Apr 19, 1816

President Madison signs the Enabling Act of 1816

The act authorizes the people of the Indiana Territory to form a constitution and state government. 

Pictured: Indiana State Constitution, 1816 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 3, 1818

Treaty of St. Mary’s (Ohio) signed

In St. Mary’s, Ohio, the Miami, Delaware, Wea, and Potawatomi tribes ceded their land in the middle of  Indiana (dubbed the New Purchase) to the U.S. in exchange for cash, salt, sawmills, and other goods. It continued the process of Indian removals begun by the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.  

Pictured: Miami Treaty of St. Mary's, 1818 Credit: Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
Feb 26, 1820

John McCormick settles on the east bank of White River, near present-day Washington Street

John McCormick and family leave Connersville on February 18th, searching for a new homestead. After eight days, McCormick chooses the west bank of the White River as his new home. 

Pictured: An illustration of the McCormick cabin, ca. 1820s. Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
Mar 2, 1820

George Pogue settles on the bank of a small creek, near present-day Michigan Road

George Pogue and family are the second group to settle in the future city of Indianapolis. Pogue, a blacksmith from Connersville, settles near the creek that now bears his name, Pogue’s Run. 

Pictured: Pogue's Run, shown here in 1917, is named after George Pogue who was the first to settle on the creek's banks. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 7, 1820

Site for new state capital at White River and Fall Creek chosen

The capital selection committee convenes at John McCormick’s cabin and chooses the site at the confluence of White River and Fall Creek for Indiana’s new state capital.

Pictured: This map from 1910 outlines the watershed area for Fall Creek and White River just north of Indianapolis. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Wesley Chapel becomes the first church

Reverend William Cravens organizes the first church after a Methodist gathering at Isaac Wilson’s log cabin during the summer of 1821. 

Pictured: This bronze plaque commemorates the first Methodist service held in Indianapolis. Credit: United Methodist Churches of Indiana View Source

Joseph C. Reed opens the first school

In the spring of 1821, Joseph C. Reed becomes the first teacher after he established a school in the small community cabin at Kentucky and Washington streets. 

Jan 6, 1821

Indiana ratifies the location of the new capital

The Indiana General Assembly approves the location suggested by the selection committee as the state’s permanent capital. The new capital is named Indianapolis, a term coined by Judge Jeremiah Sullivan. It means “City of Indiana.”

Pictured: Judge Jeremiah C. Sullivan is responsible for giving Indianapolis its name. Credit: Wikimedia Commons View Source
Apr 1, 1821

Commissioner appoints Alexander Ralston and Elias Pym Fordham as surveyors of the capital city

Christopher Harrison, the commissioner overseeing the layout of Indianapolis, selects Alexander Ralston and Elias Pym Fordham to survey the four-square-mile tract of land that makes up the new capital. 

Pictured: Plat of the Town of Indianapolis, 1821 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 31, 1821

Malaria epidemic strikes

Heavy rainfall creates conditions for the spread of malaria, claiming the lives of 72 residents, or 1 of 8 people living in Indianapolis. 

Oct 8, 1821

First city lots go on sale

Major Thomas Carter serves as auctioneer in Matthias Nowland’s cabin. The sale lasts for seven days and results in the sale of 314 lots for $35,596 total. 

Pictured: This detailed map from 1831 shows the downtown Indianapolis mile-square donation lands. The entries on each parcel shows individuals who bought the land from the State of Indiana. Credit: Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library View Source
Dec 31, 1821

Marion County created

The General Assembly passes an act passed to create Marion County. In addition, it provides $8,000 to build a courthouse. The next day, Governor Jennings appoints Hervey Bates as sheriff. 

Pictured: Marion County Map, 1855 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Population in 1822 is an estimated 500 residents


Jan 28, 1822

Indianapolis’ first newspaper begins publication

Nathaniel Bolton publishes the Gazette, making it the first newspaper in Indianapolis. The newspaper is issued at irregular intervals at first and is politically neutral.


Pictured: The Indianapolis Gazette, November 2, 1822 Credit: Indianapolis Gazette View Source
Feb 1, 1822

First postmaster appointed

Samuel Henderson, one of the first settlers in Indianapolis, becomes postmaster of the town’s first post office.

Apr 1, 1822

First Marion County election

The first election in Marion County has 336 voters (224 in Indianapolis). Votes are cast for two associate judges, a county clerk, a county recorder, and three county commissioners. 
Apr 15, 1822

First meeting of Marion County commissioners

The newly elected county officers meet for the first time and divide the county into 13 townships for administrative purposes.

Sep 14, 1822

Great Squirrel Migration

Thousands of gray squirrels move across Central Indiana and Indianapolis. These migrations are common at this time and are of concern because they destroy cornfields.

Pictured: Illustration of gray squirrels from Squirrels and Other Fur-Bearers by John Burroughs. Credit: John Burroughs View Source
Oct 10, 1822

First Baptist Church organizes

Having first met in a log schoolhouse in August 1822, the First Baptist Church officially organizes. 

Pictured: First Baptist Church, shown here in 1876, was located on the northeast corner of New York and Pennsylvania Streets. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

First general store opens

Nicholas McCarty opens the first general store in Fall 1823. Located on the southwest comer of Washington and Pennsylvania streets, it become known as “McCarty’s Corner.” 

Pictured: Portrait of Nicolas McCarty, Sr., ca. 1820s View Source
Mar 7, 1823

Second newspaper begins publication

Harvey Gregg and Douglass Maguire begin the town’s second newspaper, The Western Censor and Emigrant’s Guide, publishing it out of Gregg’s house. 

Pictured: The Western Censor & Emigrants Guide was a weekly newspaper published in Indianapolis, Indiana. Credit: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library View Source
Jul 5, 1823

First Presbyterian Church founded

The First Presbyterian congregation completes its formal constitution after having gathered in a schoolhouse for multiple months.

Pictured: First Presbyterian Church, shown here in 1877, was located on the southwest corner of New York and Pennsylvania Streets. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 31, 1823

First theatrical production

A traveling theatrical group presents the first theatrical production on New Year’s Eve, “The Doctor’s Courtship” and “Jealous Lover”. The performances take place in the dining room of Thomas Carter’s tavern, the Rosebush Tavern.


Marion County Courthouse opens

John Baker and James Paxton complete construction on the courthouse in Fall 1824. It serves as both the courthouse and the first State House in Indianapolis.

Pictured: A drawing of the first Marion County Courthouse by Christian Schrader. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 20, 1824

Indianapolis becomes state capital

The General Assembly makes Indianapolis the seat of the state government. The law will not become effective until January 1, 1825.

Mar 27, 1824

First cemetery established

Seventy-one Indianapolis citizens sign a charter to designate the area on the west side of Kentucky Avenue near the White River as the town’s official cemetery. It had served as a burial ground from 1821. 

Pictured: The 1908 Indianapolis Biast Atlas Plan #17 shows Greenlawn Cemetery, located between White River and Kentucky Avenue. Credit: Indiana State Library View Source
Jan 10, 1825

Indiana General Assembly meets in new state capital

The Indiana General Assembly has its first session in Indianapolis after officially moving from Corydon on January 1, 1825.

Jan 11, 1825

Indiana Journal begins publication

John Douglass and Douglass Maguire publish the first issue of the Indiana Journal with a focus on political issues.

Feb 11, 1825

Indiana State Library opens

The state library opens with the secretary of state acting as librarian. The General Assembly establishes it to provide library service to the legislature, state government officials, and other governmental personnel. 

Jun 20, 1826

First volunteer fire company organizes

A volunteer fire department organizes several months after the first recorded fire. The department uses a church bell for alarms and has only ladders and buckets to fight fires. 

Aug 2, 1826

Indianapolis Sabbath School Union established

Three years after the first “union sunday school” takes place, Indiana Sabbath School Union, established at Charlestown, forms three branches, one of which is in Indianapolis. 


Governor’s residence erected on Governor’s Circle

Although designated as the governor’s house, no governor takes up residence there. It serves several other functions before being demolished in 1857. Governor’s Circle later become known as Monument Circle.


U.S. Congress donates ground for militia training

First used in 1822 to celebrate the city’s first Independence Day, Congress donates the land that is current day Military Park to Indiana for militia training.

Oct 3, 1828

Temperance Society of Marion County organizes

Indianapolis residents gather at the Methodist meetinghouse and organize the Temperance Society of Marion County. Members of the new society pledge to discontinue alcohol use unless needed medicinally.

Dec 26, 1829

Landmark decision against slaveholder’s right to transport enslaved peoples through a free state

Marion County circuit court judge Bethuel F. Morris rules that an enslaved woman and her three children passing through Indiana with their owner are free because slavery is prohibited by the state constitution. The case is one of the first such decisions in the nation, and it is highly controversial in Indiana.


Population in 1830 totals 1900 residents

White: 1,836

African American: 64

Mar 1, 1830

Two women’s academies open

On the same day, both the Indianapolis Female School and Miss Hooker’s Female School open, becoming the town’s first schools for young women. Both are short-lived.

Apr 11, 1831

The steamboat Robert Hanna arrives from Cincinnati

The steamboat reputedly is the only one ever to ascend the White River to Indianapolis. The vessel runs aground on its return trip, dashing hopes about the navigability of the waterway.

Sep 3, 1832

Indianapolis incorporates as a town

The Town of Indianapolis incorporates, and the local government is placed under the direction of five trustees to be elected on September 29.

Jun 12, 1833

Central Christian Church organizes

John O’Kane, a Virginia evangelist and “Campbellite,” establishes the Church of Christ (Central Christian Church). Early leaders include Butler Smith, John Sanders, and Zerelda Wallace (wife of Governor David Wallace).

Pictured: Minutes and Membership of the Central Christian Church of Indianapolis, 1833-1845. Credit: Indiana Division, Indiana State Library View Source
May 17, 1834

Whigs form a local political organization

The formation of a local Whig organization comes as the state begins to split along national divisions. Though Indiana leaned Democrat, Whigs become the leading party in Indianapolis. 

