Hoosier History Live!
Books by Nelson Price
Nov. 22 show
James Whitcomb Riley: before he was famous
Long before the "Hoosier Poet" became known across the country as a spellbinding entertainer, he had a colorful life. That was so even before young James Whitcomb Riley worked as a musician and sign painter on the traveling medicine show circuit, which Hoosier History Live will spotlight along with other, captivating aspects of the famous Hoosier born in Greenfield in 1849.
We will explore Riley's complicated relationship with his father, a Civil War veteran; his role in a hoax about a poem described as the long-lost work of Edgar Allen Poe; his schooling, childhood antics and sorrows; the visit of a Confederate soldier and a haystack of other aspects of the early life of the Hoosier who had written more than 1,000 poems when he died in 1916.
Nelson will be joined in studio by three guests who have immersed themselves in Riley's pre-fame life. They include historic re-enactor Danny Russel, a popular entertainer/educator who periodically will portray Riley during our show as he shares some of Riley's poems, both obscure and famous.
Our guests also will include two Hancock County residents deeply involved with the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home in Greenfield. They are Brigette Cook Jones, president of the Hancock County Historical Society, and Gwen Betor, past president of the Riley Old Home Society. (Brigette is secretary of the society). Both Brigette and Gwen are longtime docents at the home Riley's father built on the Old National Road (now U.S. 40).
As a boy, Riley became captivated by the circus, imitated entertainers and once was given a flying squirrel that he featured in his routines - before things came to a sad end. Nelson and his guests will share insights about that episode during our show, as well as insights about the series of jobs Riley attempted before he became a celebrity. They even included work as a Bible salesman and a shoe clerk.
So prepare for revelations, even if you grew up keenly aware of Riley's classic poems - such as When the Frost Is On the Punkin - and his national impact.
Expect some of our show topics to be humorous, such as Riley's desperate attempts as a boy to remove his freckles and what happened when he received his first pair of long pants.
Other topics will be poignant, including the end of his engagements to two women. His relationship with one fiancée ended in connection with his loss of a newspaper job in Anderson. And that's related to the "Poe poem," which was revealed as a fraud.
"People don't realize how much he struggled before he become such a huge national celebrity," our guest Brigette Cook Jones says.
History trivia: Our guest Danny Russel portrays other historic figures with Indiana connections, including Abraham Lincoln. And Brigette Cook Jones joined us in October 2011 for a show about the real Hoosier who inspired Riley's classic poem Little Orphant Annie.
Roadtrip: Evansville African American Museum
The museum is located in Lincoln Gardens, a "New Deal" public housing project built in 1938. Lincoln Gardens now houses the museum; it is located in the African American community of Baptisttown.
Similar to Lockefield Gardens, which was constructed and completed in Indianapolis between 1935 and 1938, and the Indiana Avenue neighborhood in Indianapolis, Lincoln Gardens was a largely thriving, self-sufficient community.
The Evansville African American Museum features panels presenting the history of Baptisttown and a wonderful display of artifacts related to Lincoln High School, which served African American students 1928-1962 and is now Lincoln Elementary school. The museum also features traveling exhibits.
Sondra Matthews, founder of Our Times newspaper in Evansville, led the effort to establish the museum in 2007.
After he became famous across the country, James Whitcomb Riley befriended many other notable Hoosiers, including fellow literary greats.
In 1893, another native Hoosier who was enjoying national attention joined the "Hoosier Poet" for a celebrity appearance at the World's Fair - the Columbian Exposition - in Chicago.
The other notable Hoosier was the author of a historical novel that became a runaway national bestseller. He also had claims to fame in several other endeavors, including military exploits. At the World's Fair, he joined Riley in the spotlight when "Indiana Day" was celebrated.
The other Hoosier literary figure even had served as the governor of a new territory of the United States and as a diplomat.
Question: Who was he?
The call-in phone number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any prize from WICR during the past two months. Please do not call into the show until Nelson has posed the question on the air.
The prize pack includes four passes to the Indianapolis Zoo and four passes to the NCAA Hall of Champions, courtesy of Visit Indy, and four admissions to the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.
Underwriting the project
Hoosier History Live welcomes new or renewal contributors Sue and Craig Thomson, Teresa Baer, Jane Hodge, Paul and Billie Fouts, Steve Barnett, Joe Young, Howard Creveling, Eunice Trotter, Dana Waddell and Clay Collins, Lorraine and Richard Vavul, Linda Gugin of Evansville, Marion Wolen, Jim and Marjorie Kienle, Tom Castaldi, Stacia Gorge, David Willkie, Kevin Murray, Jeff Swiatek, Dixie Richardson, Sharon Butsch Freeland and several anonymous contributors.
