Indiana might be the “Crossroads of America,” but we have our fair share of eccentricities and oddities that might surprise and/or shock you. This eclectic collection of trivia, from odd inventions to athletic milestones, are what make Indiana…Indiana.
The Longest Railroad Bridge in Indiana
The Tulip Viaduct, also known as the Tulip Trestle, stretches 2,295 feet across Richland Creek in Greene County, Indiana, connecting Solsberry and Tulip. Italian immigrant laborers built this viaduct between 1905 and 1906. Passenger service across the bridge was discontinued in 1948.
Since then, the bridge has become a frequent target for spray-painted graffiti, which the bridge owners have left, since it has indirectly helped preserve the metal surface.
First Lighthouse in Indiana
Congress provided $5,000 to the newly-established Michigan City to construct the state’s first lighthouse in 1834 (adding $3,000 more two years later). A series of setbacks, including a sunken shipment of building materials, delayed its construction; its lantern did not shine until 1838.
In 1963, the US government sold the lighthouse to Michigan City, and it now houses the Old Michigan City Lighthouse Museum, preserving and celebrating the maritime history of Indiana’s lakeshore.
Indiana’s Female Boxing Champion
Pat Emerick Lancaster began her boxing career in 1948 at the age of 19, sparring and training near the University Notre Dame. She lost her first professional fight but went on to dominate competition for the next 18 bouts, winning her title match in Iowa in 1949.
Her career was cut short in 1950 after a car accident in Michigan City, which left her unable to bend her left leg. Doctors told her only her superb physical condition had allowed her to survive the car wreck.
First Refrigerated Cars
The original design used by meat-packing magnate George H. Hammond in 1868 contained animal carcasses suspended above a slurry of ice and salt. Although the design worked well for cooling, transportation proved difficult, as the liquid contents would shift at curves in the tracks, sometimes causing derailments.
Despite this, Hammond led the area’s industrialization efforts with his meat-packing plant and the town of Hammond, Indiana, was established in 1884.
First US Production of CDs
The CBS Records CD Production Plant in Terre Haute opened its production line with Bruce Springsteen’s seminal album ‘Born in the USA’ in September, 1984, several months after the album had already been produced in LP and cassette versions.
Although CDs had been in production overseas for several years earlier, the US entry into the market helped dropped the lofty price tag of this digital medium, increasing its popularity dramatically.
The Largest Burial Mound in Indiana
As shown in the captioned postcard above, most Hoosiers and archaeologists believed the Sugar Loaf Mound was, like the hundreds of other burial mounds in Indiana, an artificial creation of mound-building Native-Americans.
However, geological studies of the mound, including shafts assessing its numerous layers, have determined it was a natural mound which later became a Late Woodland Indian burial site, somewhere between AD 600-1000.
The Largest University-Based Orchid Collection in the US
The Orchid Greenhouse at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, houses over 2,000 orchid species in a 3400 hundred square foot greenhouse. The university uses this massive collection in a variety of cross-curricular activities, including botany, art, technology, photography, landscape architecture and even hosts meditation sessions.
Docent-guided tours are available to the public, where Hoosiers can enjoy the year-round blooming of numerous rare and endangered orchid species.
The Longest Portrayal of Tarzan
Long before the Johnny Weissmuller or the Disney films, Tarzan was a beloved radio program, with two versions airing in the 1930s and another airing in the 1950s. A Hoosier named James H. Pierce, an IU football hero from Freedom, Indiana, portrayed Tarzan first in a silent film and then for the radio show, playing the iconic character 300 times in radio broadcasts until 1936.
Pierce eventually married his co-star Joan Burroughs (daughter of Tarzan’s creator Edgar Rice Burroughs), who played Jane alongside him. Both are now buried in Shelbyville, Indiana.
One of the Friendliest Freight Yards
Author Edward W. McLane, who penned ‘The Hobo’s Handbook’, selected Evansville as one of the seven friendliest freight yards in the United States. McLane used his skills as both a journalist and former “hobo” to pen the book, which recorded the as-yet unwritten code of homeless culture.