Pictured: A voting poster used by the Whig Party in 1834. Credit: Wikimedia Commons View Source
Sep 1, 1834

Marion County Seminary opens

The Marion County Seminary building officially opens under the leadership of Ebenezer Dumont. The seminary, a public academy, becomes known as one of the leading schools in central Indiana. 

Pictured: Portrait of alumni of the Marion County Seminary from the classes of 1833 to 1854. Credit: Oversize Photograph Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source

Third State House completed

The firm of Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis finish construction on the new State House. The Greek Revival-style building is completed at a cost of approximately $60,000. 

Pictured: The third Indiana State House, complete in 1835. Credit: Wikimedia Commons View Source

First Catholic Mass

Rev. Claude Francis of Logansport offers the first Catholic Mass in Indianapolis at Powers Tavern on West Washington Street.

Oct 30, 1835

First annual fair of the Marion County Agricultural Society

After forming in June, the Marion County Agriculture Society plans the first Marion County fair, which is held on October 30–31 at the Courthouse Square.

Nov 26, 1835

Civic leaders form the Indianapolis Benevolent Society

The organization declares that its mission is “to give temporary aid to meet the needs of individuals and families on a community-wide basis without regard to race or creed.”

Pictured: This is the hand-book for the visitors of the Indianapolis Benevolent Society from 1881. Credit: Indiana Division, Indiana State Library View Source

Bethel AME organizes

Augustus Turner, a local barber, establishes the first African Methodist Episcopal Church. The congregation holds meetings in private homes and at Turner’s log cabin on Mile Square.



Construction on the Central Canal begins

Construction begins on the first few miles of the canal, which promises to improve transportation through Indiana. The canal project is funded through the Mammoth Internal Improvements Bill of 1836.

Pictured: Workers are shown here building the Indiana Central Canal. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

First Catholic parish organizes

Father Vincent Bacquelin organizes the town’s first Catholic parish, Holy Cross.  In November, the Diocese of Vincennes purchases land south of Military Park to build a church, which is built in 1840.


Two communities established north of the Central Canal

In April of 1837, Jacob Coil plats Broad Ripple north of the canal. In June, James and Adam Nelson establish a competing community, Wellington, on the south bank. 

Pictured: Plat of Broad Ripple, 1837 Credit: Indiana State Archives View Source
Jul 13, 1837

Episcopalian parish of Christ Church forms

Thirty people sign an agreement to organize the parish, which later becomes known as Christ Church Cathedral. The congregation occupies its first building on the Circle on November 18, 1838.

Pictured: This is a drawing of the first Christ Church on the Circle. Dedicated in 1838, it was the first Episcopalian church in Indianapolis. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Feb 17, 1838

General Assembly reincorporates Indianapolis

The legislature passes a reincorporation act with a new charter that provides a town council with taxing, licensing, and legislative powers. It also increases the number of wards to six. 

Nov 19, 1838

Second Presbyterian Church organizes

Fifteen members who depart the “Old School” First Presbyterian Church establish the new congregation. Henry Ward Beecher becomes its first pastor.


Pictured: Best known for his work in the abolition of slavery, Beecher also spent some time in Indianapolis as a preacher for the Second Presbyterian Church. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 27, 1839

Nine miles of Central Canal opens

Because of financial difficulties caused by the Panic of 1837, the state’s creditors take over the Central Canal. Construction stops by the end of the year but not before a completed section opens for traffic.


Pictured: A view of Central Canal from the 1910s. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Population in 1840 totals 2,692 residents

White: 2,570

Black/African American: 122

Apr 18, 1841

Zion Evangelical Protestant Lutheran and Reformed Zion Church holds first meeting

German immigrants found the church, which does not offer services in English until 1928. 

Jul 1, 1841

Jacob and George Chapman purchase precursor to Indiana Sentinel

The newspaper is called the Indiana Democrat (1830) when the Chapmans purchase it. They rename it, and the Sentinel becomes the leading newspaper of the Indiana Democratic Party.

Nov 5, 1842

St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church organizes

Eighteen members meet in the home of Anton Friederich Bade to found the congregation. The first church building, considered the “mother church” by the town’s German Lutherans, is located at Alabama Street.


Indiana State Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb opens

William Willard leads the opening of the Indiana School for the Deaf in October 1843. The school is the sixth school for deaf students founded in the United States and is the first to provide free tuition.

Pictured: Portrait of William Willard, the founder of Indiana State Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. Credit: Wikimedia Commons View Source

Marion County Library forms

The Marion County Library forms as a subscription library under the provisions of the 1816 Indiana constitution. It is housed in the basement of the county courthouse.


Second Baptist Church organizes

The Second Baptist Church is the city’s first Black Baptist congregation. Organized by Charles Sachel, the church meets in a house at West and Ohio Streets.


Flooding damages property

The city experiences intense flooding at the end of the year, as it had earlier at the beginning of the year. In both instances, the flooding damages landscape and property, sweeping away whole structures. 

Mar 30, 1847

Indianapolis incorporates as a city

Voters endorse a new charter by an overwhelming majority of 449 to 19, making Indianapolis an incorporated city.

Apr 24, 1847

Samuel Henderson becomes first mayor

Samuel Henderson, the first postmaster and president of the Town Council, wins election as the first mayor. Residents also vote for a special tax levy to fund free schools.

Jul 10, 1847

Smallpox scare causes City Council to secure land for hospital

With the arrival of smallpox on June 12, the city common council appoints a board of health and a committee to identify land suitable for a hospital. Although property is purchased, the idea of a hospital is abandoned when the disease subsides.

Oct 1, 1847

Madison and Indianapolis Railroad arrives

Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, the first steam railroad completed in Indiana, begins operations in 1847. The railroad arrives at Indianapolis in October.

Pictured: Madison and Indianapolis Railroad illustration Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 7, 1847

Indiana School for the Blind opens

The school for the blind officially opens in a private residence on the southwest corner of Illinois and Maryland streets while its building is constructed. 

Pictured: The Indiana School for the Blind, shown here ca. 1850s, was built on an eight-acre site on North Street between Meridian and Pennsylvania streets. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Indiana Volksblatt begins publication

In October 1848, Julius Boetticher begins the Indiana Volksblatt (Indiana Peoples Paper), the first German-language newspaper in the city. The weekly paper is a conservative publication. 

Nov 21, 1848

Indianapolis Hospital for the Insane opens

The hospital admits its first five patients. It expands to admit 300 patients within ten years. It becomes Central Indiana Hospital in 1889, then  Central State Hospital in 1929.


Pictured: An exterior view of Central State Hospital from 1926. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

First Jewish residents arrive

Polish-born merchant Alexander Franco and English-born clerk Moses Woolf are the first Jewish people to arrive and settle in Indianapolis.


Indiana Central Medical College opens

Indiana Central Medical College, the first proprietary medical school, opens in November 1849 and is located on East Washington Street. It closes in 1852, and another medical school does not appear in Indiana until 1869.

Apr 1, 1849

Horatio Cooley Newcomb becomes mayor

Newcomb wins the election of 1849. At the age of 27, he is the youngest mayor in the city’s history.


Population in 1850 totals 8,091 residents

White: 7686

African American: 405  

36 African American residents are listed as property owners.

Jun 1, 1850

Mechanics Mutual Protection organizes

Local, skilled artisans form the Mechanics Mutual Protection, a union precursor, and call for increased wages, improved educational opportunities, and better health care.


Oct 7, 1850

State constitutional convention drafts proposal to prevent migration of African Americans into state

Voters statewide overwhelmingly approve the measure. Marion County votes 2,509 to 308 in favor. The measure subsequently becomes Article 13 of the 1851 state constitution.

Pictured: Article 13, which prevents migration of African-Americans into Indiana, is added to the state's constitution of 1851. Credit: Indiana State Archives View Source
Jul 28, 1851

Indianapolis Turngemeinde opens

Located on West Washington Street, the Indianapolis Turngemeinde promotes physical fitness, freethought, liberal politics, and German language and culture.

Oct 20, 1852

First Indiana State Fair opens at Military Park

Created as a venue for exchanging ideas to improve agricultural productivity, the state’s first fair runs October 20-22. Around 30,000 people pay admission to see exhibits featuring agricultural products.

Pictured: The first state fair is held on the grounds of Military Park. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Indianapolis Board of Trade created

Thirty-six of the city’s leading businessmen and boosters form the first Indianapolis Board of Trade, the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce.


First free schools open

Funded by tax revenues, 2 men and 12 women serve as teachers at the first free schools. Average attendance increases from 340 students in April to 700 in May.


Mar 27, 1853

Voters approve a new city charter

The new charter establishes a common council of 14 members elected from 7 wards and a mayor elected citywide.


Jun 20, 1853

Trial of John Freeman

Reverend Pleasant Ellington wrongfully accuses John Freeman of being his runaway enslaved person. Leading citizens come to Freeman’s defense, but he spends nine weeks in jail before the suit is dismissed when Ellington’s evidence proves false. 

Pictured: A statement about John Freeman's case is featured in the January 20, 1854 edition of the Indiana American. Credit: Indiana American View Source
Sep 1, 1853

First public high school opens

Indianapolis High School, the city’s first public high school, is only open for five years. It closes in 1858 when the Indiana Supreme Court declares local taxation for schools unconstitutional.

Sep 28, 1853

Union Station opens

Designed by architect Joseph Curzon, the country’s first union station–a central station that accommodates many independent rail lines–commences operation with five tracks. 


Indianapolis YMCA founded

A small group of evangelical Protestants found Young Men’s Christian Association. Early programming included a reading room, public lectures on Christian themes, daily and weekly interdenominational services, and charity work. 


Maennerchor singing society organizes

Seven young German American men who enjoy singing organize the Maennerchor. The group develops into an amateur music society of distinction, influencing the musical culture of Indianapolis. 

