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James Whitcomb Riley[JAMES_WHITCOMB_RILEY]


City of Residence: Greenfield, Indiana, US
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Biography James Whitcomb Riley

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Biography James Whitcomb Riley

Born October 7, 1849, Greenfield,Indiana, US
Died July 22, 1916 (aged 66)Indianapolis, Indiana, US

James Whitcomb Riley (October 7, 1849 ‚Äď July 22, 1916) was an American writer and poet. Known as the "Hoosier Poet", "National Poet" and the "Children's Poet," [2] he started his career during 1875 writing newspaper verse in Indiana dialect for the Indianapolis Journal. His verse tended to be humorous or sentimental, and of the approximately one-thousand poems that Riley published, over half are in dialect. Claiming that ‚Äúsimple sentiments that come direct from the heart‚ÄĚ[1] were the reason for his success, Riley vended verse about ordinary topics that were "heart high.
"Riley was a bestselling author during the early 1900s and earned a steady income from royalties; he also traveled and gave public readings of his poetry. His favorite authors were Robert Burns and Charles Dickens, and Riley himself befriended bestselling Indiana authors such as Booth Tarkington, George Ade and Meredith Nicholson. Many of his works were illustrated by the popular illustrator Howard Chandler Christy.

Riley was in demand throughout his life, including being a guest at the White House. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1912 the National Institute of Arts and Letters gave him the gold medal of poetry, the first poet so honored. He also received several honorary degrees.

Riley loved children but he never had any of his own; he also never married. Evidence points that he regretted his bachelorhood and childlessness. Many believe that his poems about and for children were written due to this regret. Others attribute his poems to his regrets over alcoholism and his possible affliction with syphilis.


Indiana honored Riley after his death in 1916 by burying him in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. The site of his grave is atop Strawberry Hill, the highest point in Indianapolis, offering a spectacular view of the city. Although Riley's poetry has fallen out of popularity, a few of his poems, such as Little Orphant Annie and Lockerbie Street, continue to be taught.

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