Researching in ISL Digital Collections: Indianapolis Bicentennial

The city of Indianapolis is about to turn 200 years old and the Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission is planning a celebration which will begin in June 2020 and last through May 2021. Those planning to celebrate can check the commission’s website for announcements, contests, events and a list of commission members. Since the Indiana State Library is continually adding materials to its online collections, now seems like a great time to check the collections for information about Indianapolis in order to gear up for the forthcoming festivities.

The Indiana Historical Legislative Documents collection contains the earliest volumes of the Indiana Acts. The volumes have an index to help locate specific laws passed in a year by the General Assembly. In this case, browsing the index and noticing “Seat of Government” points toward Indiana Acts 1820, Chapter 10, “An Act appointing Commissioners to select, and locate a site for the permanent seat of government of Indiana,” which was approved Jan. 11, 1820, and would move the state capitol from Corydon to a new location to be determined.

Indiana Acts 1821, Chapter 18, “An Act appointing commissioners to lay off a town on the site selected for the permanent seat of government,” was approved Jan. 6, 1821, and stated “the said town laid out as the permanent seat of government for the state of Indiana shall be called and known by the name of Indianapolis.” It was then necessary to plat it out on a map.

Indiana State Library Map Collection contains a digital copy of Plats of the town of Indianapolis, which shows maps of the downtown Indianapolis mile-square donation lands with the names of the first patentees. It includes a comprehensive list of Indiana laws from 1821 to 1913 related to the lots and out-lots. The Indiana Archives and Records Administration has additional details about the Indianapolis Donation and the official state land records held there.

The Indiana Documentary Editions collection contains the Messages and papers of Jonathan Jennings, Ratliff Boon, William Hendricks, 1816-1825. Jonathan Jennings was the governor at the time and issued a proclamation calling for the commissioners to meet in 1820 to select a site for the new capitol. John Tipton was one of those commissioners. The book “John Tipton papers. Volume I: 1809-1827” includes the transcript of the journal Tipton kept during the May 17-June 11, 1820 expedition. Here’s a bonus: the Rare Books and Manuscripts online John Tipton Collection contains digital copies of Tipton’s 1820 journal in his own handwriting.

There is a wealth of information not only in the Indiana State Library’s physical collections, but also in the ever-growing online digital collections. As the Indianapolis Bicentennial approaches, more online materials about the history of the city could show up. Keep searching!

This blog post was written by Indiana Division Librarian Andrea Glenn. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at 317-232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

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