deep valleys, with erosion leaving the bedrock exposed.
Hoosier Hill makes up the highest point in the entire state.
The hill stands around 383 meters above sea level, in the Franklin township of Indiana’s Wayne County. It also counts as private property, currently owned by Kim Goble. However, in 2005, Goble allowed the Boy Scouts to build a trail along with signs to the hilltop, where they set up a picnic area.
The hill made history decades ago in 1936 when A.H. Marshall climbed the hill. This made him the first person in US history to have climbed every high point of every US state. Most recently, in 2016, the marker naming Hoosier Hill Indiana’s highest point found itself replaced by an engraved boulder. This occurred after thieves constantly kept stealing the signs marking Hoosier Hill.
The state also has many bodies of water.
Just Indiana’s Wabash River alone makes for the longest river in North America east of the Mississippi River. Running an estimated 764 km long, it cuts the state from the northeast to the southwest, as well as forming part of Indiana’s border with Illinois.
Other rivers in Indiana include the Blue, Maumee, St. Joseph, White, and Whitewater rivers. All in all, Indiana has 65 different creeks, rivers, and streams flowing through its lands. The state also has over 900 lakes, with Lake Michigan forming part of Indiana’s northeastern border. Tippecanoe Lake, however, makes up the state’s deepest lake, Lake Wawasee the largest natural lake, and Lake Monroe the overall largest lake.
Indiana has a largely uniform climate.
Almost all of Indiana enjoys a humid continental climate, marked by cold winters as well as hot but wet summers. However, the southern edges of the state instead have a humid subtropical climate, causing them to receive more rain than the rest of the state. Temperatures in the state average between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius in summer, and between 10 and 4 degrees below zero Celsius in winter.
On average, the state receives around 1 meter of rain every year, but Southern Indiana can sometimes average around 1.1 meters instead. And while not actually falling in North America’s tornado alley, Indiana also ranks eighth among the most tornado-prone states in the USA.
Native Americans fought alongside the French in Indiana during the Seven Years War.
The historians call it the French and Indian War, for how they fought together against the British. In fact, the French forces in North America almost completely depended on their Native American allies. The war itself counted only as one part of an even bigger war, the Seven Years War. Although the French at first managed to hold out, Britain’s superior navy turned the tide of the war.
The French in Europe could neither send reinforcements to North America nor stop the British from sending their reinforcements. This meant that by the war’s end, the British had already conquered the important parts of French Canada. They also expelled the French’s Native American allies from their ancestral lands. This allowed Britain to force France to surrender the rest of their New World colonies outside the Caribbean Sea in the Treaty of Paris.
They later fought the British again during Pontiac’s Rebellion.
Taking place between 1763 and 1766, it resulted from policy changes that came with British rule over former French territory. In particular, the British stopped giving gifts to tribal chiefs, which the French had done as compensation to the Native Americans for sharing their lands. The British also limited the sale of gunpowder to the Native Americans, supposedly to prevent future rebellions. By this point, however, the Native Americans had become dependent on firearms to hunt. Increased British settlement of North America also further increased tensions.
This led to the outbreak of war in 1763, under the leadership of the Odawa Chief Pontiac. The Native Americans stormed British forts and attacked colonial settlements. The British, led by General Amherst, responded with equal brutality, even deliberately spreading smallpox. This eventually led to his replacement by General Gage, who negotiated an end to the war. The British also issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which barred colonial settlement of lands guaranteed to the Native Americans.
George Clark led the Patriots in Indiana during the American Revolution.
In 1779, the British held Fort Sackfort in the area of the settlement of Vincennes. The fort overlooked the Wabash River, allowing the British to control passage on the water. In that year, General Clark led a force of around 300 men to take the fort. The British had around 500 men, commanded by Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton. After a two-day battle, the Patriots defeated the British, a victory praised by George Washington from how ordinary militia made up General Clark’s men. More importantly for the war, it cut off British forces in North America from the interior. It also allowed the Continental Army to get around the British, and attack them from the west. And finally, once the British finally agreed to recognize American independence, it allowed the new USA to claim what would become the Northwest Territory.
Fighting continued between the US government and the Native Americans during the early 19th Century.
