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James Whitcomb Riley

James Whitcomb Riley (October 7, 1849 – July 22, 1916) 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. His poems tend to be humorous or sentimental. Of the approximately 1,000 poems Riley wrote, 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 poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's endorsement, he eventually earned successive jobs at Indiana newspaper publishers during the late 1870s. He gradually rose to prominence during the 1880s through his poetry reading tours. He traveled a touring circuit first in the Midwest, and then nationally, appearing either alone or with other famous talents. During this period Riley's long-term addiction to alcohol began to affect his performing abilities, and he suffered financially as a result. However, once he extricated himself from a series of poorly negotiated contracts that sought to limit his earnings, he began to accumulate wealth and eventually became a financial success.

By the 1890s, Riley had become known as a bestselling author. His children's poems were compiled into a book illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy. Titled Rhymes of Childhood, it was his most popular and sold millions of copies. As a poet, Riley achieved an uncommon level of fame during his lifetime. He was honored with annual Riley Day celebrations around the United States and was regularly called on to perform readings at national civic events. He continued to write and hold occasional poetry readings until a stroke paralyzed his right arm in 1910.

Riley's chief legacy was his influence in fostering the creation of a Midwestern cultural identity and his contributions to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature. With other writers of his era, he helped create a caricature of Midwesterners and formed a literary community that produced works rivaling the established eastern literati. There are many memorials dedicated to Riley, including the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children.

Birth and Death Data: Born 1848 (Greenfield), Died 1916 (Indianapolis)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1910 - 1939

Roles Represented in DAHR: author, speaker, lyricist, composer

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 51-75 of 90 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-19180 10-in. 2/14/1917 Our hired girl Sally Hamlin Recitation author  
Victor BVE-19181 10-in. 11/15/1928 Little orphant Annie Sally Hamlin Recitation, unaccompanied author  
Victor B-19181 10-in. 2/14/1917 Little orphant Annie Sally Hamlin Recitation author  
Victor B-20090 10-in. 6/26/1917 The prayer perfect Alma Gluck Soprano vocal solo, with harp and orchestra author  
Victor B-20303 10-in. 6/27/1917 There, little girl, don't cry Evan Williams Tenor vocal solo, with orchestra author  
Victor C-20304 12-in. 6/28/1917 Her beautiful hands Evan Williams Tenor vocal solo, with orchestra author  
Victor B-30019 10-in. 4/25/1924 Little orphant Annie Louise Homer Contralto vocal solo, with orchestra author  
Victor CVE-35199 12-in. 6/22/1926 When evening shadows fall Northeastern Saengerbund of America Male vocal chorus, unaccompanied author  
Victor CVE-39493 12-in. 9/1/1927 The bear family Mary Barbara Recitation author  
Victor CVE-39494 12-in. 9/1/1927 Little Mandy's Christmas tree Mary Barbara Recitation author  
Victor CVE-39495 12-in. 9/1/1927 Little orphant Annie Mary Barbara Recitation author  
Victor BVE-67795 10-in. 1/14/1931 On the way to school Anna Howard Female vocal solo, with piano author  
Victor BS-75511 10-in. 3/13/1933 The prayer perfect Richard Crooks Tenor vocal solo, with orchestra lyricist  
Victor BVE-[Unnumbered 1927-09-01-02] 10-in. 9/1/1927 The happy little cripple Mary Barbara Recitation author  
Victor BS-042788 10-in. 10/4/1939 The prayer perfect Margaret Speaks Female vocal solo, with piano author  
Victor [Trial 1915-02-10-02] Not documented 2/10/1915 A song of singing H. L. Hunt Vocal solo, with piano author  
Victor [Trial 1915-03-22-02] Not documented 3/22/1915 The man with his leg shot off Grenville Kleiser Recitation author  
Victor [Trial 1916-07-31-12] Not documented 7/31/1916 Portia's speech from 'Merchant of Venice' Mrs. Arthur Phillips Recitation author  
Victor [Trial 1917-07-28-02] Not documented 7/28/1917 Old October John Payne Recitation author  
Victor [Trial 1922-12-28-01] 10-in. 12/28/1922 Little orphant Annie Lydia Leighton Female vocal solo author  
Victor [Trial 1925-12-20-02] 10-in. 12/20/1925 Little Red Riding Hood Marion Chase Schaeffer Recitation author  
Victor [Trial 1927-06-16-02] 10-in. 6/16/1927 Little orphan Annie Ruth E. Carlsson Recitation, unaccompanied author  
Columbia 38956 10-in. 7/18/1913 The raggedy man Harry E. Humphrey Recitation author  
Columbia 39003 10-in. 8/29/1913 The happy little cripple Harry E. Humphrey Recitation author  
Columbia 39047 10-in. 10/16/1913 An old sweetheart of mine Harry E. Humphrey Recitation author  
(Results 51-75 of 90 records)


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Riley, James Whitcomb," accessed March 25, 2023,

Riley, James Whitcomb. (2023). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved March 25, 2023, from

"Riley, James Whitcomb." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2023. Web. 25 March 2023.

DAHR Persistent Identifier


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