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Indiana - Mother of Vice Presidents

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
One to three days
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will conduct research and analyze primary sources to investigate why Indiana could be called the “mother of Vice Presidents”.

Students will conduct research and analyze primary sources to investigate why Indiana could be called the “mother of Vice Presidents”.  28th Vice President Thomas R. Marshall once quipped that Indiana is known as the “mother of vice presidents” because it is “home of more second-class men than any other state” (Northwest Indiana Times).  This lesson is intended for high school U.S. History or Government students, although it could be easily modified for middle school students.

Note: The structure of this lesson, while specific to Indiana, could be modified for use in other states, particularly those such as New York (11), Massachusetts (4), Kentucky (3), and Texas (3) that have produced multiple vice presidents.  Similarly, it could also be modified to investigate the biographies and selected primary sources of presidents.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Six of our nation’s forty-eight vice presidents have been affiliated with Indiana (second only to New York’s eleven), including our current Vice President Mike Pence. While only one president, Benjamin Harrison, has been affiliated with Indiana, the state has played an important role in presidential elections frequently in our nation’s history.  During the course of this lesson, students should analyze what factors contributed to Indiana’s importance in presidential politics as well as what factors contributed to these men from Indiana becoming vice president.

Schulyler Colfax (R) – 17th VP from 1869-1873 (Grant)

Thomas A. Hendricks (D) – 21st VP in 1885 (Cleveland)

Charles W. Fairbanks (R) – 26th VP from 1905-1909 (Teddy Roosevelt)

Thomas R. Marshall (D) – 28th VP from 1913-1921 (Wilson)

Dan Quayle (R) – 44th VP from 1989-1993 (Bush)

Mike Pence (R) – 48th VP from 2017-present (Trump)

Two other men, William English in 1880 and John Kern in 1908 ran unsuccessfully for vice president.

Another possible point of discussion would be why Indiana has only produced one president, Benjamin Harrison, but six vice presidents.

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Use the Constitution of the United States to investigate and describe the constitutional duties of the Vice President.


  • Describe the factors that led to the number of vice presidents being elected from Indiana.


  • Conduct research on the biographies of the six Indiana vice presidents and summarize those findings.


  • Collaborate with other students to analyze primary source documents and apply this analysis to events from the vice presidents’ biographies.
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • Indiana USH.9.2            Locate and analyze primary sources and secondary sources related to an event or issue of the past; discover possible limitations in various kinds of historical evidence and differing secondary opinions.
  • Indiana USG.3.1            Analyze the United States Constitution and explain characteristics of government in the United States, which define it as a federal, presidential, constitutional and representative democracy.
Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

Biographies from U.S. Senate website:

Schuyler Colfax

Thomas A. Hendricks

Charles W. Fairbanks

Thomas R. Marshall

J. Danforth Quayle

Mike Pence

Mike Pence biography from website (better bio)

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • The Constitution of the United States

Article I (source:  National Constitution Center)

Article II (source:  National Constitution Center)

25th Amendment (source:  National Constitution Center)


  • Schuyler Colfax
  1. 1868 Republican presidential ticket campaign poster – Grant, Colfax (source:  Library of Congress)
  2. 1872 Republican presidential ticket campaign poster – Grant, Wilson (source:  Library of Congress)
  3. Newspaper article about the Credit Mobilier scandal – New York Sun, September 4, 1872 (source:  Chronicling America-Historic American Newspapers).
  4. Colfax political cartoon from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 8, 1873 (source: Wikimedia Commons - public domain)
  5. Colfax obituary – Daily Wabash Express, Terre Haute, Indiana (source: Hoosier State Chronicles)


  • Thomas Hendricks 
  1.  1876 Democratic presidential ticket campaign poster – Tilden, Hendricks (source:  Library of Congress)
  2. Political cartoon about 1884 presidential campaign – left to right: Blaine, Logan, Hendricks, Cleveland (source: Library of Congress)
  3. 1884 Democratic presidential ticket campaign poster – Cleveland, Hendricks (source:  Wikimedia Commons)
  4. 1888 Democratic presidential ticket campaign poster – Cleveland, Thurman (source:  Library of Congress)


  • Charles W. Fairbanks 
  1. Political cartoon:  Robinson Crusoe Fairbanks – Puck magazine, 1906 (source:  Library of Congress)
  2. Political cartoon:  Drawing the Line in Mississippi – Washington Post, 1902 (source:  Wikipedia – public domain)
  3. Political cartoon:  The Charliebear – Puck magazine, 1907 (source:  Library of Congress)
  4. 1916 Republican presidential ticket campaign poster – Hughes, Fairbanks (source:


  • Thomas R. Marshall
  1. Political cartoon – Some burden, believe us – Puck magazine, 1913 (source:  Library of Congress)
  2. 1916 photograph of campaign truck with Wilson/Marshall re-election messages, including that Wilson “keeps us out of war” (source:  First World War Hidden History)
  3. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall drawing draft capsule (source:  Library of Congress)
  4. Inaugural Address of Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, March 5, 1917 (source:  Library of Congress)


  • Dan Quayle
  1. Dan Quayle political cartoon 
  2. Dan Quayle quotes (source:  Wikiquote)
  3. Dan Quayle “potato” misspelling (source:  YouTube)
  4. The President’s Council of Competitiveness Fact Sheet (Quayle was chair)


  • Mike Pence


  1. Mike Pence signing RFRA (religious freedom) law as Indiana governor (source:  WRTV News)
  2. Political cartoon – Indiana Religious Freedom Law by Daryl Cagle (source:
  3. Political cartoon – Hardest Working Man in Showbiz by Tim Campbell (source:  The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists)
  4. Political cartoon – Mike Pence, the relief pitcher by Gary Varvel (source:  The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists)
  5. Check out the number of tie-breaking votes vice presidents have cast in the U.S. Senate (source:
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?
  1. Students will use the Constitution of the United States to investigate and describe the constitutional duties of the Vice President.  Students should focus on Article I, Section 3 (The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided) and Article II, Section 1.

Discussion points:  Students should understand that the vice presidency has very few constitutional duties.  It might be effective to supplement this discussion with quotes from former vice presidents regarding those duties (source:  The Washington Post – for entire article):

  • ·         John Adams, the first person to utterly despise the vice presidency: "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived."
  • ·         Teddy Roosevelt, before becoming vice president: "I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than Vice-President." (He also said that the position is "not a steppingstone to anything except oblivion.") 
  • ·         Former vice president Thomas R. Marshall: "Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the othe