Indiana sits, as its motto claims, at “the crossroads of America.” It borders Lake Michigan and the state of Michigan to the north, Ohio to the east, Kentucky to the south, and Illinois to the west, making it an integral part of the American Midwest. Except for Hawaii, Indiana is the smallest state west of the Appalachian Mountains. After the American Revolution the lands of Indiana were open to U.S. settlers. The influx of white immigrants brought increased war with the Native American tribes. The conflicts continued until the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, which was won by General, and future president, William Henry Harrison. With a name that is generally thought to mean “land of the Indians,” Indiana was admitted on Dec. 11, 1816, as the 19th state of the union. Its capital has been at Indianapolis since 1825.
Date of Statehood: December 11, 1816
Population: 6,483,802 (2010)
Size: 36,417 square miles
Nickname(s): Hoosier State
Motto: The crossroads of America
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- Many families throughout the state of Indiana provided shelter for runaway slaves both before and during the Civil War. In particular, the farming community of Newport (now Fountain City) became known as the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” due to Levi and Catherine Coffin’s role in helping more than 2,000 runaway slaves make their way north to freedom.
- Bedford, Indiana, is known as the “Limestone Capital of the World.” Admired for its light color and ease of cutting, Indiana limestone was used in the construction of the Empire State Building in New York City, the Pentagon and National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., as well as several state capitols.
- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the first Indianapolis 500 mile race on its 2.5-mile track on May 30, 1911, two years after it opened. Equipped to seat an audience of more than 250,000, the Speedway is the world’s largest spectator sporting arena.
- Although authorities claimed the county jail in Crown Point was “escape proof,” notorious bank robber John Dillinger successfully broke free from his cell on March 3, 1934, by threatening guards with a fake pistol carved from wood. Using the sheriff’s car to make his getaway, Dillinger crossed the Indiana-Illinois border, setting off a federal manhunt that led to his death by FBI agents on July 22nd.
- In August of 1987, more than 4,000 athletes from 38 nations met in Indianapolis for the Pan American Games after both Chile and Ecuador reneged as host due to financial reasons.
- Santa Claus, Indiana, receives hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to the Christmas legend every year—each of which is responded to individually.