James Whitcomb Riley biography

James Whitcomb Riley

Writer, Author

1849 – 1916


Who was James Whitcomb Riley?

James Whitcomb Riley was an American writer, poet, and best selling author. During his lifetime he was known as the "Hoosier Poet" and "Children's Poet" for his dialect works and his children's poetry respectively. His poems tended to be humorous or sentimental, and of the approximately one thousand poems that Riley authored, the majority are in dialect. His famous works include "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Raggedy Man".

Riley began his career writing verses as a sign maker and submitting poetry to newspapers. Thanks in part to an endorsement from poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he eventually earned successive jobs at Indiana newspaper publishers during the latter 1870s. Riley gradually rose in prominence during the 1880s through his poetry reading tours. He traveled a touring circuit first in the Midwest, and then nationally, holding shows and making joint appearances on stage with other famous talents. Regularly struggling with his alcohol addiction, Riley never married or had children, and created a scandal in 1888 when he became too drunk to perform.


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Oct 7, 1849
Also known as
  • James W. Riley
  • James Riley
  • United States of America
Lived in
  • Indianapolis
Jul 22, 1916

on July 23, 2013

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