It’s a date every Hoosier should know: Dec. 11, 1816. On that day, Indiana became the 19th state.
We’ve been observing it formally since 1925 when the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring the governor to “issue a proclamation annually designating the eleventh day of December as Indiana Day.”
Indiana Code 1-1-10-1 encourages public schools and citizens to celebrate “in appropriate and patriotic observance of the anniversary of the admission of the state of Indiana into the Union.”
Statehood was the culmination of a lengthy process, set out in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, through which territories proved they had enough population — 60,000 “free white inhabitants” — and enough political experience to govern themselves.
Among the final steps: Petitioning Congress for statehood, passage of an enabling act by Congress, drafting of a state constitution in June 1816 and Aug. 5 elections of state and local officials and U.S. representative.
“A spirited campaign for the governorship was waged between Jonathan Jennings and Thomas Posey,” note the historians John Barnhart and Dorothy Riker in The History of Indiana. Jennings won by a vote of 5,211 to 3,934 and took office on Nov. 7. He served two terms, and was later elected to Congress.
Voters elected 29 representative and 10 senators to the first General Assembly. Most of the winners had political experience as delegates to the constitutional convention or as members of the territorial legislature. Their introductory session began Nov. 4 in the new state capitol building in Corydon. The first order of business was to select the men who would serve as secretary of state, auditor and U.S. senators — positions that would not be chosen by popular vote until the 20th century.
On Dec. 11, President James Madison signed into law the congressional resolution admitting Indiana to the union “on an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatever.” That day has been considered Indiana’s birthday ever since.