Member Blogs > Books Tell You WhyJames Whitcomb Riley: The Children's Poet

  • Wed, 07 Oct 2015 08:00:00    Permalink

    James Whitcomb Riley entered the world carrying that rather weighty moniker along with him in 1849 in Greenfield, Indiana. He was a middle child of six born to Reuben and Elizabeth Riley, and was named after the then governor of the state. Despite the eighteen letters that his parents bestowed upon him at birth, James spent his young life trying to make a name for himself. After a failed attempt at law school, Riley worked as a house painter, Bible salesman, and sign painter. He later signed on with a traveling show where he entertained crowds with music and verse before selling them tonics. He once made the erroneous claim that he himself had been cured of blindness by using one of those same tonics. Traveling the Indiana countryside and selling his snake oil as the “Painter Poet” solidified his reputation as a Hoosier and a huckster.

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