Author: James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley, 1913

Born in Greenfield, Iowa, James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916) was a best-selling poet and writer, known as the “Children’s Poet” and the “Hoosier Poet” during his lifetime. As a young student, he struggled in school, particularly with mathematics and history. Later, he attempted to study law at his father’s request, but was again unsuccessful. Eventually he gave up formal schooling and went on tour with a riding show playing various musical instruments. Following his stint on the road, Riley returned to Greenfield and worked for the local newspaper while continuing to write poetry. His entertaining lectures on the Lyceum circuit and numerous newspaper reprints of his poems soon brought him a national audience. Riley was even invited on tour with Mark Twain, along with other famous authors and orators. His famous works include the children’s works “Little Orphan Annie” and “The Raggedy Man” (the inspiration for the Raggedy Ann doll).

A Monument for the Soldiers

James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley gained two nicknames: “The Hoosier Poet,” because his work often centered around his Indiana upbringing and employed Hoosier dialect; and “The Children’s Poet,” because children were the intended audience of much of his work. This rather different poem (1892) was adopted in the campaign to build a Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis.