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Indiana in the late 19th century


Elbert H. Gary
Elbert H. Gary

Beginning about 1890, Indiana was swept by a second wave of industrial growth that was to transform it into a predominantly urban, industrial state by 1920. Growth during this period of expansion was focused primarily on heavy industry, especially in the Calumet region of northwestern Indiana. Before 1889, when a large oil refinery was built at Whiting, the Calumet was a sparsely populated strip of swamps and sand dunes. In 1905 the Calumet received its major push to development when the United States Steel Corporation decided to locate its Midwestern mills there. The next year U.S. Steel laid out the city of Gary, naming it after its chairman of the board, Elbert H. Gary. By 1920 the Calumet was one of the leading industrial centers in North America. The plentiful jobs attracted many immigrants from southern and eastern Europe to Indiana. In 1920 Indiana had a total population of 2,930,390, slightly more than half of whom lived in urban and industrial areas.

The period was also notable for the appearance and growth of the automobile industry in Indiana. The nation’s second successful gasoline-powered automobile, the Haynes Pioneer, made its debut on July 4, 1894, in Kokomo, and soon automobile manufacturing plants dotted the state. Before 1920, Indianapolis rivaled Detroit as the nation’s automotive manufacturing center. In 1909 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened as a testing and competition facility. The first of its famed 805-km (500-mi) automobile races was held in 1911.

Indiana farmers prospered in the early years of the 20th century and during World War I (1914-1918). After the war, however, inflated costs and declining prices contributed to a farm recession that continued through the 1920s.

Industrial workers fared better, although there were bitter strikes in Indiana’s coal and steel industries and on the railroads in the years just after the war. The 1930s, a time of worldwide economic depression, were difficult for most Indianans. There was widespread unemployment, particularly in the south. Federal and state aid programs were undertaken. In January 1937, natural disaster added to Indiana’s difficulties when the Ohio River flooded much of southern Indiana. Hundreds of Indianans died in the flood, and property damage was estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Indiana’s economy, like that of the nation, underwent a resurgence during World War II (1939-1945). A great range of goods was produced in the state’s factories, including tanks, airplanes, guns, and communications equipment.

Continued prosperity marked the postwar era. Manufacturing remained the leading economic activity, and farming continued to become increasingly mechanized. Although farm production increased, the number of farm workers declined. The total number of farms also decreased, often because small farms were merged to form larger, more efficient units. The population of the state as a whole rose from 3,427,796 in 1940 to 3,934,224 in 1950. "Indiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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