Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline

Indianapolis didn’t yet exist when the Indiana legislature chose it as the new state capital in 1821. The city was purpose-built, emerging from a wilderness of swamplands and forests to become the Crossroads of America. Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline traces the city’s history from the Ice Age to the present, focusing on the people and events that shaped the Circle City.

Early settlers overcame illness, isolation, and the Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822. But the arrival of the railroads in 1847 finally transformed Indy from a sleepy backwater to a Midwest boom town. In the 1870s, suffragette May Wright Sewall laid the groundwork for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Lyman S. Ayres invested in a downtown department store, and Civil War veteran Eli Lilly opened a pharmacy on Pearl Street.

By the turn of the century, Indianapolis was a thriving cultural and commercial center, and the cycling craze of the 1890s had paved the way for a thriving automotive industry. Indianapolis: An Illustrated Timeline tells some dark stories—the massacre of Native Americans in 1824, for example, and the dominance of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. But it also highlights success stories such as Madam C. J. Walker, the nation’s first self-made female millionaire; jazz legend Wes Montgomery; and Nellie Simmons Meier, palm reader to the stars. And it traces the trajectory of revitalization strategies such as Unigov and the push to position Indianapolis as a global sports capital.

Richly illustrated with maps, paintings, and historic photographs, this essential book celebrates 200 years of the Circle City story.