INDIANAPOLIS -- Three IUPUI digital researchers have traced the first use of the term “hoosier” in a newspaper, back to 1833, and received a $2,000 cash prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities for doing so.
Kristi Palmer says she and colleagues Caitlyn Pollock and Ted Polley used the Chronicling America Database of digitized United States newspapers to track the term.
“From the get go it’s already connected to Indiana. Not always but you do see evidence as early as 1833 that its describing people from Indiana. And it often appears in this list of nick names," Palmer says. "If you were from Illinois you were a sucker -- that one didn’t stick. But, if you were from Ohio you were a buckeye, or from Wisconsin a badger.”
Palmer found many articles where the word had both a positive and negative connotation.
“This funny little story of a printer sitting at his desk watching a cockroach walk across his desk, and falls over and is struggling because its on his back. Then a friendly but burly and brusque cockroach comes over to help this friend and he refers to it as the Hoosier Cockroach, Palmer says. "So it’s combining that YUCK cockroach, but also YEAH he was a good guy even though he was burly and helped out his fellow roach.”
You can see that article and the rest of their research on the Chronicling Hoosier website.