Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Golden Age of Indiana Literature

From 1880 to 1920 Indiana experienced a Golden Age of Literature. During this time, many of the most acclaimed American authors were native Hoosiers. Those remembered from this era today are George Ade, Theodore Dreiser, Edward Eggleston, Frank McKinney Hubbard, George Barr McCutcheon, Meredith Nicholson, and Gene Stratton Porter, James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Maurice Thompson, and Lew Wallace.

George Ade was born in Kentland and educated at Purdue University. He was a writer, newspaper columnist, humorist, and playwright. The subject of his fiction is almost exclusively ordinary average Americans who are most often either farmers or members of the middle-class. Ade is best remembered for his work Fables in Slang, published in 1899, which features a Midwest colloquia dialect rather than genuine slang.

Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, graduated high school in Warsaw, and attended Indiana University in Bloomington. He began his writing career as a journalist before expanding to include fiction. Dreiser’s best known work is his novel Sister Carrie, which was considered quite controversial when it was published in 1900.

Edward Eggleston was born in Vevay. He was a novelist, historian, and ordained Methodist minister. He is remembered for his 1871 novel The Hoosier Schoolmaster, which he based upon the experience of his brother who had taught school in rural Indiana. Its portrayal of life on the remote Midwestern frontier helped launch the local color movement in America.

Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard is an Ohio transplant to Indianapolis. He was a journalist, cartoonist, and humorist. Hubbard was famous for his cartoon character Abe Martin of Brown County whose comic strip ran daily in The Indianapolis News from 1904 until 1930. Abe Martin is a wisecracking rustic antihero brimming with small town wisdom and local charm. He has since become a figure in local folklore.

George Barr McCutcheon was born in Tippecanoe County. He attended Purdue University where he roomed with fellow Golden Age author George Ade. McCutcheon achieved fame during his lifetime for his Graustark series, which is set in a fictional European kingdom of his own creation. More recently, he is remembered for his novel Brewster's Millions, which has been adapted into several films.

Meredith Nicholson was born in Crawfordsville and spent most of his life in Indianapolis. He was a self-made newspaper man. Three of his novels became bestsellers in the early 1900s. The House of a Thousand Candles hit #4 in 1906, The Port of Missing Men #3 in 1907, and A Hoosier Chronicle #5 in 1912.

Gene Stratton Porter was born in Wabash County, Indiana, near the town of Lagro. She was a naturalist, writer, photographer, and film producer. The Limberlost Swamp near her home in Geneva inspired much of her fiction, including her best known novel A Girl of the Limberlost. However, despite Stratton Porter’s best efforts towards environmental protection and preservation, the Limberlost Swamp was drained and developed, leaving her heartbroken. A restoration initiative is currently underway in part of the former wetlands, which has been renamed the Loblolly Marsh.

James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield. He made a name for himself as a poet first for using  regional dialects and the common speech of everyday working people and then later in his career for writing poetry specifically for children. After his death, the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis was founded in his memory.

Booth Tarkington was born in Indianapolis where he maintained a lifelong residency. He is both a novelist and a dramatist. He won two Pulitzer Prizes: one in 1919 for The Magnificent Ambersons and one in 1922 for Alice Adams. He took pride in being a Midwesterner and set much of his fiction in Indiana.

Maurice Thompson was born in Fairfield but grew up in Missouri, Kentucky, and finally Georgia. He returned home to Indiana as an adult and settled in Crawfordsville where he spent the rest of his life. Thompson is best known for his novel Alice of Old Vincennes, which takes place in Vincennes during the American Revolutionary War. It was published in 1900, and in 1901 was the #2 bestseller in United States.

Lew Wallace was born in Brookville and spent much of his life in Crawfordsville. He was a practicing lawyer who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, attaining the rank of brigadier general. He also held the positions of territorial governor of New Mexico and the U.S. Diplomat to the Ottoman Empire. He began writing as a hobby, and his novel Ben-Hur became the bestselling American novel of the 19th century.