Any Hoosier will proudly tell you that there’s more than corn in Indiana. Its capital, Indianapolis, is home to everything from sliced bread to one of the largest sporting events in the world. Here are a few things you might not know about the Midwestern city.
1. An Indiana Supreme Court judge picked the name Indianapolis by sticking the state's name together with the Greek word for "city."
2. Indianapolis wasn’t the first state capital of Indiana. The original capital, Corydon, was given the boot in 1820, just four years after the state was formed.
Today, the city's nickname of "Naptown" is thought to be a dig at its sleepy reputation. But the term was actually coined by jazz musicians in the 1930s. One of the first recorded uses was by blues singer Leroy Carr in 1929, who crooned, “When you get to Naptown, the blues won’t last very long. Because they have their pleasure, and they sure do carry on.”
4. In 1911, the legendary Indianapolis 500 race as we know it was born. The prize offered to the winner among 40 qualifiers: $25,000. The ticket cost for each of the 80,200 spectators in the grandstands: $1.
5. Forget champagne: Indy 500 victors take a celebratory sip of milk, as part of a tradition that is said to have begun with three-time winner Louis Meyer in the 1930s. After a hot day on the track, Meyer would refresh himself with buttermilk. Today, the American Dairy Association Indiana announces which local dairy will provide the quaff, and even maintains a list of drivers' milk preferences.
The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is home to the skull of the newly-discovered Dracorex hogwartsia dinosaur. Discovered in Iowa, its name means "Dragon King of Hogwarts.
7. An Indianapolis native is to thank for the traditional tune sung during every seventh-inning stretch. Albert Von Tilzer of Indianapolis penned “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
8. The great Kurt Vonnegut was born and raised in Indianapolis, where his father and grandfather, both architects, left their marks on the city in the form of historic buildings like the Athenaeum. Vonnegut himself once said that “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis."
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Indianapolis-based Taggart Baking Company launched Wonder Bread in 1921, becoming the first major company to distribute sliced bread.
10. Indianapolis’ Gilbert Van Camp created his own American classic: Van Camp’s Pork and Beans. Van Camp worked as a grocer in the area and found that customers liked his recipe so much, he decided to start selling them to the masses.
11. Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America, and Indianapolis backs that name up, with six interstate highways crossing through town.
12. Washington, D.C. is the only city in the country that has more memorials and monuments that Indianapolis. The Hoosier capital comes in second, with 33 such commemorations.
14. Construction on America's very first Union Station began in Indianapolis in 1849.
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Indianapolis has seven bus shelters in its public transit system designed by architect Donna Sink, with a poem from a local artist adorning each one
16. The last concert The King ever gave was in Indianapolis—just three months before his death in 1977, Elvis Presley performed in Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena.
17. Indianapolis claims to be home to the world’s largest Christmas tree, a title the city has held since 1962. The tree sports 52 strands of garland and nearly 5,000 lights in the display known as the Circle of Lights.
The Indianapolis Zoo is a triple threat—it’s the only zoo in the country to be accredited by the relevant organizations as a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden.
19. Iconic American magazine The Saturday Evening Post is headquartered in Indianapolis.
20. Indiana’s oldest bar, the Slippery Noodle Inn, is located in Indianapolis. During Prohibition, the bar was frequented by gangsters, and even today, a few bullets from their target practice remain lodged in one of the building’s walls.
21. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, which now has offices in 18 countries, can trace its roots to a building on Pearl Street in Indianapolis.
22. Notorious crime boss John Dillinger, whose gang was responsible for dozens of bank heists and a handful of police station robberies during the Depression era, hails from Indianapolis. He quit school to work in a machine shop in the state capital before moving on to a life of crime.