Indiana Economic History


A variety of topics in Indiana economic history are included below, such as commerce, industry, transportation and farming. See the right column for more info about this website.


Foreign-born Laborers in Indiana

Indiana University 1911
Adams, Donald GriffithGo to Book

Typewritten thesis in Economics.

The Wabash Trade Route in the Development of the Old Northwest

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press (1903)
Benton, Elbert JayGo to Book

The author was a Fellow in History in the Johns Hopkins University. His goal was to contribute to the understanding of how waterways contributed to the history of the Old Northwest through an intensive study of this particular waterway. Chapter headings are:

-Early History of the Wabash Trade Route
-The Wabash and Erie Canal
—Origin and Federal Character
—Organization and Construction as an Interstate Enterprise
—As the Trunk Line of a General System of Internal Improvements
—Mismanagement and Collapse in the Panic of 1837
—The Butler Bill: Repudiation or Resumption
—The Administration of the Trust
-Influence on the Development of the Old Northwest

Wabash and Erie Canal, Old Northwest


The National Road in Indiana

Indianapolis: C.E. Pauley 1919
Burns, LeeGo to Book

This 40-page paper starts with an introductory history of the National Road from Cumberland, MD through Ohio. This is followed with a more detailed narrative of construction of the road across Indiana.

Also see: Frost, Harwood, The Art of Roadmaking (1910) in Section625.7 Highway engineering in Engineering
Martzolff, Clement L., “Zane’s Trace” in Ohio Economic History
Hulbert, Archer B., The Old National Road: a Chapter of American Expansion in Economic History in the Great Lakes Region

Indiana History, Cumberland road, National road

Indiana Economic History

“Internal Improvements in Indiana: No. II—The National Road”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 3, Issue 2, 1907, pp 58-73

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Chambers, Smiley N.Go to Article

Indiana History, Cumberland road


“Letters From Eighteenth Century Indiana Merchants”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 5, Issue 4, 1909, pp 137-159

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Coleman, Christopher B. Go to Article

Indiana commercial history


“History of Canals in Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 7, Issue 1, 1911, pp 1-15

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Comstock, Howard PayneGo to Article

Also see: Harcourt, Leveson Francis V., A Treatise on Rivers and Canals relating to the Control and Improvement of Rivers and the Design, Construction, and Development of Canals (1882) in Section 627 Hydraulic engineering in Engineering

Indiana Public works, Indiana canals

Indiana Economic History

“Early Commerce in Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Vol 4, Issue 1 (March 1908) pp 1-7

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society
Cottman, George S.Go to Article

This short article is about the importation of consumer goods to pioneer Indiana towns, including items for sale, transportation challenges, costs, and barter practices.

Indiana commercial history


“Internal Improvements in Indiana: No. IV—Railroads”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 3, Issue 4, 1907, pp 149-181

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Cottman, George S.Go to Article

For more books on railroads in U.S. history, see: Section 385 Railroad transportation in Commerce, Communications & Transportation and Sections 625.1 Railroad engineering & 625.2 Rolling stock, Operations in Engineering – Mechanical, Electric, Civil & more

Indiana Railroads


“The Internal Improvement System of Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 3, Issue 3, 1907, pp 117-124

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Cottman, George S.Go to Article

Also see: Harcourt, Leveson Francis V., A Treatise on Rivers and Canals relating to the Control and Improvement of Rivers and the Design, Construction, and Development of Canals (1882) in Section 627 Hydraulic engineering in Engineering

Indiana public works, Indiana canals

Indiana Economic History

“Pioneer Transportation on the Ohio River”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 4, Issue 3, 1908, pp 129-133

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Covington, Samuel T. Go to Article

For works on boats and shipping, see: Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

Navigation history, Ohio River history


The Village at the End of the Road, a Chapter in Early Indiana Railroad History

Indianapolis. Indiana Historical Society 1938
Daniels, Wylie J.Go to Book

The subject of this book is the great dissatisfaction in Indiana in early days with the condition of the roads, and the many issues surrounding funding, planning and construction of early railroads. The author’s approach to helping us see how people of that place and time viewed the issues was to enrich his narrative with numerous long quotes from local newspapers.

Indiana railroad history

State Banking in Indiana

Bloomington: Indiana University 1914
Dehority, George HuppGo to Book

Typewritten thesis in the Department of Economics at IU.

Valley of the Upper Wabash, Indiana, with hints on its agricultural advantages; plan of a dwelling, estimates of cultivation, and notices of labor-saving machines

NY. Pratt, Robinson 1838
Ellsworth, Henry William Go to Book

Henry William Ellsworth was a grandson of Oliver Ellsworth, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who had purchased 41,000 acres in the Connecticut Western Reserve, including the later site of Cleveland. His father was a mayor of Hartford, Connecticut and then the first Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office. Henry was a Yale graduate and then a lawyer in Lafayette, IN. He was later appointed Minister to Sweden and Norway.