The US Army defeated the Western Confederacy in 1794, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville a year later. This saw the beginning of annual payments from the US government to the Native Americans, in particular, the Wyandot and Delaware peoples. In exchange, the Native Americans gave up most of their lands for white settlement.
The resentment from war and treaty later led to another war in 1810, when Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa formed a new confederacy of Native American peoples. However, the US Army again defeated the Native Americans in 1811, with Tecumseh dying in the Battle of Thames. His death marked the end of armed resistance against US control of the region, though, Native American removals would continue until the 1830s.
Indiana contributed heavily to the Union war effort during the American Civil War.
An estimated 210,000 Union soldiers came from Indiana, who mostly fought in the Western Theater. Of those men, an estimated 25,000 died, mostly from disease, with only an estimated 7,200 men actually dying in battle. Indiana’s primarily agricultural economy at the time also proved a major advantage for the Union. Much of the food needed to feed both the armies on the field and the civilians at home came from Indiana.
The state’s position between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River also became another advantage, especially with Indiana’s rail hubs. This allowed the Union to easily move men and supplies through the state to where they needed to go.
The discovery of natural gas in Indiana in the 1880s sparked the state’s industrialization.
They first tapped what they called the Trenton Gas Field in 1886. Located in an area of an estimated 13,000 km², it made up one of the largest gas deposits in the world at the time. As a cheap and clean fuel source, gas led to the expansion of the glassmaking industry in Eastern Indiana. Other industries followed, starting with rubber, then iron, and other metallurgical sectors. The gas also became piped for use as fuel in electrical power plants, with cities as far away as Chicago in Illinois receiving gas from Indiana.
Unfortunately, a lack of practical experience in the industry, as well as the primitive technology of the time, saw the Trenton Gas Field quickly exhausted. Scientists estimate that up to 90% of the gas became lost in the atmosphere from leaks. That said, while the gas field lasted only a short time, it jumpstarted Indiana’s transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy.
WWII helped Indiana recover from the Great Depression.
At the height of the Great Depression, Indiana had an unemployment rate between 25% and 50%. While federal aid starting in 1935 saw recovery begin, the state only truly recovered thanks to the outbreak of WWII. Sellersburg, for example, became a major center of ammunition production for the US Army.
Evansville similarly became a major producer of military aircraft, such as the P-47 Thunderbolt. Northern Indiana supplied much of the steel needed to build tanks, planes, and warships. In addition to putting people to work in factories, plenty of others joined the US military. Not just men either, but also women, especially for the Red Cross and other relief organizations.
A nuclear accident almost took place in the state after WWII.
This took place in 1964 when the ice on a runway caused a B-58 bomber to slide and crash, with the leaked fuel causing a fire. At the time of the accident, the bomber carried five nuclear weapons, including one meant to explode with the force of 9 million tons of TNT. Thankfully, the safety systems built into the weapons worked as advertised, with the nuclear cores failing to explode.
Considering the accident took place at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, only 19 km from Kokomo, had it exploded, it would have caused a massive disaster. As things stood, the fire still caused radioactive material to leak out, forcing the US Air Force to conduct a large-scale cleanup operation.
The state capital of Indianapolis goes back to the early 19th Century.
The US government originally owned the land the city now stands on. However, when Indiana became a state of its own in 1816, the US Congress voted to donate said land to the new state. Settlers flooded into the region, mostly of Irish-American and German-American descent. They also mostly followed the Roman Catholic denomination, becoming the first of modern Indianapolis’ large Catholic population. That said, the settlement did not officially become a city until 1820. In that year, the Indiana General Assembly voted the settlement as the new state capital. It also marked the first official use of the city’s name of Indianapolis.
Indianapolis witnessed the Battle of Pogue’s Run during the American Civil War.
Despite the name, the battle never happened, the name given in mockery of the incident that actually took place. On May 20, 1863, during the American Civil War, the Indiana branch of the Democratic Party held their state convention in Indianapolis. At the same time, rumors spread that pro-Confederate groups would use the convention as an opportunity to launch a coup. Governor Oliver Morton, therefore, assigned guards to the convention, supposedly as a security measure, but also to intimidate possible Confederate sympathizers.
