Once, Indiana Was "Mother of Vice Presidents"
Hoosiers were on a national ticket in all but three elections,1868-1916
Statue of former Vice-President Thomas Hendricks (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
With his appointment as president of Purdue, Mitch Daniels is out of the running for vice president, but there was a time when Hoosier candidates were automatic favorites for the national ticket.
From 1868 to 1916, Indiana became known as "The Mother of Vice Presidents." In 10 of those 13 elections, either the Republicans or the Democrats put a Hoosier on the ticket.
While Indiana is a deep red state today, Barack Obama's 2008 victory notwithstanding, Indiana University historian Jim Madison explains that in the years after the Civil War, Indiana was not only a swing state, but one of the few states that wasn't solidly Republican or Democratic.
"We start with the fact that all Southern states were Democratic states; it was the Republican Party, in the Southern view, that had begun the Civil War," Madison notes.
Indiana was not only closely contested, but one of the biggest electoral prizes on the table. The state had 13 electoral votes in 1868, and 15 from 1872 through 1928. Until 1888, Indiana offered the fifth-most electoral votes, and was still the eighth-largest haul as late as 1916, the equivalent of Pennsylvania or Michigan today.
Six Hoosiers won their races, including the only one at the top of the ticket: Benjamin Harrison, the only Indiana-born president. But Madison says none of the vice-presidential candidates left much of a mark. Teddy Roosevelt's vice president Charles Fairbanks was still enough of a political force to be nominated for vice president a second time in 1916; the ticket lost to Woodrow Wilson and his own Hoosier vice president, former Indiana Governor Thomas Marshall. Marshall may be better known, thanks to his reputation as a wit, especially his most-quoted one-liner, "What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."
Fairbanks' name lives on in his Indianapolis hometown in the Fairbanks drug treatment hospital, which was founded with money from the trust fund he created in his will in the name of his late wife Cornelia.
The first Indiana vice-president, Schuyler Colfax, left office under a cloud. Republicans dropped him from the ticket in 1872 amid suggestions he was involved in the corruption scandals of Ulysses Grant's administration. Madison says Colfax has been treated unjustly by history, a victim of guilt by association. He notes Colfax was a delegate to Indiana's constitutional convention in 1875, and took what at the time was a brave minority stand in favor of equal rights for blacks and whites.
In contrast, the next Hoosier VP, Thomas Hendricks, rose to prominence because of his opposition to the Union cause and to Reconstruction. He was one of the first northern Democrats to win a governorship after the war, a feat which catapulted him to national stature. He was the vice-presidential nominee twice, losing in 1876 and winning in 1884 with Grover Cleveland, only to die in office less than a year into his term.
In between Hendricks' two runs, Democrats nominated another Hoosier, William English, a former congressman who founded the First National Bank of Indianapolis. After Hendricks' second campaign, Democrats lost Indiana and the White House in four of the next five elections before tapping former state senator John Kern to run with William Jennings Bryan in 1908. The ticket lost again, to William Howard Taft, but the General Assembly appointed Kern to a U.S. Senate seat two years later, where he became majority leader.
With the exception of Dan Quayle in 1988 and 1992, the line of Hoosier running mates died out after Marshall's second term as vice president, as the state turned more reliably Republican. Democrats won the state four times from 1876 to 1912, the same number of wins they've posted in the 100 years since.