This book was written during Ellsworth’s Lafayette years, and encourages investment in large-scale farms in the Wabash River Valley. It is filled with information gained from Ellsworth’s own experience and from information gleaned from other farmers about the costs, methods and potential profits of raising a variety of crops and livestock. He also promotes several types of state-of-the-art agricultural equipment.

Indiana agricultural history, Wabash River Valley

Indiana Economic History

Internal Improvements in Early Indiana

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society 1913
Esarey, Logan Go to Book

Section and Chapter Headings:

I Introduction
1. Economic Situation in the United States, 1816-20
2. Conditions of Travel in Early Indiana

II. Early Attempts To Build Transportation Routes 1816-’27
1. State Roads and the Three Per Cent Fund
2. The National Road
3. The Michigan Road
4. Opening Streams for Navigation
5. The Ohio Falls Canal
6. Commerce of Early Indiana
7. Early Parties and Government Aid

III. Era of Systematic Internal Improvements 1827-40
1. The Problem, the People, and the Legislature
2. ‘The System’ of 1836
3. Construction
4. Financial Management

IV. Failure of the System
1. The Settlement with the Creditors
2. Finishing the Wabash and Erie Canal

V. Conclusion

Indiana canals


State Banking in Indiana, 1814-1873

Bloomington, IN: 1912
Esarey, Logan Go to Book

Chapter headings are:

-The First State Bank of Indiana
-Popular Ideas of Banking in 1834
-The Second State Bank of Indiana
-Chartering the Bank in 1834
-Organizing the Bank
-The Panic of 1837
-Attitude of the Constitutional Convention of 1850
-The Free Banks of 1852
-Bank of the State of Indiana—The Third State Bank

Banks and banking, Indiana financial history

Indiana Economic History

“Hoosier Cattle Kings”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 44, Issue 1, March 1948, pp 1-24

Bloomington: Indiana University
Gates, Paul W.Go to Article

Indiana cattle ranches, agricultural history, tenant farming

“The Gas Boom in East Central Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 96, Issue 4, December 2000, pp 313-335

Bloomington: Indiana University
Glass, James A.Go to Article

Indiana industrial history, natural gas production, economic development

Indiana’s Canal Heritage

Fort Wayne, IN: Fort Wayne Public Library 1926
Harlow, Alvin F. Go to Book

In Indiana’s early decades its pioneers could see the state’s tremendous potential for agricultural production, but the obstacle to realizing that potential was the impossibility of transporting that product to eastern markets. The tremendous success of the Erie Canal, opening in the 1820s, seemed to show the solution for the transportation problem, and there followed a canal craze throughout the new Great Lakes states. This small book recounts the financial and political dramas that convulsed early Indiana during the canal-building era.

For works on boats and shipping, see: Navigation on the Great Lakes & the Region’s Rivers

Indiana canals, Biography

Indiana at the World’s Columbian Exposition

Chicago: Rand, McNally 1893
Havens, B. F. Go to Book

This report from the Board of World’s Fair Managers of Indiana lists all Indiana’s exhibits of every type, and the individual or company providing the exhibit.

World’s Columbian Exposition, Indiana exhibitions

“Canal Mania in Indiana”

The Indiana Historian June 1997

Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical BureauGo to Article

A 16-page article on the history of canals throughout the 19th century, focusing on the economic effects of canals and the experience of canal travel. Also see the related article “Canal Construction in Indiana” on this webpage. Contains a bibliography.

“Canal Construction in Indiana”

The Indiana Historian September 1997

Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical BureauGo to Article

16-page article covering the various steps in constructing canals; including surveying, engineering, and construction. The Whitewater canal is used as an example for engineering and construction. A bibliography is included. Also see the related article “Canal Mania in Indiana”, on this webpage.

“Little Bottle – Big Business”

The Indiana Historian September 1995

Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical BureauGo to Article

16-page article about the Indiana glass and glass jar industry, and especially the history of the Coca-Cola bottle. Also a bibliography.

“A Marvel of Ingenuity”

The Indiana Historian December 1996

Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical BureauGo to Article

16-page overview of the rapid growth of bicycling in Indiana in the 1890s, including the sport and its economic impact. Photos of several types of bicycles of the period. Also a bibliography.

