Golden Age of Indiana Literature

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First edition cover of Ben Hur, 1880

The Golden Age of Indiana Literature is a period between 1880 and 1920, when many nationally and internationally acclaimed literary works were created by natives of the state of Indiana. During this time, many of the United States' most popular authors came from Indiana. Maurice Thompson, George Ade, Booth Tarkington, Theodore Dreiser, Edward Eggleston, Frank McKinney Hubbard, George Barr McCutcheon, Meredith Nicholson, Gene Stratton Porter, Lew Wallace, and James Whitcomb Riley were foremost among the Hoosier authors.[1]

Wallace's Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ became the best selling book of the 19th century, and Riley became the most prominent poet of the age, writing poems that included "Little Orphant Annie". Thompson, Ade, and Tarkingon each authored several best selling novels, including Gentlemen from Indiana, Alice of Old Vincennes, and The Hoosiers. Dreiser, an open communist, lived the longest out of the group and wrote many works of fiction and non-fiction focusing on topics of importance to society. He was unique among the group in that he was greatly disliked by citizens of his own state.[2]

Stratton-Porter was a best-selling novelist and author of nature studies, poetry, short stories, and children's books. A Girl of the Limberlost (1909) remains her best-known work. Stratton-Porter was also a columnist for national magazines such as McCall's and Good Housekeeping. Eight of her novels have been adapted into motion pictures.[3]

The period corresponded to growth in other cultural areas including the creation of the Hoosier Group of landscape painters, and prominence of Indiana music composers like Paul Dresser.[2] During the decades of the age, Indiana ranked second among states in the production of best selling books.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Golden Age: Indiana Literature (1880-1920)". Indiana Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
  2. ^ a b Patrick J.Furlong (2000). Gale Farmington, ed. INDIANA. Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century. Michigan.
  3. ^ Barbara Olenyik Morrow (2010). Nature’s Storyteller: The Life of Gene Stratton-Porter. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. pp. 15, 140, 172–75. ISBN 978-0-87195-284-4. See also: Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair, eds. (2015). Indiana's 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 333–35. ISBN 978-0-87195-387-2.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)