We are not staff members of any organization; rather, we are a small, independent production group trying to keep Hoosier History Live on the air, on the web, and in your inbox. Your gift goes primarily to support those individuals who are working so hard on the project, as well as to help defray the costs of maintaining our website, our email marketing software and our audio editing costs.
If you believe in supporting local artists, writers, historians and performers, look no further!
It takes only seconds to help us out. Just go to our website and click the yellow "Donate" button. Or, if you prefer the paper method, you may make out a check to "Hoosier History Live" and mail it to Hoosier History Live, P.O. Box 44393, Indianapolis, IN 46244-0393. We will list you on our website, unless you wish to remain anonymous. You also may memorialize a loved one if you wish; just make a note with either your online contribution or on your paper check. Thanks!
We also try to maintain some of those old-fashioned journalism principles about trying to keep editorial content separate from financial contributions.
For questions about becoming an underwriting sponsor (the underwriter level includes logos on our website and newsletter and spoken credits in the live show), contact our producer, Molly Head, at email@example.com, or (317) 927-9101. If you have any questions at all about how we are organized, please feel free to talk to our producer.
Also, the Irvington Library Listening Group continues to meet on a regular basis from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturdays to listen to and discuss the live show. If you think you would enjoy listening with fellow history lovers, just stop by the library at 5626 E. Washington St. in Indianapolis and ask for the listening group.
By the way, it's easy to form your own listening group; all you need is a relatively quiet room with comfortable chairs and either a radio or an online listening device to pick up the show from the live Web stream on Saturdays. We do have listeners all over the country. A weekly listening group is an easy way to get "regulars" into your organization or place of business.
A nice comment
Janie reads us 'cover-to-cover'
"I read the entire Hoosier History Live e-newsletter each week, cover to cover," says Jane "Janie" Hodge, an Indianapolis educator and former WTTV Channel 4 children's TV personality. "Or, as it is online, I should say top to bottom! I look forward to receiving it."
Who makes the enewsletter? The trio of Nelson Price, Richard Sullivan and Molly Head combine their talents and create it each week. In a world of seemingly increasing mediocrity in media, these three individuals seem to enjoy doing things well.
Nov. 29 show
Jennings County and Vernon
A county and its largest town in southeastern Indiana may have short lists of residents, but their histories are deep, rich and on full display to this day.
"More than 100 of its buildings date back to the 1800s, which is remarkable in a town with a population of less than 400," travel writer Jane Ammeson has written of Vernon.
Its rich heritage is intertwined with a raid during the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, paintings by acclaimed artist T.C. Steele, railroad history, a courthouse square and buildings that date to the 1820s and '30s.
Noting that Vernon was platted in 1815, a year before Indiana even achieved statehood, Jane writes that the town "is considered one of the best examples of a mid-19th-century Indiana community."
She will join Nelson in studio to share insights about Vernon and its home county, which is located about halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville, Ky. They also will be joined by Dan Wright, the mayor of Vernon; he has the distinction of being the state's only elected mayor of a town. (All of the other elected mayors are affiliated with cities.)
In 1863, Jennings County was in the path of Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his band of Confederate marauders as they made their way across southern Indiana. Pillaging and looting during a journey that became known as "Morgan's Raid," they demanded that the town of Vernon surrender. Instead, residents refused and deceived Morgan into altering his destructive path.
Civil War re-enactments are staged to this day, particularly during Vernon's annual Sassafras Tea Festival & Civil War Living History.
Other history facts we will explore during the show:
A nice note of support
'We hope to see it broadcast far and wide'
A particularly nice letter of support came in some time ago from authors James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain Thom. We like to re-read it from time to time!
Shows, we got shows
We have more than 200 Hoosier History Live! radio shows completed, as a matter of fact. And we need to get show audio onto the website, which we are doing by and by, but we sure could use some sponsorship assistance as we edit and publish audio for each archived show. Take a look at the list below and check out all the opportunities for sponsoring a slice of original Hoosier History Live! content on the Web.
No one else is doing anything quite like what we're doing. We are the nation's only live call-in radio program about history. We offer a permanent and growing archive of quality content, available for sponsorship opportunities.
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of Hoosier History Live!, click here or call Molly Head at (317) 927-9101 for more info.
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James Still, playwright in residence, Indiana Repertory Theatre
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Ken Burns, speaking at a preview of his film "The War" at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, April 18, 2007
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