December 11, 1816 – Indiana Joins the Union as the 19th State

The Congress of the Confederation, formally referred to as the United States in Congress Assembled, was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. This Congress formed the Northwest Territory under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance on July 13, 1787. The territory, which initially included land bounded by the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and the Ohio River, was subsequently partitioned into the Indiana Territory (1800), Michigan Territory (1805), and the Illinois Territory (1809), and later became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of eastern Minnesota.

Formal use of the name Indiana dates from 1768, when a Philadelphia-based trading company gave their land claim in the present-day state of West Virginia the name of Indiana in honor of its previous owners, the Iroquois.

When the Indiana Territory was established in 1800 its total white population was 5,641. Its Native American population was estimated to be nearly 20,000, but may have been as high as 75,000. Unhappy with their treatment since the peace treaty of 1795, Native tribes led by the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa formed a coalition against the Americans. Tecumseh’s War started in 1811, when General Harrison led an army to rebuff the aggressive movements of Tecumseh’s pan-Indian confederation. The Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), which caused a setback for the Native Americans, earned Harrison national fame and the nickname of “Old Tippecanoe,” helping to propel his political career.

Moreover, as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources writes:

. . . beginning in 1830 indigenous tribes were forcibly removed from Indiana to territories further west. Indian removal was happening on a national scale with the passage of the Indian Removal Act by the United States Congress in 1830.”


Walter A. McDougall’s, in Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History 1585-1828, describes various religious emissaries that arrived in the new state to set up schools and ministries. A Jesuit missionary, Benjamin Marie Petit, was ordained a priest at Vincennes, Indiana and served in a mission to the Potawatomi Indians near the south bend of the St. Joseph River. When the Potawatomi were forcibly removed to the west, the priest went with them, but died en route at age 28. The body of “Father Black Robe” was shipped back to the site of his old mission in 1856, which has been known, since 1842, as the University of Notre Dame.


Indiana has had two constitutions. The first was adopted in 1816 and provided that only white male citizens over the age of 21 who had lived in Indiana for one year could vote. Slavery in Indiana was prohibited, but this law did not apply to slaveholders who lived in Indiana prior to the constitution taking effect.

By 1851, the state was in debt and its citizens felt the state was poorly managed. They voted to amend the original constitution. The 1851 constitution called for more frequent elections, put restrictions on state debt and established biennial (every other year) sessions for the General Assembly. Notably, it also prohibited African-Americans from settling in the state. The 1851 constitution has been amended numerous times, but it still stands as Indiana’s constitution today. (You can read the text of the original 1851 constitution here.)

Before the Civil War and subsequent emancipation of slaves, Indiana’s location just across the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky made it a popular stop on the “Underground Railroad.” (The term “Underground Railroad” does not refer to an actual railroad, but rather denotes a network of Americans, black and white, who gave food, shelter, and other assistance to enslaved blacks attempting to gain their freedom.) Ironically, in 1937 the Indiana General Assembly adopted “The Crossroads of America” as the state motto.

Underground Railroad historical marker in Evansville, Indiana

The “state stone” is Salem Limestone (also known as Bedford limestone) which is quarried in south and central Indiana. Bedford, Indiana is said to have the highest quality quarried limestone in the United States. Indiana limestone is one of the state’s biggest exports, and those who work in the quarries are called “cutters.” The stone can be found in such buildings as New York’s Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Pentagon, Yankee Stadium and the U.S. Treasury, as well as many state capitol buildings. In addition, in the Lincoln Memorial, the interior walls and columns are Indiana limestone.

Lincoln Memorial

Basketball was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1892 by James Naismith but it took Indiana by storm. Reverand Nicholas McCay, a protegé of Naismith, moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana and brought the basketball rule book with him. The game took off like fire. It not only could be played indoors in the winter, so it didn’t interfere with farming, but it was inexpensive. The first game in Crawfordsville drew some 300 fans. As the Indy Star reports:

The game became an epidemic because it was so easily accessible. A boy didn’t need 10 friends, or five or three. He didn’t even need one. Fathers would swipe slabs of wood from the nearby lumberyard and nail makeshift baskets to barns, trees and outhouses. All a boy needed was a ball.”

Instructed by his boss to come up with a new winter time diversion, Springfield, Mass. YMCA instructor James Naismith stayed up all night one evening and invented basketball.

The Indiana Basketball History Magazine tells what happened next:

By 1911, the state had a state high school basketball tournament, won by none other than the team from Crawfordsville. . . . And through the 1920s and 1930s basketball spread throughout the state, earning converts in schools from Evansville to Gary. And the state tournament grew as well. 

In 1925, James Naismith himself visited Indiana, to see what enthusiasm his game had inspired among Hoosiers. He watched the state finals among 15,000 screaming fans of Hoosier Hysteria. Later he wrote, “Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

Historically, Indiana has produced more professional basketball players per capita than another state, sending 26 of every million citizens to the NBA. Indiana’s tenth-largest city, Muncie, also holds the distinction of being the metropolitan area to produce the most players per capita (with 59 players per every million). Indiana is also responsible for the largest number of high school students to participate in the McDonald’s All-American game: 44 of the 888 young men to play in the competition since 1977 have hailed from Indiana.


Indiana is also the home of the Indy 500, an automobile race held annually in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest sporting venue in the world; it has permanent seating for 257,000 people, and temporary on-field seating brings that up to 400,000.

For Indiana laws and quick links, see this handy guide from the Law Library of Congress, here.

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