Pictured: A view of the Maennerchor Building from 1916. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Indianapolis Widows’ and Orphans’ Asylum incorporates

The Indianapolis Widows and Orphans Friends’ Society, (later the Children’s Bureau of Indianapolis) incorporates and erects a children’s orphanage, which is later renamed the Indianapolis Orphans’ Asylum.


Public schools hire the first superintendent

Silas Bowen, who is also head of the booksellers-publishers Bowen, Stewart & Co., becomes the first Indianapolis public school superintendent. He receives an annual salary of $400 for one-third time.


Pictured: An illustration of Silas Bowen is featured in the December 19, 1895 edition of the Indianapolis News. Credit: Indianapolis News View Source
Nov 1, 1855

North Western Christian University opens

Chartered five years prior, the university finally opens its doors, becoming one of the first universities in the country to admit students regardless of race or gender.

Pictured: The first Building was located at the 13th Street and College Avenue Campus. Credit: Butler University View Source
Jul 15, 1856

Republican Party holds first state convention

The newly formed Republican Party holds its first state convention in Indianapolis. The event begins with a parade down Washington Street.

Pictured: Henry S. Lane was a key figure in the creation of the Indiana Republican Party and chaired the first state convention. Credit: National Archives View Source
Sep 16, 1856

Prince Grand Hall of Indiana organizes

Prince Grand Hall of Indiana, an African American fraternal group, organizes in Indianapolis. Membership doubles between 1857 and 1865.

Nov 2, 1856

Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation organizes

Fourteen Jewish residents meet at Julius Glaser’s house to organize a congregation. They secure funds to buy 3 acres of land for a Jewish cemetery on the southside of Indianapolis.

Pictured: Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation Temple (1899-1957), ca. 1930 Credit: Digital Image 2014 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source

First history of Indianapolis published

Local attorney Ignatius Brown publishes a history of the city, which appears in the 1857 city directory. It was the first historical sketch of Indianapolis.


First school for African American children opens

Indianapolis’s public schools do not allow African American children to attend. Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church founds the city’s first formal school for Black children.


First theater opens

The Metropolitan opens as Indianapolis’ first purpose-built theater complete with gallery, vaulted ceilings, and frescoes. It is later renamed the Park.

Pictured: A drawing of the Metropolitan theater building. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 17, 1858

Public schools close

Indiana Supreme Court overturns tax-supported free public education, deeming it unconstitutional. Indianapolis public schools struggle for funding and suspend operations.



First Catholic school established

The Sisters of Providence establishes a Catholic school, St. John’s Academy for Young Ladies. The school is built on the corner of W. Georgia Street and S. Capitol Avenue. 

Aug 1, 1859

First paid fire department authorized

The Common Council votes to establish the city’s first paid fire department. The city’s volunteer fire companies are disbanded. 


State Fair finds new location

Having outgrown Military Park, the State Fair opens on approximately 30 acres purchased by the state in what is called Otis Grove (later Herron-Morton Place). The new facilities offer “increased attractions for all visitors.” 


Street lights added to city streets

The city purchases and installs lamps along 8.5 miles of streetthe first public street lighting. Property owners had paid to illuminate two city blocks seven years prior.  


Population in 1860 totals 18,611

White: 18,113

Black/African American: 498 


Van Camp Packing Company secures its first major contract

Gilbert Van Camp opens a canning business in the Fruit House Grocery Building. The company obtains its first major contract when it sells pork and beans to the Union army.

Pictured: Van Camp's Pork and Beans can label, 1913. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Feb 11, 1861

Abraham Lincoln visits Indianapolis

Abraham Lincoln visits Indianapolis during his trip to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration. Speaking at the Bates House, he states that his primary duty is the preservation of the Union.


Pictured: This is the first photograph of Lincoln as President. It was taken by Matthew B. Brady in 1861. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 17, 1861

First soldiers arrive at Camp Morton

The State Fairgrounds become Camp Morton, a military rendezvous camp to manage volunteers. Two months later, Private John Hollenbeck becomes the city’s first casualty of the Civil War.

Pictured: Soldiers sit at the entrance to Camp Morton. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Kingan and Company opens

Irishman Samuel Kingan opens Kingan and Company at Maryland and Blackford streets along White River. The meatpacking plant, owned by a Belfast, Ireland company, employs many Irish workers, some of which are recruited from Ireland.  


Pictured: Kingan and Company was located along the White River on Washington Street. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Feb 1, 1862

Camp Morton converts to a prison for Confederate soldiers

Gov. Morton responds to the need for prisoner of war accommodations by converting Camp Morton into a prison camp. Within a month, some 3,700 prisoners-of-war arrive.

Pictured: Telegraph from Lieutenant Charles A. Grader describing the number of prisoners being brought to Camp Morton. Credit: Indiana State Archives View Source
Nov 1, 1862

Dr. Richard J. Gatling receives a patent for his Gatling Gun

An Indianapolis physician and real estate broker, Gatling becomes famous for his early rapid-firing weapon or machine gun  (U.S. Patent No. 36,836).

Pictured: Portrait of Richard Jordan Gatling. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

John Caven becomes mayor

Elected to office a record five times, the first three unopposed, Caven serves longer than any other mayor until William H. Hudnut III (1976-1991).


Abraham C. Shortridge becomes school superintendent

Shortridge reopens the city’s schools and urges the school board to hire female teachers to avoid paying as much for salaries.

Pictured: Abraham C. Shortridge (1833–1919) was an educator from Indiana. Credit: Wikimedia Commons View Source
May 20, 1863

Battle of Pogue’s Run

As Democrats leave their state convention by train, armed soldiers overtake them and confiscate their weapons. The soldiers discard them into Pogue’s Run.

Mar 14, 1864

Twenty-eighth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops musters into the U.S. Army

Indiana’s only Black Civil War regiment organizes and trains at Camp Frémont, near Fountain Square in December 1863, before official mustering. In 1864-1865, its troops engage in the Siege of Petersburg, necessary to take the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia.


Pictured: African American soldiers of the Twenty-eighth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops, ca. 1860s. Credit: Digital Image 2006 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source
Jun 1, 1864

Dedication of Crown Hill Cemetery

Crown Hill Cemetery takes over as the new principal burial ground for the city, the previous being Greenlawn Cemetery. Lucy Ann Seaton becomes the first interment on June 2.

Pictured: Crown Hill Cemetery had a gothic gateway and gate keeper's residence and office. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 3, 1864

Mule-drawn streetcars begin service

The 12-seat mule-drawn streetcars run along a one-mile line between Union Station and Military Park. Other lines open along Virginia, Massachusetts, and Fort Wayne avenues.

Pictured: Mule-drawn streetcars provided some of the earliest public transportation in Indianapolis, as shown here in the 1890s. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 10, 1864

Military commission finds Lambdin P. Milligan and others guilty in landmark Civil War treason trial

A partisan military commission sentences Milligan and four other Democrats to be hanged. The U.S. Supreme Court overturns this verdict in a decision known as Ex parte Milligan.

Credit: General photograph collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
Apr 30, 1865

Lincoln’s funeral train arrives at 7 a.m.

A procession led by Governor Oliver P. Morton and Major General Joseph Hooker accompanies the president’s body to the State House where public viewing lasts from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. 

Pictured: Statehouse draped for Lincoln's funeral, 1865 Credit: General photograph collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
Aug 21, 1865

Täglicher Telegraph begins publication

The Democratic newspaper begins publication as a weekly but becomes the city’s first daily German-language newspaper in 1866. It merges with the Tribüne to become the independent Telegraph and Tribüne in 1907. 


First African American Christian Church established

The church receives its first full-time minister in 1867 and becomes known as Second Christian Church. It becomes Light of the World Christian Church in 1962.


Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) holds its first national encampment

With Gov. Morton’s encouragement, Indiana serves as the unofficial national headquarters of the GAR for several months. The organization holds its first annual meeting, called an “encampment,” in the city.

Pictured: Grand Army of the Republic encampment in front of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Credit: General photograph collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
Aug 1, 1866

Indianapolis City Hospital opens as a 75-bed charity hospital

The City Hospital officially opens in 1859 as a Civil War military hospital. At the war’s end, the federal government gives the hospital to Indianapolis.

Pictured: Illustration of City Hospital, ca. 1860s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 6, 1866

The Governor Morton steamboat sinks

The Indianapolis and White River Steamboat Company launched the Governor Morton on July first. The steamboat made several trial trips up the White River but eventually sank at its moorings.

Pictured: Steamboat "Governor Morton" near West Washington Street Bridge, ca. 1860s Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Governors Circle renamed Circle Park

The City Common Council orders the Circle to be regraded, benches and sidewalks added, and renamed Circle Park.


General German Protestant Orphan Home established

The General German Protestant Orphan Home is founded by Germania Lodge Number 3 of the American Protestant Society. The orphanage is created to care for Civil War orphans.  


Indianapolis Home for Friendless Women organizes

Jane Chambers McKinney Graydon and Catharine Merrill incorporate the organization in February 1867 as a place to care for orphans, homeless women, and widows. 

Jul 19, 1867

Two amateur baseball clubs from Indianapolis play the first baseball game in the city

Two amateur clubs from Indianapolis share a doubleheader on the Camp Burnside grounds with a team from Lafayette, as well as with the Washington Nationals. 

Sep 3, 1867

The Maennerchor hosts the National Saengerfest

The North American Saengerbund’s 15th National Saengerfest begins in Indianapolis. It lasts for four days and includes three concerts, a parade, a grand ball, and a picnic. 

Apr 17, 1868

Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church organizes

Danish immigrants who came to assist in the construction of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church establish what may be the nation’s first Danish Lutheran congregation on the city’s south side. 

Nov 26, 1868

Rev. Hanford A. Edson preaches a sermon on the need for a public library

Edson, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, argues that a public library will provide culture and values for residents and commercial growth for the city. His sermon triggers a public library campaign.

Pictured: Portrait of Rev. Hanford A. Edson, ca. 1880s Credit: Internet Archive View Source

Leon Kahn becomes the first Jewish resident to take a seat on the Indianapolis Common Council.

Kahn serves on the Common Council for eight years, until 1881. 


