James Whitcomb Riley

   James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) won fame as the Hoosier Poet. He wrote much verse in pure English, but he wrote his most popular works in the dialect of his home state, Indiana. Among his works are The Old Swimmin' Hole and 'Leven More Poems (1883), Rhymes of Childhood (1890), Poems Here at Home (1893), and Book of Joyous Children (1902).
   Riley, the son of a lawyer, was born on Oct. 7, 1849, in Greenfield, Ind. He left home after receiving a grammar school education, and worked for a time as a sign painter. He next joined a medicine show as an actor. In his spare time he composed songs and revised plays for the company. Riley came to know very well the dialect and the peculiarities of the country folk of Indiana, and he began to write poems about them. Returning to Greenfield, Riley worked on the local paper, then on the Anderson (Ind.) Democrat. In 1877, he joined the Indianapolis Journal. He began to contribute poems to several papers under the name "Benj. F. Johnson of Boone." These verses soon made him famous. He traveled about the country with Bill Nye, lecturing and reading his poems.