James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), a native of Greenfield, Indiana, was a newspaper editor before concentrating on his poetry. He began publishing poems in local newspapers during the mid-1870s and increased his fame by reciting his work on a traveling circuit in the 1880s. Riley, then based in Indianapolis, was one of the most famous writers in the United States by the 1890s. He is known for his use of local dialects and his depictions of life in Indiana.
James Newton Matthews (1852-1910) grew up in Greencastle, Indiana, and Mason, Illinois. In 1868, he became the first student to enroll at the Illinois Industrial University (now the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign); following his graduation in 1872, he earned medical degrees from Missouri Medical College (1878) and the renamed University of Illinois (1894). Matthews had a private practice in Mason, Illinois, and published two collections of poetry.
Manlove, Donald C. "Riley, James Whitcomb." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000. doi: 16-01384
Weaver, George H. "Matthews, James Newton." American Medical Biographies, ed. Howard A. Kelly and Walter L. Burrage. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company, 1920. 768-769.
Restrictions: The collection is open for research.
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Acquisition Note: Source: Donated by John Needels Chester.
The letters arrived at the library with a copy of Afterwhiles (811 R45A 1888); this copy contains a manuscript inscription from James Whitcomb Riley to James Newton Matthews.
Finding Aid Revisions: Revised by Meg Hixon, September 2016
Scope and Contents: This collection consists of two personal letters that James Whitcomb Riley wrote to James Newton Matthews on June 10, 1890, and November 12, 1890. See the Detailed Description for more information on each letter.