This led to an incident where Union soldiers interrupted the convention, publicly threatening anyone they thought either sympathized with the Confederacy or just opposed the war in general. Later on, when the Democrats left the city, the Union troops stopped their trains until all passengers surrendered their weapons.
The city later became the center of the labor movement during the Industrial Revolution.
In particular, the 1913 Indianapolis Streetcar Strike went down as a landmark victory for labor rights. The strike broke out over the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company’s refusal to meet their employees’ demands for higher wages and shorter hours. More than that, they discouraged their employees from joining any unions and rejected a government proposal for labor arbitration. This led to a strike on October 31, a date deliberately chosen to pressure the elections in the following week. Corporate strikebreakers tried to restart services on November 4, leading to a city-wide riot. The riot grew so big the city police refused to follow orders to crush the riot.
This led the city government to declare martial law, and call in the National Guard on November 5. On the next day, an angry mob issued a set of demands before the Indiana state legislature. Governor Ralston managed to calm the mob and get them to disperse, ending the riot on a peaceful note. It also led the state legislature to pass the first minimum wage laws in Indiana, as well as recognition of employees’ right to join unions.
The city also gave its name to a motorsport event.
Specifically, the Indianapolis 500, or as people more commonly call it, the Indy 500. Among the top motorsport events in the world, only the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans can compete with the Indy 500’s prestige and fame. First held in 1911, the event takes place every year in the city of its birth, Indianapolis, during the last weekend of May. This also doubles as the USA’s Memorial Day Weekend, held to honor all American soldiers who fell in the line of duty. This makes up just one of the many traditions that form part of the event.
Other traditions include a 33-car lineup at the very start of the event, a performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana”, and the victor drinking a bottle of milk. As of 2021, Brazilian racer Helio Castroneves holds the Indy 500 championship and has thus far won it four different times.
Indiana has a diverse population.
Whites make up the majority of the population, at an estimated 85%. Among whites, German-Americans make up the biggest demographic, at an estimated 23%. After whites, African-Americans make up another 10% of Indiana’s population. Hispanics follow in third place, at an estimated 7% of the population. Hispanics also make up the fastest-growing ethnic group in the entire state. Asian-Americans make up another estimated 3% of the population. Native Americans make up the smallest part of the population, at less than 1%. Interestingly, an estimated 2% of Indiana’s citizens do not consider themselves part of any one ethnicity. Instead, they identify themselves as either biracial or multiracial.
The same goes for the state’s religions.
The various Protestant denominations make up a small majority of the state’s religions, at 52%. Roman Catholics make second place, at 18%, followed by Mormons at only 1% of the population. Other Christian denominations make up another 1.5% of the population, with Jews making another 1%. Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, all make up less than 1% of Indiana’s population each.
Followers of other religions make up another 1% of the population. Surprisingly, though, an estimated 26% of Indiana’s citizens identify as irreligious. This doesn’t necessarily make them atheists, however, with many just simply considering themselves indifferent to organized religion.
The US military keeps various bases in Indiana.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division makes up the most important of these bases. Located 40 km from Bloomington City, it covers an estimated 280 km² of area, making it the third-largest naval base in the world.
At this base, located inland to protect against spies and attack, the US Navy develops new technologies for its fleets. Other bases include Fort Wayne and Terre Haute for the Air National Guard. The Army National Guard also operates bases at Camp Atterbury, Shelbyville, and Muscatatuck. The US Army also once kept a chemical weapons storage facility at Newport, before closing it in 2008.
The state has invested in solar energy.
The federal government offers a 30% tax credit program for any solar power project in Indiana. Currently, the state has 136 MW’s worth of solar panels installed, with Indianapolis Airport’s solar farm having the largest output at 17.5 MW. Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s solar farm comes in second place, with an output of 9 MW. Rockville, though, has the distinction of the single largest rooftop solar array, with the 3.2 MW Solar II.
Scientists estimate that at full capacity, solar energy could provide up to 18% of Indiana’s electrical needs. And as of October 2021, the state has already launched the largest solar energy project in the USA. Once completed, the Mammoth Solar will have an estimated 3 million solar panels, producing 1 GW of electricity.
Indiana is also invested in wind energy.
