The misfortunes of the vice presidents from Indiana

By Christian Sullivan

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana has produced five vice presidents, but history shows that they didn’t have the best of luck once in office.

“I just want to give Mike Pence an advanced warning that sometimes Hoosiers and the vice presidency do not go well together,” said Ray Boomhower, senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society Press.

From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, Indiana was one of the most influential swing states in the country because of its large population. In 60 percent of the presidential elections during those years, Indiana furnished a presidential or vice presidential candidate, Boomhower said.

Indiana has produced five vice presidents:

  • Schuyler Colfax, was vice president to Republican Ulysses S. Grant from 1869-1873
  • Thomas Hendricks, was vice president to Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1885
  • Charles Fairbanks, was vice president to Republican Theodore Roosevelt from 1905-1909
  • Thomas Riley Marshall, was vice president to Democrat Woodrow Wilson from 1913-1921
  • J. Danforth Quayle, was vice president to Republican George H. W. Bush from 1989-1993

Colfax jumped the gun late in his term when he was unsure if Grant would run again. He began promoting himself as the next presidential nominee, Boomhower said. When Grant decided to run for a second term, Colfax was dumped from the ticket.

Colfax was implicated in a bribery scandal involving the transcontinental railroad.  Although no charges were ever made against him, his reputation was damaged after being accused of accepting stock in the railroad business.

Hendricks ran as vice president in 1876 with Democrat Samuel J. Tilden but lost in electoral votes. He then ran again in 1884 with Cleveland and won, but Hendricks died in his sleep the next year.

Fairbanks fell to scandal, which led him to be nicknamed “Cocktail Charlie,” Boomhower said. Fairbanks was known for advocating for buttermilk instead of alcohol because of his strict Methodist practices. He became the center of controversy when, at a speech given by Roosevelt, he allowed cocktails to be served.

Marshall was in a delicate situation when Wilson suffered a stroke, leaving him incapable of doing his job, Boomhower said. However, at the time, there was no provision for the vice president to take over for an incapacitated president and as a result could not push Wilson aside and take over.

Quayle encountered some controversy as vice president. He was the object of late night comedians when he misspelled potato in front of a class of 12-year-olds and criticized the television show, “Murphy Brown,” as an example of pop culture contributing to the decay of moral values.

Given the history of Hoosier vice presidents, Pence might want to tread carefully.

Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, gave insight as to why Pence was picked as VP.

“People may argue the main reason he was chosen was that he fit the bill for almost exactly for what Donald Trump said he was looking for in a vice presidential candidate,” said Downs.

Downs said that Pence “had a national presence, and is upwardly mobile as well, and that made him a good choice.”

Christian Sullivan is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Share This Post

One Response to The misfortunes of the vice presidents from Indiana

  1. Do your homework , Quayle just read what was on a card. He didn’t write it or misspell. Also history shows he was correct about pop culture . Those are the best (worst) you could come up with. Pretty lame!