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James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916) was an American poet, born in Greenfield, Indiana. At the age of 16 he left school and joined a group of itinerant sign painters. Subsequently he acted in a patent-medicine show and worked for a newspaper. From 1877 to 1885 he was a regular contributor of verse to the Indianapolis Journal under the pen name of Benj. F. Johnson, of Boone.
Some of the poems were collected in The Old Swimmin' Hole and 'Leven More Poems (1883), a volume that achieved great popularity. His best-known poems include Little Orphant Annie, The Raggedy Man, and When the Frost Is on the Punkin. Riley's popularity derived mainly from his quaint use of Hoosier dialect, his cheerful and whimsical sense of humor, and his intimate understanding of life in the rural Midwest. His other works include Rhymes of Childhood (1890) and Poems Here at Home (1893).
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