Earliest appearance of the bicycle

Demonstrations of the high-wheel “Ordinary” take place on the Circle. The intent is to popularize cycling as a sport among men, despite the risks of flying headfirst over the handlebars.

Pictured: The bicycle first made its appearance in Indianapolis in 1869 at a demonstration downtown on Monument Circle. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Apr 21, 1869

North Western Christian University appoints the second female professor in the U.S.

Ovid Butler endows the chair in the English Department in memory of his daughter Demia, dictating the chair be given to a woman. The position is filled by Catharine Merrill. North Western Christian University is renamed Butler University in 1877.

Pictured: Catherine Merrill is seated next to her sister wearing a dark dress with a full skirt. Credit: General photograph collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
May 13, 1869

Indiana adopts separate but equal public schools for African American children

The Indiana General Assembly authorizes a state law for the establishment of separate schools specifically for African American children.

Dec 7, 1869

Reporter John Hampden Holliday establishes the Indianapolis News

The Indianapolis News grows to have the largest circulation of any other newspaper in the state and comes to be known as the “Great Hoosier Daily.” 

Pictured: John H. Holliday, n.d. Credit: General photograph collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source

Number of paved streets and sidewalks increases

Indianapolis has nine miles of paved streets, 18 miles of paved sidewalks, three miles of streets illuminated by gas lights, and a sewage system.


Population in 1870 totals 48,244

White: 45,309

Black/African American: 2,931 

American Indian/Alaska Native: 4

Nov 6, 1870

Enos B. Reed starts publication of The People

People is a Sunday weekly dedicated to politics, literature, and society. It is the first Indianapolis newspaper to use woodcut illustrations and becomes known for sensationalized crime and scandal stories.



Town of Nora established

Swedish immigrant Peter Lawson founds the town of Nora, originally centered near current Westfield Boulevard and 86th Street.


Samuel A. Elbert becomes the first African American in Indiana to receive a medical degree

Admitted to Indiana Medical College in 1869, Elbert receives his degree in 1871 and joins the Indianapolis Board of Health the following year.

Apr 2, 1871

Collection of climate data begins

The city installs the first weather instruments used to collect climate data at Blackford’s Block at the southeast corner of Washington and Meridian streets.

Jun 1, 1871

Water Works Company begins supplying consumers

Chartered the previous year by the city council and predecessor of Indianapolis Water Company. Drawing from two large wells, the company reports 439 customers within a year.


Lyman S. Ayres purchases controlling interest in the N. R. Smith & Company dry goods store

The Indianapolis News announces that the name of the firm will change to N. R. Smith & Ayres and that its store, the Trade Palace, will resume business the next day. Ayres gains full control in 1874.

Pictured: Born on a farm near Oswego, NY, Lyman Ayres eventually made his way to Indiapolis where he bought interest in the firm of N.R. Smith on 26-28 West Washington Street. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 4, 1872

Liederkranz forms

The merger of the male singing sections of two German secret fraternal organizations, the Druiden Lodge and the Rothmaenner (“Red Men”) creates the Indianapolis Liederkranz.


Indiana Reformatory Institution for Women and Girls opens

Founded in 1869,  the institution finally opens with the transfer of 17 women who are incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison in Jeffersonville. The facility is the first of its kind in the U.S. 


House of the Good Shepherd opens

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd opens the House of the Good Shepherd on Raymond Street west of Meridian Street. The organization is a home for “erring” women and girls.

Apr 9, 1873

Indianapolis Library opens

Located in one room of the high school building at the northeast corner of Pennsylvania and Michigan streets, the library begins with 12,790 volumes ready for 500 registered borrowers.

Pictured: This handwritten agreement establishes the public library in Indianapolis. It is signed by shareholders and dated September 1, 1872, with a note of final transfer dated April 1, 1873. Credit: Indianapolis Public Library View Source
Oct 6, 1874

Wooton and Company receives U.S. patent for its elaborately designed office desk

Known as the “King of Desks” following the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, such influential figures as Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Pulitzer, and John D. Rockefeller own Wooton desks. It remains in production until 1898.

Pictured: This shows an example of a Wooten Desk, which is located at the Morris-Butler House at 1204 North Park Avenue in Indianapolis. Credit: Indiana Historic Architecture Slide Collection, Indiana Landmarks View Source

North Western Christian University moves to Irvington

North Western Christian University moves to the newly incorporated town of Irvington. Two years later its name changes to Butler University in honor of its longtime leader and benefactor Ovid Butler.

Feb 18, 1875

Indianapolis Woman’s Club founded

Twelve prominent women found the club with the aim “to form an organized center for the mental and social culture of its members, and for the improvements of domestic life.”


Woodruff Place incorporates as a town

James O. Woodruff leads a successful petition to make Woodruff Place a town. Eventually, residents contract with Indianapolis for police and fire services.

Pictured: Threes girls stand outside in the snow in their neighborhood, Woodruff Place, in 1912. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Indianapolis fields its own professional baseball team

The Indianapolis Blues forms in summer 1876. The team joins the organized International League the next season. 

May 10, 1876

Col. Eli Lilly begins a pharmaceutical manufactory on Pearl Street

Lilly opens a pharmaceutical laboratory in a small two-story building just off Washington Street. His pills, elixirs, and syrups soon begin to sell well in the city and surrounding towns.

Pictured: A portrait of Colonel Eli Lilly in 1893. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 10, 1877

Indianapolis Literary Club organizes to advance social, literary, and aesthetic culture

Six men establish the Indianapolis Literary Club . They model the club is after the Chicago and Cincinnati men’s literary clubs and the Indianapolis Woman’s Club.


May 1, 1877

Orthodox Friends (Quakers) establish Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children

The Quaker institution is the only orphanage in the state to care for African American children and one of only a handful in the country.

Pictured: Two infants are shown in 1923 in a crib outside the Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children, commonly known as the Colored Orphans Home. Credit: General Photograph Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source
Oct 1, 1877

First telephones installed

The state’s first telephone company, Indiana District Telephone Company, organizes in Indianapolis. Wales & Company, a coal supply firm, becomes the first location to have telephones installed. 

Nov 1, 1877

American United Life Insurance established

The Knights of Pythias lodge creates an insurance program, which becomes American United Life Insurance, to serve its current members and to attract new members. 

Nov 12, 1877

Stockyards open

The stockyards, located along Kentucky Avenue and the Belt Line Railroad just west of the White River, include 12 acres. Before its establishment, meatpackers and retail butchers traded livestock through private yards.

Pictured: Bird's-eye view of Union Stock Yards, 1903.
Nov 20, 1877

Indianapolis Matinee Musicale founded

Nine young women gather in a parlor to spend a musical afternoon together. They establish the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale, an organization for the study and performance of music.


Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society established

Local women May Wright Sewall, Laura Donnan, and Zerelda Wallace form their own suffrage association. The society would later be extended into a statewide organization. 

Mar 10, 1878

Belt Line Railroad construction completed

Begun in 1873, the 14-mile track completely encircles the city to prevent congestion at Union Station and promote local industrial development.

Pictured: Bird's-eye view of Union Station trainsheds, 1921 Credit: Digital image 2015 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source
Aug 31, 1878

Indiana Tribüne begins publication

Louis D. Hild establishes a Republican, German-language newspaper.  The four-page weekly has a circulation of 800.

Nov 30, 1878

The Indianapolis Bar Assocation founded

Forty prominent Indianapolis attorneys, including future U.S. President Benjamin Harrison and Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks create the organization. Napolean B. Taylor serves as its first president


Indianapolis Leader begins publication

In August, the Bagby brothers—Benjamin, James, and Robert—establish the Indianapolis Leader, the first African-American paper in Indianapolis. This Republican weekly ceases publication in 1890.



First telephone exchange established

E. T. and James Gilliland, local manufacturers of telephone equipment, establish Indiana’s first telephone exchange in Indianapolis in March 1879 under the Bell patents.

Feb 2, 1879

Indiana Dental College organizes

A committee of Indianapolis dentists sponsors the college. The same group of dentists also sponsors the Indiana Board of Dental Examiners. 

Pictured: Dental School, n.d. Credit: Trustees of Indiana University View Source
Dec 4, 1879

Charity Organization Society forms

Rev. Oscar C. McCulloch of Plymouth Church instigates the establishment of the Charity Organization Society. The organization is devoted to providing relief for the poor. 

Pictured: Oscar C. McCulloch founder of the Charity Organization Society Credit: Oversize Photograph Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source

City reaches 211 miles of streets

The city lists 45 miles paved with cobblestone and five miles covered with wood. The remainder is paved with boulders, gravel, or unimproved. Forty miles of streets are illuminated.


Population in 1880 totals 75,056

White: 68,538

Black/African American: 6,504

American Indian/Alaska Native: 1

Asian/Pacific Islander: 13

Mar 1, 1880

First African American elected to the Indiana legislature

James Sidney Hinton, a Republican, serves one term as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

Sep 27, 1880

English Opera House opens

Hamlet is the theater’s premiere production. The first section of the hotel, constructed around the theater, follows in 1884 and a second section in 1896. 


Daughters of Charity of the St. Vincent de Paul Society comes to Indianapolis

Bishop Francis Silas Chartard invites the religious order to Indianapolis to establish a hospital. Four sisters set up St. Vincent Infirmary in a three-story house next to St. Joseph Church.

Jun 17, 1881

Electric service comes to Indianapolis

The Indianapolis Brush Electric and Power Company, the forerunner to Indianapolis Power and Light Company, becomes the first company to bring electric service to the city. 


Eliza A. Blaker founds the Indianapolis Free Kindergarten Society

Eliza A. Blaker, a crusader for early childhood education, organizes a free kindergarten in September 1882  to aid the community’s charitable efforts toward its underprivileged children. She becomes its first director. 

Pictured: Indianapolis free kindergarten photographs, ca. 1900 Credit: Indiana kindergarten photographs, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library View Source

Classical School for Girls opens

May Wright Sewall opens the Classical School for Girls at the southeast corner of Pennsylvania and St. Joseph streets in September 1882. The preparatory school continues until 1907.