Large-scale wind power production in Indiana began in 2008, with Goodland I producing an estimated 130 MW of electricity. Today, wind power produces an estimated 1.9 GM of electricity, supplying an estimated 5% of the state’s electrical needs. The Fowler Ridge Wind Farm has the distinction of the biggest wind farm in not just Indiana, but the Midwest, producing an estimated 750 MW of electricity.
Analysts predict wind power in Indiana will continue to grow, with 15 wind power projects currently under construction today. Official statistics predict that by 2030, wind power in Indiana will produce an estimated 40 GW of electricity.
The Golden Age of Indiana Literature lasted from the late 19th Century to the 1920s.
Former Union General Lew Wallace wrote the most famous work of this age, Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ, in 1880. The poet James Riley also composed Little Orphant Annie in 1885, which later inspired the famous Broadway musical, Annie. Another Indiana native, George Ade, also wrote for Broadway at this time. His works include The County Chairman from 1903 and The College Widow from 1904.
Other famous writers of this age include Theodore Dreiser, a Communist partisan who became famous for his writings on society. In an unusual twist, despite his fame, he also faced criticism if not outright hate from his peers and fellow citizens for his political beliefs.
Celebrity artist Bob Ross originally came from Indiana.
Bob Ross made his name on TV, starting and hosting the show The Joy of Painting. Airing from 1983 to 1994, Ross painted live on the show, all the explaining what he did and how viewers could do as he did. He became especially popular with the viewers for his cheerful and casual instructional style, often making small jokes while painting.
In particular, Ross became known for his catchphrase, “let’s add some happy little trees”, with 91% of his works featuring at least one tree. In fact, Ross rarely painted people in his paintings. Instead, he painted natural landscapes, such as mountains and lakes. The most he painted of human presence tended to involve cabins, but even those usually appeared empty and uninhabited. Sadly, Ross died in 1995, but his celebrity status endured and continued even in the age of the internet.
Basketball became famous in Indiana.
James Naismith originally invented basketball in Massachusetts in 1891, but it never really became a big hit until high schools in Indiana began playing the game. When Naismith visited and watched a high school basketball game in 1925, he found himself surprised by an audience of 25,000 people. This led him to write that Indiana had become the true birthplace of basketball and the center of the sport.
Indiana has produced more NBA players than any other state in the USA. Indiana has its own NBA team, the Indiana Pacers, who have thus far won nine division titles. The team has also produced six Hall of Fame players, such as Roger Brown, Mel Daniels, and Alex English, among others.
Indiana also participates in other sports.
Indiana has multiple NFL teams, such as the Indianapolis Colts, which form part of the South Division of the American Football Conference. They’ve won two championships thus, first in 1970 and again in 2006. Other NFL teams from Indiana include the Hammon Pros and the Muncie Flyers.
Indiana also has representation in other sports, such as by the Evansville Otters and Indianapolis Indians in baseball. There also are the Evansville Thunderbolts, Indy Fuel, and Fort Wayne Komets for ice hockey. The state also takes part in college sports, with the Indiana Hoosiers having won five NCAA and 22 Big Ten Conference championships.
The state has a solid infrastructural network.
Major international airports in the state include the Indianapolis International Airport, as well as the South Bend International Airport. The Terre Haute Regional Airport primarily services the Air National Guard, however, private planes also operate from the airport. At least 13 different interstates cross Indiana, as well as over a dozen federal highways linking to other states.
Indiana also has an estimated 6800 km of railroad, 91% of which count as Class I railroads. The state also has three major ports, Burns Harbor, Jeffersonville, and Mount Vernon, and together with other minor ports, serve an estimated 70 million tons of cargo every year.
The same goes for Indiana’s educational system.
Indiana first mandated public education in 1816, but the lack of money meant implementation would wait until the 1850s. Even then, public education would only become reality across the state as a whole in the 1870s.
Today, over 90% of students in Indiana go to public schools for their primary and secondary education. Similarly, an estimated 50% of all college students in Indiana go to state-funded colleges or universities. The largest university in Indiana, Indiana University, also operates as a state-funded organization and goes back to 1820. Indiana also allows students to take vocational education in addition to the mandatory curriculums.