Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, the capital of Indiana, is situated at almost the exact geographical centre of the State, in 39° 47' N. lat., 86° 6' W. long., 824 miles W. of New York by rail, and 194 miles S.E. of Chicago. It stands 721 feet above the sea-level, and 148 above Lake Erie.

On the admission of Indiana as a State into the Federal Union in 1816, Congress presented 4 square miles of public lands for its seat of government, to be selected by the State. The location was made in 1820 at the confluence of Fall Creek and White River. The site chosen was in the midst of the unbroken forest, 60 miles distant from the borders of civilization, and only reached by Indian trails. The name Indianapolis was given by an act of the Legislature on January 6, 1821; and Alexander Ralston was appointed to lay out the city. Selecting a slight mound near the middle of the ground as the centre of the proposed capital, Ralston laid out the town after the manner of Washington city, which he had helped to survey.

Four avenues radiate from the centre to the four corners of the city. The streets and avenues are 90 feet wide, except Washington, the main street, which is 120. The city has now outgrown its original limits, and extends 4 miles in length and 3 in width. It is built upon a level plain and surrounded by a fertile country. It was in corporated in 1836, and received a city charter in 1847. Its growth is shown by the following table: 

Year.  Population.   Assessed Value of Property. 

 1850  8,090  $2,326,185
1860 18,113  10,700,000
1870 48,244  25,981,267
1880 75,074  50,254,934

In 1847 the first railway entered the city. Within a few years thereafter other lines were constructed, until now twelve main lines converge in the Union Depôt. About one hundred passenger trains, connected with every part of the country, enter and depart daily. The numerous tracks being on a level with the surface of the streets, the obstruction and danger at the numerous crossings became very great on account of the increase of railway traffic, so that in 1877 a loop line, called the “Belt,” had to be made passing round the city, to connect the various railroads. By means of it the “through freight cars” are conveyed past the city without blocking the traffic.

Indianapolis is in the centre of the swine-producing region, and pork packing is one of the chief industries of the city. The number packed in 1877 was 420,000 head; in 1878, 766,000; in 1879, 677,809. It is also largely engaged in the grain trade. The railways have been of greatest service to Indianapolis, compensating for its want of water transit. The manufacturing and mercantile interests, which are large and increasing, are the natural result of the city's extensive railroad connexions.

A system of graded free schools is maintained all the year. The city school property is valued at $1,041,000.

In 1871 a public library was established, and is supported by taxation, which now contains 36,461 volumes, and is rapidly increasing. The masonic temple, oddfellows hall, post-office, U. S. arsenal, and chamber of commerce are handsome buildings. The Marion county court-house, standing on a public square in the heart oif the city, was completed in 1877 at a cost of $1,411,524. The exterior is of Indiana limestone, the interior of iron and marble, with frescoed walls and ceilings. Its dimensions are 150 by 286 feet, and 240 feet to the top of the dome. The principal benevolent institutions of the State, viz., the institution for the education of the blind, that for the deaf and dumb, and the hospital for the insane, are located here; they are handsome and commodious buildings, the last having accommodation for 1313 patients. The State reformatory for women and girls, where all female offenders are imprisoned, adjoins the city. The institution is under the management of a board of control, composed of women chosen by the governor of the State. In 1877 the State began the erection of a new State house, to be completed in 1888, at a cost of $2,000,000. This will be one of the most imposing capital buildings in the United States.

By law the power to incur permanent debt is limited to a sum not exceeding 2 per cent, upon the assessed value of the property within the city; and the rate of taxation is limited to 90 cents per $100 for municipal purposes, 20 cents for public schools, and 2 cents for free libraries. (A. C. H.)