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Published continuously since 1905, the Indiana Magazine of History is one of the nation's oldest historical journals. Since 1913, the IMH has been edited and published quarterly at Indiana University, Bloomington. Today, the IMH features peer-reviewed historical articles, research notes, annotated primary documents, reviews, and critical essays that contribute to public understanding of midwestern and Indiana history.


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CURRENT ISSUE - September 2016

The September 2016 issue of the Indiana Magazine of History includes thirteen wonderful articles -- a century of research from the pages of the IMH on the word "Hoosier."

For more than 180 of the 200 years that Indiana has been a state, its residents have been called Hoosiers. But what does the term mean and where did it come from? In this issue, we present a dozen different reflections on the word “Hoosier” beginning with our very first issue from March 1905.

Among the articles in this special issue, introduced by associate editor Dawn Bakken, are Jacob Piatt Dunn’s 1911 “The Word ‘Hoosier,’” one of the first thorough historical examinations of the word. Oscar Short’s 1929 article offers one family’s take on why the word might have originated among the men who worked the canals and rivers of the state. Moving forward to the work of William Piersen and Stephen Webb (from 1995 and 2002), readers can consider the possible link to the life of itinerant Black Methodist preacher Harry Hoosier. And in two articles by Jonathan Clark Smith, the twenty-first century digitization of historic newspapers reveals the current contender for the earliest appearance of the term: a newspaper article from the Vincennes Gazette of February 1831.

Above: 1788 engraving by Alfred Waud of a flatboat on the Ohio River. Below: Steamboat Maid of Orleans, built 1818 in Philadelphia.

What is a Hoosier?

“We do love to see a Hoosier roll along the levee with the proceeds of the plunder of his flatboat in his pocket. . . He glories in still sporting the same unpolished peg boots, and the woolen, round-topped wide-leafed hat in which he set out from home.” New Orleans Picayune

By 1830, the term “Hoosier” was being used inside and outside Indiana to refer both to farmers who transported their goods west and south on the Ohio River via flatboats and steamboats and to the men who worked on the boats. The term quickly spread to refer more broadly to all citizens of Indiana. So it was that in February 1831, in one of the earliest known occurrences of the term, boat-builder G. S. Murdock of Cincinnati wrote about his plans to name his newest boat “The Indiana Hoosier.”