Pictured: Friends at Girls Classical School, ca. 1910 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The Colored World begins publication

Edward Elder Cooper founds The Colored World, an African American Democratic newspaper. The newspaper will later be bought out by Levi Christy, who changes the name to The Indianapolis World.



First nurse training program

Flower Mission Training School for Nurses supplies nursing care for the Indianapolis City Hospital and provides nursing care for the community through a system of district nursing starting in June 1883.

Sep 26, 1883

Lutheran Child and Family Services founded

Members of the Bible society from St. Paul and Trinity Lutheran churches establish the “Evangelische Lutherische Waisenhaus Gesellschaft,” an asylum for orphans and aged people. 

Nov 6, 1883

Art Association of Indianapolis mounts its first exhibition

Shortly after the organization is incorporated in October, the association holds an exhibition of 453 works by 137 artists. It runs for three weeks at the English Opera House and establishes the Art Association on the city’s cultural scene.


Congregation Ohev Zedeck organizes

The Hungarian Jewish congregation meets first in a series of rented storefronts before purchasing the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation temple at Market and East streets in 1899.

Apr 1, 1884

Indiana’s first intercollegiate football game

Butler and DePauw play against each other in the state’s first football game between universities which is held at the 7th Street Baseball Grounds. Butler wins four goals to one.

Nov 5, 1884

Thomas A. Hendricks elected U.S. vice president

An Indianapolis resident, Hendricks wins election as vice president on a ticket headed by Grover Cleveland, who becomes the nation’s 22nd president. The victory is the first by the Democrats since the Civil War. Nine months into his term, Hendricks dies at his home in Indianapolis.

Pictured: Thomas A. Hendricks held state offices, served as a U.S. congressman and senator, and was governor of Indiana from 1873-1877. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Saenger chor created

German tradesmen form the society, dedicated to the labor reform movement. The society draws members together in private homes to sing songs of solidarity and justice for the working classes.


City Market opens

The market occupies the lot originally designated for this purpose in the 1821 plat of Indianapolis. On market day, vendors fill the building and street with their carts and stalls. 

Pictured: Tomlinson Hall at Market Time, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Kahn Tailoring established

Henry Kahn opens a small tailor shop at 14 East Washington Street. Kahn Tailoring becomes a principal manufacturer of uniforms for the U.S. military during World Wars I and II.

Pictured: From 1899 to about 1915, Kahn's Tailoring occupied the northwest corner of Washington and Meridian Streets. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 31, 1886

Alpha Home for Aged Colored Women opens

Founded by Eliza Goff, a housekeeper and former enslaved person, the home cares for elderly and infirm African American women with no families or means of caring for themselves. 

Pictured: View of the three-story Alpha Home for Aged Colored Women located on Boulevard Place, ca. 1930s Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 19, 1886

First Labor Day parade and celebration

The Knights of Labor collaborate with independent trade unions to hold the city’s first Labor Day parade. An estimated 4,000 residents participate.

Nov 6, 1886

Democratic Party accused of election tampering

Following the municipal election, Democratic Party officials are accused of tampering with tally sheets to secure the election of the Democratic candidate for the criminal court judge. Several of the accused are convicted in 1888.

Pictured: Simeon Coy, charged in the tally sheet scandal in 1886. Credit: Find a Grave View Source

Construction on a new Indianapolis Union Station begins

Pittsburgh architect and engineer Thomas Rodd designs the new Union Station to replace the outmoded old structure. The new building is constructed at  39 Jackson Place.

Pictured: Among the new Union Station's most striking features was its round stained glass "wheel window" and its 185-foot clock tower seen here in a sketch from "The Industries of the City of Indianapolis" pamphlet of 1889. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 5, 1887

The General Assembly begins its first session in the new State House

Designed by architects Edwin May and Adolph Scherrer, the new building consists of a central dome and rotunda, flanked by four-story wings within an enlarged State House grounds. Construction is completed by October 1888.

Pictured: Theodor Groll, Washington Street Indianapolis at dusk, 1892-1895 View Source

Jonathon W. Laughner opens Boston Confectionery

Laughner’s confectionery is later remodeled and renamed Laughner’s Dairy Lunch, becoming one of the first cafeteria-style restaurants in the Midwest.


Freeman journal begins publication

Edward E. Cooper, formerly with the Indianapolis World, launches the Freeman, a Democratic-oriented publication, in July 1888. He claims it to be the only illustrated African American journal. 

Pictured: The Freeman newspaper header, 1898 Credit: The Freeman View Source
Jan 25, 1888

Construction begins on the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Construction officially begins on the Civil War Memorial using the design submitted by German architect Bruno Schmitz and funds that the General Assembly appropriated for this purpose in 1887.

Pictured: This 1888 cabinet card is an illustration of the plan of the Monument with Christ Church and the English Hotel in the background. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 7, 1888

Indianapolis Propylaeum incorporates

The Propylaeum’s Articles of Association provides that stock is acquired, purchased, and held only by women. The building is to be used for cultural and educational pursuits, particularly for women.

Pictured: Propylaeum in Indianapolis, ca. 1900 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 25, 1888

Benjamin Harrison nominated for president

The Republican Party nominates Indianapolis attorney Benjamin Harrison, grandson of President William Henry Harrison, for president. Harrison defeats Grover Cleveland and serves as president from 1889 to 1893.

Pictured: President Benjamin Harrison with his grandson, Benjamin McKee. Credit: Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site View Source
Feb 13, 1889

Columbia Club organizes

First established as the Harrison Marching Society to support Benjamin Harrison’s presidential candidacy in 1888, the society acquires a clubhouse and formally organizes as the Columbia Club.

Pictured: This former iteration of the clubhouse was built in 1898 and demolished in the 1920s for a larger structure. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

First interurban arrives

Introduced to the state during the 1890s, Indianapolis’ first interurban is the Indianapolis, Greenwood and Franklin Railroad. This line’s inaugural trip from Greenwood arrived in downtown Indianapolis at 11:30 A.M.

Pictured: Interurban Union Station, interurban drivers, 1909 Credit: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Indianapolis Protective Union organizes

Guy and Domenico Montani, local Italian musicians, help organize the city’s first musicians’ union and the third such union in the country.

Pictured: In 1890, the Montani Brothers formed an orchestra that played at numerous formal and private functions. Guy and Dominic were also instrumental in forming the Indianapolis Protective Musicians Union Local 3. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Indianapolis Commercial Club established

Col. Eli Lilly, William Fortune, and other businessmen found the Indianapolis Commercial Club, later the Chamber of Commerce. Lilly serves as the first president.

Pictured: Driven by the Panic of 1893, the Commercial Club formed a committee to collect donations from citizens to support relief efforts providing food and coal at a lower cost. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Address numbering system adjusted to cope with continued growth

The city now uses Meridian and Washington streets as the dividing lines. It also eliminates all duplicate street names and erects street name signs. 


Population in 1890 totals 105,436

White: 96, 282

Black/African American: 9,133

American Indian/Alaska Native: 10

Asian/Pacific Islander: 11

Mar 10, 1890

Thomas Lennox Sullivan becomes the first Indianapolis-born resident to be elected mayor

Sullivan has lived all his life in the downtown area, with the exception of attending Racine College in Wisconsin. His term as mayor is focused on public improvements. 

Jun 18, 1890

First electric streetcars begin operation

Electric streetcars eliminate the need for mules (and their wastes) and bring clean, quiet, and inexpensive locomotion to the city’s public transportation. 

Pictured: Streetcars at the intersection of Illinois and Washington streets, 1906. Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection View Source
Dec 23, 1890

Indianapolis Chain & Stamping Company begins manufacturing

The company, later renamed Diamond Chain, produces blockchain to make drive chains for bicycles. It supplies about 60 percent of American-made bicycle chains by 1900. 

Pictured: Workers fabricate chain links at the Diamond Chain Factory in 1917. Credit: Digital Image 2013 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source
Mar 6, 1891

City approves a new charter that serves until 1970

A nine-member, public-private committee drafts a new city charter. It grants unprecedented powers of appointment to the mayor and provides for a board of public works. 

Jun 4, 1891

Indianapolis Country Club opens

Country clubs become popular social centers for the cultural elite. Indianapolis gets its own country club when the Indianapolis Country Club is established.  Membership is restricted to white people only. 

Jun 30, 1892

American Nonconformist newspaper moves to Indianapolis

The Populist Party newspaper arranges the move to Indianapolis after the Indiana branch of the People’s Party is organized in July 1891.

Sep 19, 1892

New State Fairgrounds open at East 38th Street and Fallcreek Parkway

Moving from Camp Morton, the new fairgrounds, built by J. F. Alexander and Son on 214 acres, contain 72 buildings, a 6,000-seat grandstand, and a mile race track.

Pictured: Fairgoer stroll along main street at the Indiana State Fair, 1909. Credit: Indianapolis Star View Source

Lew Wallace begins construction of the first major apartment building

Wallace names the building “Blacherne” after the palace in his novel, The Prince of India. The seven-story structure is located on the northwest corner of Meridian and Vermont streets.

Pictured: A view of the seven-story Blacherne Apartment building, 1906 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

William V. Wheeler opens the Rescue Mission and Home of Indianapolis

Wheeler, a sales manager for Layman & Carey Hardware, opens a small mission on South Street. It is renamed Wheeler Mission Ministries in 1990.

Pictured: William Vincent Wheeler, 1899 Credit: University Library Special Collections and Archives, IUPUI View Source

First basketball game played in Indianapolis occurs at the Illinois Street YMCA

Reverend Nicholas McKay, an associate of Dr. James Naismith, basketball’s inventor, introduces the game to the Crawfordsville YMCA in 1893. The Indianapolis YMCA adopts the game soon thereafter. 


First African American physician at city hospital

Sumner A. Furniss successfully competes for a City Hospital internship, becoming the first African American physician to work at the hospital. He starts his own practice the following year.

