Skip to main content

James Whitcomb Riley papers

Identifier: C-77
Collection contains 22 folders, containing six holograph poems, fourteen holograph letters, and one typescript letter. All of the poems in the collection have been published in Inter alia: The Complete Poetical Works of James Whitcomb Riley (New York, Grosset and Dunlap, 1937). Of the fifteen letters in the collection, only one has been published. The letters are written to longtime friend of Riley, Howard S. Taylor. The letters are personal as well as literary in content and cover the years 1879 to 1915 (the year that Riley joined the staff of the Indianapolis Journal as the paper's resident poet and humorist).


  • 1879-1915


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish materials, contact: Special Collections & Archives Middlebury College Phone: (802) 443-2387 Email:


1 Box (1 box, 22 folders)

Biographical / Historical

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) was an American author and poet. He was often referred to as the "Hoosier Poet" and "Children's Poet" for his dialect works and children's poetry. Endorsed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he worked at a number of Indiana newspaper publishers during the 1870s. His most famous works include "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Raggedy Man." Riley's works helped create a caricature of midwesterners, and he became a bestelling author in the 1890s. Riley continued to write poetry until a stroke paralyzed his right arm in 1910.


Collection is divided into two series: Poems and Letters. Collection's first six folders each contain a holograph poem by Riley (no apparent arrangement scheme). The remaining folders in the collection contain letters written by Riley to Howard S. Taylor, arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

Folder 22 contains provenance information: letters belonged to Howard S. Taylor, who received purchase offers from Carl Bernhardt of the Bobbs-Merrill Company (unclear if offer was successful). Also included in 1976 assessment of the colelction by John L. Buechler of South Burlington. At that time, the collection belonged to John. R. McKinley of Middlebury.

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States