Solon Robinson, Pioneer and Agriculturist; Selected Writings

Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau 1936
Kellar, Herbert A., ed. Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

Solon Robinson (1803-1880) was a native of Connecticut who arrived in Indiana in 1830 and settled in Lake County in 1834. He was a prominent early settler there and a founder of the county seat of Crown Point. In his early years there he was a postmaster, ran a general store, and bought a small printing press with which he produced handbills and newssheets that he wrote himself. He also wrote for newspapers, including a serialized short novel, and an emigrant guide entitled The Prairie Farmer. He was a popular orator on a variety of topics, and was a strong advocate for farmers’ organizations, for education, and for scientific farming practices.

These two volumes are collections of his agricultural writings, in a broad sense, from 1825 to 1851. Mostly they seem to be letters and articles published by numerous periodicals. Vol 1. covers 1825-1845, and Vol 2 covers 1846-51.

For information about American and Canadian agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century, see: Bailey, Liberty Hyde. ed. , Cyclopedia of American Agriculture in Section 630 of Agriculture, Forestry, Gardening & Animals

Agricultural history, Frontier and pioneer life

Indiana Economic History

A Medical History of the State of Indiana

Chicago: American Medical Association 1911
Kemper, G. W. H. Go to Book

The author was a physician and long-time member of the State Medical Society. This history originally appeared as several articles published in the Journal of the Indiana State Medical Association, so it is assumed that medical professionals were the intended audience. The book is both a history of medical progress and a memorial to many of the individual physicians who rendered service.

Also see:
– Dittrick, Howard, “The Equipment, Instruments and Drugs of Pioneer Physicians of Ohio” in Ohio Economic History
;
Juettner, Otto, Daniel Drake and his Followers: Historical and Biographical Sketches, 1785-1909 in Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History;
Zeuch, Lucius H., M.D., compiled, History of Medical Practice in Illinois in Illinois Economic History;
Michigan State Medical Society, Medical History of Michigan (Volume 1) in Michigan Economic History
Frank, Louis Frederick (Dr.), The Medical History of Milwaukee: 1834-1914 in Wisconsin Economic History

History of Medicine, Indiana medical history

“The Old Indian Traders of Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 2, Issue 1, March 1906, pp 1-13

Bloomington: Indiana University
Lasselle, Charles B.Go to Article

This account of early Indiana traders was written in about 1860 by Lasselle, of Logansport, IN.

Indian trade, fur trade, Indiana trading posts

The Soft Coal Industry in Indiana

Bloomington: Indiana University 1908
Maartz, Fred MosesGo to Book

Typewritten thesis for B.S. in Economics and Social Science.

“A Hoosier General Store in 1847”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 35, Issue 3, September 1939, pp 299-302

Bloomington: Indiana University
McFadden, I. M. Go to Article

Description of the activities of a merchant in Bedford in the 1840s, who supplied manufactured goods to the community, acted as purchasing agent for the products of local farms, and carried out banking functions.

Indiana merchants, commercial history

Hours, Earnings, and Conditions of Labor of Women in Indiana Mercantile Establishments and Garment Factories

Washington: U.S. Dept of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics 1914
Obenauer, Marie Louise and othersGo to Book


A Brief Practical Treatise on the Construction and Management of Plank Roads

New Albany, IN: Kent & Norman 1850
Owen, Robert DaleGo to Book

Robert Dale Owen was the son of the founder of the ‘utopian’ community of New Harmony, IN, and served in the U.S. House of Representatives twice. He explained in the Preface that he had been elected one of the Directors of a company formed to build a 15-mile road from New Harmony to the Ohio River. However, the Directors found that they knew nothing of road-building, so Owen drew upon his circle of acquaintances in Washington, D.C. to research the subject. Since he saw a great need in Indiana for better roads, he put his newly-acquired expertise in this book to persuade other communities of the advantages of plank roads, and so it could serve as a practical guide for funding and building them.

See also: Section 625.7 Highway engineering in Engineering – Mechanical, Electric, Civil & more

Plank roads

“The New Albany-Salem Railroad—Incidents of Road and Men”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 15, Issue 4, 1919, pp 342-362

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University
Perring, Thomas CarterGo to Article

Indiana Railroad history

Shillelaghs, Shovels, and Secrets: Irish Immigrant Secret Societies and the Building of Indiana Internal Improvements, 1835-1837

IUPUI Scholar Works
Perry, Jay Martin Go to Book

Indiana Public works, Indiana canals, labor history

Indiana and Foreign Trade

Washington: U.S. Department of State 1951
U.S. Department of StateGo to Book


Early Indiana Trails and Surveys

Indianapolis: C.E. Pauley 1919
Wilson, George R. Go to Book

This book was written by an ex-surveyor and historian of Dubois County. He identifies numerous Indian trails, locates them with precision, and provides some interesting historical background information for many of them.

Indian Trails


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