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James Whitcomb Riley
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    (October 7, 1849-July 22, 1916)
    Born in Greenfield, Illinois
    Wrote poetry and a society column for the Indianapolis Journal (1879-88)
    Poetry collections include 'The Old Swimmin' Hole and 'Leven More Poems' (1883), 'Rhymes of Childhood' (1890), 'Poems Here At Home' (1893), 'The Little Orphant Annie Book' (1908) and 'Knee Deep in June' (1912)
    Noted poems include 'The Barefoot Boy,' 'The Old Swimmin' Hole,' 'When the Frost Is on the Punkin,' 'Little Orphant Annie' and 'The Raggedy Man'
    Nicknamed 'the Children's Poet' and 'the Hoosier Poet'
    He was such a poor student that he was 20 before he completed 8th grade.
    He worked as a huckster for a traveling medicine show, sometimes pretending to be a blind man who had been cured by the tonic being sold.
    Early in his career, when he felt his poems were being rejected solely because he was not yet well-known, he wrote the poem 'Leonanie' and claimed it was a long-lost work by Edgar Allan Poe.
    The ploy backfired as most reviewers dismissed it as too poor in quality to be an authentic Poe, and Riley was fired from his newspaper job when his authorship was exposed.
    His frequent use of 19th-century Hoosier dialect can make his poems difficult to read.
    He was a heavy drinker.
    When friends locked him in a hotel room to ensure his sobriety before a speaking engagement, he bribed a bellboy to hold a glass of whiskey up to the keyhole so he could sip it through a straw.
    He played guitar and violin.
    He became popular reading his poems on the lecture circuit.
    During a multi-author reading in New York City, he upstaged Mark Twain.
    He helped launch the careers of poets Paul Laurence Dunbar and Edgar Lee Masters.
    His poems inspired the 'Little Orphan Annie' comic and Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.
    Woodrow Wilson called him 'A man who imparted joyful pleasure and a thoughtful view of many things that other men would have missed.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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