Pictured: Dr. Sumner A. Furniss, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Indianapolis Recorder begins publication

Printshop owner George P. Stewart and attorney William Porter launch the publication as a two-page church directory. In 1897, it is expanded to four pages and adopts the Recorder  name.


Indianapolis school system opens industrial training school

The school opens as the state’s first public vocational high school. In 1910, it is named Emmerich Manual Training High School in honor of Charles Emmerich, the school’s first principal.

Pictured: Industrial Training School, Class of 1896 Credit: Emmerich Manual High School View Source

John Herron bequeaths funds to establish a museum and art school

Herron bequeaths $250,000 to the Art Association of Indianapolis with the stipulation that the funds be used to build a museum and art school bearing his name.

Pictured: Herron Art Institute Galleries, ca. early 1900s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Mar 10, 1895

Thomas Taggart elected mayor

Taggart, an Irish immigrant, defeats Republicans Preston C. Trusler and becomes mayor of Indianapolis. He serves three terms in office (1895-1901) which are marked by public improvements and fiscal efficiency.

Pictured: Portrait of Thomas Taggart Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 6, 1895

Indianapolis chapter of Young Women’s Christian Association holds its first meeting

Incorporated in 1892 to promote the “physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual advancement of young women,” the Indianapolis YWCA association holds its first meeting. 

Pictured: Women at the Y. W. C. A. headquarters, Indianapolis, Indiana, ca. 1899 Credit: Nicolas Horn Collection, Indiana Album View Source

Blocks department store opens

William H. Block opens a small department store at 9 East Washington Street, which in 1907 is incorporated as William H. Block Company.

Pictured: William H. Block Co., Washington Street, 1906 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 10, 1896

African American cyclist Major Taylor sets records

Taylor sets several unofficial records in August at Indianapolis’ Capital City bike track, which results in numerous death threats. Indianapolis bicycling tracks are subsequently restricted to whites only.

Pictured: Portrait of Major Taylor, 1906-1907 Credit: Jules Beau, Wikimedia Commons View Source

The city annexes several towns

The city of Indianapolis annexes West Indianapolis, Brightwood, Haughville, Mount Jackson, Stringtown, and Eastside Terrace.


Flanner House established

Frank William Flanner donates a cottage for the creation of the Flanner Guild (later Flanner House), the first settlement house for African Americans in the city. 

Mar 28, 1898

The Vatican transfers the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vincennes to the state capital

Renamed the Diocese of Indianapolis, the move makes official what Bishop Francis Silas Chatard informally put in place when he moved to the city in 1878. He lobbied the Vatican for the change.

Pictured: Bishop Francis Silas Marean Chatard, ca. 1910s
Jun 15, 1898

Das Deutsche Haus opens

Herbert Lieber gives the dedication speech, lauding the structure as the “embodiment of the Americanizing process.” Designed by Bernard Vonnegut, the building becomes the center of German American culture. 

Pictured: National Turnfest at Das Deutsche Haus (Athenaeum) Indianapolis, 1905 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 4, 1898

Indiana division of the League of American Wheelmen participate in the Newby Oval inaugural race

The Wheelmen hold its annual meet at the Newby Oval, built by future Indianapolis Speedway owner Arthur C. Newby and local architect Herbert Foltz. The new velodrome is considered one of the best in the nation at the time.

Pictured: Advertisement for the inaugural race at the Newby Oval, July 1898
Sep 27, 1898

The Daily Echo begins publication

The publication, the first and longest-running student newspaper in the nation, begins its 72-year existence at Shortridge High School.

Oct 11, 1899

Publication of The Gentleman from Indiana

The author, Indianapolis native Booth Tarkington, becomes an instant success, propelling him into the national limelight. In Indianapolis, the book is less well received, with residents feeling mocked.

Pictured: Booth Tarkington as a Young Adult, ca. 1895 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Southside Turnverein Hall opens

The hall, designed by Vonnegut & Bohn and completed in November 1900, contains a gym bordered by a proscenium stage and a bowling alley. The building serves the group of Turners that broke away from the Socialer Turnverein to form its own organization in 1893.

Pictured: South Side Turnverein Hall, 1908 Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

John Hook and Edward F. Roesch found first Hook’s Drugstore

The first Hook’s Drug Store opens in October 1900 at 1101 S. East Street in Indianapolis’ German community. The firm eventually grows into the largest drugstore chain in the state.


Population in 1900 totals 169,164

White: 153,201

Black/African American:  15,931

Asian/Pacific Islander: 32

Mar 6, 1900

Social Democratic Party holds national convention

The Social Democratic Party holds its first national convention in Indianapolis and nominates Eugene V. Debs for president and Job Harriman for vice president.

Pictured: Eugene Debs organized the Social Democratic Party of America in 1897, and ran for the U.S. Presidency in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 18, 1900

Riverside Park municipal golf course opens

Mayor Thomas Taggart and the Board of Park Commissioners establishes Riverside, the city’s first municipal golf course and the fourth in the nation. It is a segregated course. 

Pictured: Golfers at Riverside Park, 1903 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Day Nursery Association of Indianapolis begins providing day care

Founded in 1899 by the Kings Daughters Society, the organization converts a one-room center near Monument Circle for childcare, becoming the city’s first childcare center.

Jul 30, 1901

Socialist Party of America founded

Led by Eugene Debs and leaders of the Social Democratic Party, over 100 men and women meet in the Indianapolis Masonic Hall to found the Socialist Party of America. 

Pictured: Delegats to the 1901 Indianapolis Socialist Unity Covention pose on the steps of the Indiana Statehouse, July 1901. Credit: Public Doman View Source

Nordyke and Marmon begins building cars

Nordyke and Marmon, manufacturer of flour-milling machinery, produces its first motor car.  The  Marmon Automobile, as the motor car is known, features improved lubricated crankshaft and rod bearings.  


Pictured: Marmon automobile, 1908 Credit: Digital image 2006 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source

Indiana Central University established

The Church of the United Brethren in Christ establishes Indiana Central University (later University of Indianapolis). The state of Indiana charters the same year.

Pictured: Indiana Central University, 1904 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 13, 1902

John Herron Art Institute opens

The art school opens on Talbott Street at Tinker House with 10 pupils and 5 teachers. The first core faculty includes artists like T. C. Steele, William Forsyth, and Otto Stark.

Pictured: The first home of John Herron Art Institute was located in the Tinker House at 16th and Pennsylvania streets. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 15, 1902

Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument dedication

At the gala event, Civil War general and author Lew Wallace serves as master of ceremonies, and  Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley recites a poem that John Philip Sousa transformed into a march.

Pictured: After nearly 14 years of construction, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was officially dedicated with a grand event and thousands of spectators. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 4, 1902

Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company incorporates

The Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company incorporates after seven interurban companies sign an agreement for use of the city street railway tracks and the construction of an interurban terminal.

Pictured: Passenger Waiting Room at the Traction Terminal, 1910 Credit: Digital Image 2008 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source

Women’s Improvement Club organizes

Lillian Thomas Fox and other prominent African American women found the self-improvement club. It later becomes known for efforts to provide tuberculosis care for African Americans.

Pictured: This photo in the Indianapolis Recorder on August 12, 1905. At the time, Lillian Thomas Fox was a salaried reporter for the Indianapolis News. Credit: Indianapolis Recorder, via Wikimedia Commons View Source
Jun 6, 1903

Indianapolis Star debuts

The Indianapolis Star debuts as a daily newspaper, the brainchild of Muncie industrialist George McCulloch. In the first two days, the Star distributes 50,000 free copies of the one-cent newspaper.


Businessmen establish Associated Employers to combat labor strikes

Indianapolis businessmen create the organization to provide advice and assistance to companies involved in strikes or lockouts. The aim is to destroy union shops.

Pictured: Associated Employers of Indianapolis Emblem Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Concentrated Acetylene Company organizes

Partners Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, and P. C. Avery form Concentrated Acetylene Company to assemble and fill acetylene cylinders used in automobile headlights. The company later becomes Prest-O-Lite Company.

Apr 27, 1904

Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs founded

The Indiana Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs formally organizes at the end of a two-day state convention held at Bethel A.M.E. Church. Nineteen clubs and 68 delegates attend. 

Jun 28, 1904

The U.S. Army creates Fort Benjamin Harrison

Established in Lawrence Township, President Theodore Roosevelt and Lt. Col. Russell Harrison request that the military installation be named after President Benjamin Harrison. 

Pictured: Indiana Governor J. Frank Hanly and Military Officers at Fort Benjamin Harrison Camp of Instruction, 1906 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 1, 1904

Max Emmerich becomes the first Olympic gold medal winner from Indianapolis

One of four athletes affiliated with the Socialer Turnverein who participated in the St. Louis Summer Olympic Games, Emmerich wins his gold medal for his participation in the triathlon, consisting of the 100-yard dash, long jump, and shot put. 


Publication of The House of a Thousand Candles

Indianapolis author Meredith Nicholson publishes the national bestseller and his most famous novel. The novel is set in Indiana. 


Jewish Federation of Indianapolis established

The Jewish Federation in Indianapolis serves new Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe and supports local and national Jewish organizations. ​It becomes the Jewish Welfare Federation in the 1940s.


Indianapolis Humane Society founded

Nine concerned citizens found the Humane Society of Indianapolis to prevent cruelty to women, children, animals, and other sentient beings.

May 9, 1905

Christamore settlement house established

Anna C. Stover and Edith D. Surbey begin a settlement house at 1718 Arsenal Avenue. It attracts teachers and nurses into a community of women reformers.

Pictured: "Women Attending Meeting at Christamore House, 1912 " Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 2, 1905

Medical proprietary schools consolidate to become the Purdue School of Medicine

The merger includes the Indiana Medical College, Central College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Fort Wayne College of Medicine. It begins a conflict between Purdue and Indiana universities over control of medical education that would last until 1908.

