American Member, Academy of Arts and Letters


Born October 7, 1849, James Whitcomb Riley gave up formal education in Greenfield Academy, Indiana, early to do art and make a living however he could, as by sign-painting, one-man stand-up comedy, and medicine shows at home and on the road. He then turned to journalism, first in Greenfield, and afterwards with the Anderson Democrat and the Indianapolis Journal from 1877 to 1885, by 1879 as its resident verse-humorist. During this period he developed his Hoosier dialect and published some of his most loved poems, first in the newspapers, and then in volumes that garnered him many faithful readers:

  • "The Old Swimmin' Hole" and 'Leven More Poems. 1883.
  • Afterwhiles. 1887. PS 2704 A45 1898
  • Pipes o' Pan at Zekesbury. 1888.
  • Old-fashioned Roses. 1888. PS 2704 .O48 1889
  • Rhymes of Childhood. 1890.
  • Green Fields and Running Brooks. 1892. PS 2704 G7 1893.
  • Poems Here at Home. 1893.
  • Armazindy. 1894.
  • A Child World. 1896.
  • The Rubaiyat of Doc Sifers 1897.
  • Riley Child-rhymes. 1899. PS 2704 C5
  • Riley Farm-rhymes. 1899. PS 2704 C5 1899
  • Home-Folks. 1900.
  • Book of Joyous Children. 1902. PS 2704 B4

From 1882 until 1903, and with Bill Nye after 1886, Riley went on reading tours of the United States and received many honours, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1911. That year, on his birthday, Indiana and New York City schools celebrated his work, an honour that was extended in 1912 to schools nation-wide. A 6-volume collection of the complete works of this kind, wise poet of everyday Americans was published in 1913. His died, after having lived for some years unmarried, ill from strokes, with friends in Lockerbie Street, Indianapolis, on July 22, 1916. See also

  • Crowder, Richard. Those Innocent Years: The Legacy and Inheritance of a Hero of the Victorian Era, James Whitcomb Riley. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1957.
  • Letters. Ed. William Lyon Phelps. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1930. PS 2706 A53 1930 Robarts Library.
  • Revell, Peter. James Whitcomb Riley. New York: Twayne, 1970. PS 2706 R4 Robarts Library.
  • Russo, Anthony J. and Dorothy R. A Bibliography of James Whitcomb Riley. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1944. Z 8746 .2 R8 Robarts Library.