Pictured: Medical College of Indiana Building, ca. 1905-1908 Credit: Trustees of Indiana University View Source

First movie theater opens

The city’s first movie theater—the Bijou, a converted vaudeville house—opens on East Washington Street. Bijou shows half-hour films viewed during the lunch hour.

Pictured: Entrance and marquee of the Bijou Theatre, 1930 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

New York Central Railroad purchases land for repair facility

The New York Central Railroad purchases 640 acres in Beech Grove to construct $5 million locomotive shop and equipment plant. It is touted as the “largest locomotive hospital in the world.”

May 16, 1906

Wonderland Amusement Park opens

On May 16, over 8,000 people attend opening activities at Wonderland Amusement Park on East Washington and Gray streets. White City Amusement Park, located in Broad Ripple, opens ten days later on May 26.


Pictured: """Shoot the Chutes"" Waterslide at Wonderland Amusement Park in Indianapolis, 1906 " Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Dec 21, 1906

Catholic Bishop Francis Silas Chatard dedicates SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral

Although its facade is unfinished, Bishop Chatard dedicates the $200,000 building to ensure that the church can be used officially for Mass on the upcoming Christmas morning.  

Pictured: Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, interior, 1907 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

Cole Motor Carriage Company builds the first Cole motor car

Joseph Cole decides to continue automobile production and forms the Cole Motor Car Company in 1909. 

Pictured: NJoseph J. Cole poses with a Series Eight Cole roadster, ca. 1910s. Credit: https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/p16797coll27/id/58 View Source

May Aufderheide publishes her first composition

The Indianapolis ragtime pianist-composer publishes “Dusty Rag” in May.  She publishes 19 pieces between 1908 and 1912, several of which are financial successes.

Pictured: May Frances Aufderheide, n.d. Credit: Encyclopedia of Indianapolis Collection, Indiana Historical Society
Jun 26, 1908

Fire destroys White City Amusement Park

A fire in the “Mystic Cave” attraction at White City Amusement Park in Broad Ripple spreads and destroys the entire park.

Pictured: Birds'-eye drawing of White City Amusement Park, ca. 1907. Credit: Public Doman View Source

Acme-Evans Milling Company forms

Acme-Evans Milling Company forms with the merger of the city’s oldest milling companies, Evans Milling Company, founded in the 1820s, and Acme Milling Company, established in 1840. 

Pictured: Acme Evans Milling Company Building, 1920 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source

George E. Kessler completes his park and boulevard plan

Landscape architect and urban planner George Edward Kessler creates the plan for the boulevards and parks system for Indianapolis. The plan provides a framework for the expansion of the city.

Pictured: Portrait of George Kessler, 1910 Credit: Missouri History Museum View Source
Feb 25, 1909

The General Assemby authorizes Indiana University to conduct a medical school in Marion County

The authorization officially ends the controversy that began with establishment of a Purdue medical school in 1905. It allows IU to operate its school of medicine legally in Indianapolis for the first time. 

Jun 5, 1909

A national gas balloon race takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The first race at the speedway is a balloon race with nine competitors. The event draws around 40,000 people to the still incomplete track. 

Pictured: Preparing for the National Balloon Race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Sep 14, 1909

Lincoln Hospital Association incorporates

African American physicians establish the organization after being barred from treating their Black patients in city hospitals. The hospital opens on December 15 and remains in operation until 1915.


Population in 1910 totals 233,650

White: 211,780

Black/African American: 21,816

Asian/Pacific Islander: 54


Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company moves to Indianapolis

Madam C. J. Walker relocates her hair products and cosmetics company to Indianapolis, attracted by its central location and thriving African American community. Her company develops an international reputation.

Pictured: By 1911, Madam Walker turned the home she purchased at 640 North West Street into her home, office, salon and factory. Credit: Madam C.J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 30, 1911

First Indianapolis 500-Mile Race

Forty cars participate in the race with Carl Fisher occupying the pole position. Ray Harroun, driving a locally built Marmon, wins the race in 6 hours and 42 minutes.

Pictured: Race cars zip down the main stretch of the inaugural “International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race,” later called the Indianapolis 500. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jun 30, 1911

Harry Stutz begins the Ideal Motor Parts Company

Harry Stutz founds the Ideal Motor Parts Company to produce automobiles after Stutz Auto Parts Company has success with the Bearcat. Later the companies merge to form Stutz Motor Car Company.


Pictured: Portrait of Harry C. Stutz, 1929 Credit: The Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 1, 1911

Civic leaders establish Immigrants’ Aid Association

The association opens a settlement house at 617 West Pearl to provide social services and Americanize the immigrants.

Pictured: Immigrant children standing in front of the "Foreigners' House" of the Immigrant's Aid Association, ca. 1910s. Credit: Public Doman View Source

NAACP chapter organizes

African American residents found a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to challenge racial discrimination and advocate for civil rights.


Publication of A Hoosier Chronicle

A Hoosier Chronicle,  a novel written by Indianapolis author Meredith Nicholson, explores politics and society in central Indiana, particularly Indianapolis, in the early 20th century.

Pictured: "Sylvia and Professor Kelton" illustration by F. C. Yohn in A Hoosier Chronicle. Credit: Project Gutenberg View Source

Civic leaders lay the cornerstone of the Senate Avenue YMCA

Senate Avenue YMCA construction begins in October 1912. It offers young African American men a variety of cultural, recreational, religious, and physical exercise programs. It also provides educational classes and dormitory facilities.

Pictured: " Madam C.J. Walker, Booker T. Washington, George Knox, F.B. Ransom, A.E. Manning, Dr. Joseph H. Ward, R.W. Bullock, and Thomas Taylor are all present for the dedication of the Senate Avenue YMCA." Credit: Madam C.J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jan 22, 1912

Luella McWhirter begins the Woman’s Department Club

Luella Frances Smith McWhirter, along with 10 other women, organizes the club to stimulate spiritual, ethical, artistic, and educational growth among Indianapolis women. The club emphasizes study and community work. 

Pictured: Luella McWhirter, n.d. View Source
Jun 7, 1912

Indianapolis Church Federation established

The federation is an outgrowth of the Federal Council of Churches, the “council of 100” of the Indianapolis Ministerial Association, and the “Men and Religion Forward Movement.”

Dec 2, 1912

Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce established

The Commercial Club joins with other commercial organizations to form the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber persuades new industries to come to the city and influences legislation.

Pictured: A group of men in suits stand in front of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce in Indianapolis, Indiana during World War I. Credit: General Photograph Collection, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, Indiana State Library View Source

First municipal Christmas tree

Following the practice begun by New York City, Indianapolis erects its first municipal Christmas tree in University Park.


Merchants National Bank building complete

The 17-story Chicago-school building designed by Daniel H. Burnham maintains its status as the city’s tallest building for the next 50 years.

Pictured: Merchants National Bank, exterior, 1913 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source
Jan 9, 1913

James A. Allison establishes the Allison Speedway Team Company

James A. Allison, founding partner of Prest-O-Lite Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, establishes the machine shop, which later is renamed Allison Engineering Company.

Pictured: Portrait of James Ashbury Allison, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Mar 22, 1913

Great flood of 1913

A storm buffets the city with 60-mph winds and six inches of rain over a 24-hour period, causing levees to break. The peak flood stage is estimated at 31.5 feet.


Pictured: Indianapolis residents canoe down West New York Street after the flood of 1913. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 31, 1913

Streetcar Strike of 1913

Eight hundred streetcar operators stop work in the city for eight days to gain union recognition, higher wages, and improved working conditions. Mob activity destroys property and leads to three deaths. 

Pictured: Series of images from a scrapbook documenting the Streetcar Strike of 1913. Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source
Jun 14, 1914

Dedication of Long Hospital

The opening of the facility, in the vicinity of City Hospital, marks the beginning of the Indiana University School of Medicine campus along West Michigan Street.

Pictured: Indiana University officials and hospital staff pose at the front door of Long Hospital for its dedication, June 16, Credit: Trustees of Indiana University View Source
Nov 17, 1914

Indianapolis Boy Scout Council organizes

The Indianapolis council organizes and charters a Boy Scout troop with a membership of 100 boys. F. O. Belzer is the first scout executive leader. 

Jan 5, 1915

Three local trust companies create the Indianapolis Foundation

Fletcher Savings and Trust Company, Indiana Trust Company, and Union Trust Company adopt a joint resolution of trust to form the Indianapolis Foundation.

Sep 7, 1915

John Barton Gruelle receives patent for the Raggedy Ann doll

Former cartoonist John Barton Gruelle patents his Raggedy Ann doll. Three years later, he publishes Raggedy Ann Stories, followed by a Raggedy Andy volume. 

Pictured: Raggedy Ann doll patent, 1915 View Source

Hollidays deed their 80-acre estate to the city

John Holliday, founder of the Indianapolis News, and his wife Evaline deed their 80-acre estate to the city for use as a public park. The city names the property Holliday Park in their honor.

Pictured: Ruins at Holliday Park, ca. 1950s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 22, 1916

Arsenal Technical High School officially opens as a high school

Following a four-year litigation between the school board and former owners of Winona Institute, the school officially becomes the city’s third high school. It had served as a technical training school since 1912.

Pictured: Students mill about the Arsenal Technical High School campus, ca. 1910s Credit: Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Aug 30, 1916

Circle Theatre opens

Led by A. L. Block and Robert Lieber, investors contribute over $500,000 to build a new theater. Circle Theatre opens as Indianapolis’ first building constructed specifically for feature-length motion pictures.

Pictured: View of the Circle Theater Balcony, 1916 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 1, 1916

Congregations hold evangelistic campaigns in unison

The Church Federation’s “Indianapolis Plan of Evangelism” enlists all congregations to hold their annual evangelistic campaigns at same time and to join in a citywide publicity blitz. The campaign begins on October 1 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 8, 1917.

Pictured: Indianapolis News announces proposal for the "Indianapolis Plan of Evangelism," Apr. 8, 1916. Credit: Indianapolis News, Apr. 8, 1916 View Source

Dr. Sumner A. Furniss elected to Indianapolis City Council

Furniss, a member of the Marion County Republican executive committee, becomes the second African American to serve on the City Council. 


Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation acquires Prest-O-Lite

After Carl Fisher and James Allison sell Prest-O-Lite, the unit continues distributing automotive batteries until 1927 when Electric Auto-Lite Company purchases Union Carbide’s battery interest and the Prest-O-Lite name. 

Pictured: Prest-O-Lite Company, Inc., Factory Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Jul 27, 1917

Anna Marie Ridge establishes the first local Girl Scout troop

Ridge organizes the first local troop in Irvington after corresponding with Juliette Low, national founder of Girl Scouts. There are nine troops in Indianapolis by 1919.

Pictured: A group of three Girl Scouts work on their tent at Camp Dellwood in 1947. The Girl Scouts of America, founded in 1912, was segregated by race until the 1950s. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
May 20, 1918

The War Chest established “to provide for all war and benevolent needs”

The Indianapolis War Chest Committee places a giant chest on Monument Circle as part of a fundraising plan. Residents monitor progress by watching the chest filled with cash and coins.

Pictured: The War Chest campaign was created by William Fortune as a more streamlined way to raise funds for local charities and for the war effort. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 6, 1918

Spanish flu leads to lockdown

The first cases in the city are reported on September 19 and spread quickly, leading to the lockdown. With closures and mask mandates, cases decline. The city reopens December 2.

Pictured: Indianapolis woman wearing mask during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Credit: Digital Image 2008 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source

Frank Shields, local chemical engineer, manufactures Barbasol

Shields, a former MIT professor, develops the first brushless shaving cream, which he names Barbasol. Workers fill and package the product entirely by hand in Indianapolis.

Jan 9, 1919

Red Ball Transit founded

Red Ball Transit becomes the nation’s first long distance moving service. Initially serving only Indianapolis and the immediate vicinity, the first branch office opens in Columbus, Ohio, in March 1921.

Pictured: Buses, Hiner's Red Ball Lines, 1925 Credit: Digital image 2004 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. View Source
Nov 9, 1919

National headquarters of the American Legion locates in Indianapolis

Chartered on September 16, 1919,  delegates from around the country select Indianapolis as the Legion’s national headquarters during its first national convention.

Pictured: The American Legion headquarters building, located at 700 N. Pennsylvania Street, was constructed in 1924. Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Indianapolis Athletic Club incorporates

A group of Indianapolis businessmen incorporates the club to “promote clean sports, amusement, and sociability” among members. Its building at Meridian and Vermont streets is completed in January 1924.

Pictured: Indianapolis Athletic Club, 1924 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company established

Duesenberg Automobile and Motors Company, Inc., establishes a factory on West Washington Street at Harding Street to build passenger cars. Its automobiles gain a reputation for being luxurious and well-engineered.

Pictured: Duesenberg parked at Thomas Taggart Riverside Park, ca. 1920s Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Population in 1920 totals 314,194

White: 279,411

Black/African American: 34,678

American Indian/Alaska Native: 8

Asian/Pacific Islander: 97

Jan 10, 1920

Community Chest organizes

The precursor to the United Way of Central Indiana, the Community Chest forms to unite fundraising efforts. It also coordinates activities of 40 different community service organizations. 

Apr 16, 1920

League of Women Voters established

After the 19th Amendment ensures women’s right to vote, the Indianapolis Branch of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana disbands and establishes a League of Women Voters of Indianapolis in its place.

Pictured: Pamphlet providing information about the Indiana League of Women Voters, 1921 Credit: Indiana Pamphlet Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library View Source
May 2, 1920

Washington Park hosts first game of the Negro National League

The Negro National League incorporates with teams in six midwestern cities. Indiana’s team is the Indianapolis ABCs, managed by C. I. Taylor, a famed early Black baseball manager.

Pictured: Rube Foster of the Chicago American Giants, J. D. Howard, and C. I. Taylor of the Indianapolis ABCs, 1916 Credit: https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/august-27-1916-chicago-american-giants-defeat-indianapolis-abcs-on-close-play-at-the-plate/ View Source
Jun 5, 1920

City celebrates centennial

The centenntial celebration takes place June 5-10. Festivities begin with a mass meeting at Tomlinson Hall. Other events include musical performances, a street parade, a pageant, and a riverboat display.

Pictured: L.S. Ayres celebrates the Indianapolis centennial with an elaborate window display showing Washington Street as it was in 1825. Credit: W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA organizes

This branch seeks to educate and empower the women and girls of Indianapolis’s African American community. It opens in a building that previously housed the Senate Avenue YMCA. 

Pictured: Children Playing at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, 1927 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source

Premiere of Shuffle Along, a musical

Indianapolis native Noble Sissle writes and produces the musical with three other musicians. It marks the revival of African  American folk humor, jazz dance, and Ragtime. 

Pictured: Noble Lee Sissle shown with singer Lena Horne, ca. 1918 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

First radio station launches

Francis F. Hamilton begins broadcast of 9ZJ, later WLK, from his garage at 2011 North Alabama Street.


Cadle Tabernacle opens

The 10,000-seat revival and convention center opens as a site for large-scale religious gatherings. During the 1920s, it also hosts Ku Klux Klan rallies, dance marathons, and prize fights.

Pictured: Cadle Tabernacle, 1923 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source
Jul 7, 1921

Frederick Douglass Park opens

Named for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the Indianapolis Parks Department designates the park as separate and solely for African Americans. This discriminatory policy lasts until the 1960s. Activities at the park include little league baseball, golf, and social events. 


David Curtis Stephenson moves to Indianapolis and becomes Grand Dragon of the KKK

Stephenson reigns over the KKK in Indiana and 22 other northern states. Under his leadership, the Klan grows in numbers and gains extensive political influence in state and local governments.

Pictured: David Curtis Stephenson, ca. 1920s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

First city in Indiana to pass zoning legislation

The Common Council creates a City Plan Commission and passes the city’s first zoning ordinance. This ordinance establishes five types of use districts: residential, apartment, business, and two industrial districts. 

Mar 29, 1922

Second radio station begins broadcasting

Noble B. Watson begins WOH with a sponsorship by the Hatfield Electronics Company. It is the first station to broadcast the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. 

Oct 2, 1922

Orchard Country Day School opens

Nine local women establish the experimental school based on the “Organic School Model.” The school, located in the home and apple orchard of Mary Stewart Carey, begins with 20 students. 


Pictured: Orchard School, 1943 Credit: Indiana Historical Society. View Source

American Settlement created

The settlement forms through a consolidation of the Foreign House, established by the Immigrants’ Aid Association, and the Presbyterian Chapel, which works mainly with Bulgarian and Rumanian immigrants.

Oct 14, 1923

University of Toronto permits Eli Lilly and Company’s general distribution of insulin

Through its collaboration with the University of Toronto, Lilly and Co. develops Iletin, the world’s first commercially produced insulin. The lifesaving diabetes treatment results in a Nobel Prize for the investigators with whom Lilly worked to produce the product.

Pictured: Iletin Insulin, Lilly, 1920s Credit: National Museum of American History View Source
Jun 5, 1924

Olympic swimming tryouts in Broad Ripple

Broad Ripple Park hosts the Olympic swimming tryouts from June 5th through June 7th. Johnny Weissmuller, soon-to-be Hollywood Tarzan, wins 100-meter freestyle qualification.

Pictured: Broad Ripple Park swimming pool, divers, 1925 Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society. View Source
Jul 18, 1924

Euphrasia “Fraze” Donnelly becomes the first woman from Indianapolis to win an Olympic Gold medal

Donnelly, a 19-year-old member of the Hoosier Athletic Club swim team, wins the medal in the 4X100-meter women’s freestyle event at the Paris Summer Olympic Games. She and her team members break the world record with a time of 4:58.80.

Pictured: Euphrasia Donnelly, ca. 1924. Credit: Indiana Swimming View Source
Aug 2, 1924

First running of the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes

African American civic leaders Robert Brokenburr, William “Pres” Ruckner, and white promoter Harry S. Earl establish the Colored Speedway Association when Black race drivers are turned away from the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. They organize the sweepstakes, which runs at the Indiana State Fairgrounds from 1924 to 1936.

Pictured: Colored Speedway Association officials, Aug. 2, 1924. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source
Oct 7, 1924

Dedication of James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children

The James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, then Indiana’s only children’s hospital, is dedicated on the anniversary of Riley’s birthday. The hospital begins treating patients on November 19th. 

Pictured: Occupational Therapy at Riley Hospital, 1929 Credit: IUPUI, University Library, Special Collections and Archives View Source
Nov 4, 1924

WFBM radio begins broadcasting

Clem Portman, John Tribby, Hobart Ashlock, and Frank Sharp introduces WFBM radio to Indianapolis listeners. The first broadcast features presidential election results. 

Pictured: WFBM broadcasting station on the State Fairgrounds, 1937 Credit: Indiana Archives and Records Administration View Source

Mary Stewart Carey founds The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Carey and several other civic leaders found the museum in the Propylaeum’s carriage house. Children and their families donate to its collections.

Pictured: Mary Stewart Carey, ca. 1930s Credit: Indianapolis Marion County Public Library View Source

Former Marion County treasurer and Klan member John L. Duvall elected Mayor

Duvall defeats Democrat Walter Myers in November in the race for mayor, marking the triumph of a Klan-sponsored slate of candidates.

Pictured: John L. Duvall wins 1925 mayoral election Credit: Indianapolis Star View Source
Nov 14, 1925

D. C. Stephenson receives a life sentence for his crime

Trial jury hands down a guilty verdict for Stephenson, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, for his role in the death of Madge Oberholtzer, whom he brutally raped. He serves 31 years.


Pictured: Madge Oberholtzer worked for the State of Indiana in adult literacy before being kidnapped and murdered by D.C. Stephenson, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The Jewish Welfare Fund established

The Jewish Welfare Fund forms to raise funds for local, national, and international Jewish communities. The fund provides relief to individual families as well as to Jewish agencies. 

Sep 12, 1927