Here’s a virtual movie of the great James Whitcomb Riley “The Hoosier poet” from Greenfield Indiana USA. Who wrote in the distinctive dialect of his region. This sweet little offering is amongs his most popular poems “Little Orphant Annie” written in 1885.
“Little Orphant Annie” is an 1885 poem written by James Whitcomb Riley and published by the Bowen-Merrill Company. First titled “The Elf Child”, Riley changed the name to “Little Orphant Allie” at its third printing; however, a typecasting error during printing renamed the poem to its current form. Known as the “Hoosier poet”, Riley wrote the rhymes in nineteenth century Hoosier dialect. As one of his most well known poems, it served as the inspiration for the character Little Orphan Annie upon whom was based a comic strip, plays, radio programs, television shows, and movies.
The subject was inspired by Mary Alice “Allie” Smith, an orphan living in the Riley home during his childhood. The poem contains four stanzas; the first introduces Annie and the following three are stories she is telling to young children. The stories each tell of a bad child who is snatched away by goblins as a result of their misbehavior. The underlying moral and warning is announced in the final stanza, telling children that they should obey their parents and be kind to the unfortunate, lest they suffer the same fate. Riley recorded readings of several of his poems for the phonograph during the early twentieth century. Only four of the readings were ever released to the public; one was “Little Orphant Annie”. Written in nineteenth century Hoosier dialect, the words can be difficult to read in modern times; however, its style helped feed its popularity at the time of its composition. Riley achieved fame not just for writing poetry, but also from his readings. Like most of his poetry, “Little Orphant Annie” was written to achieve the best effect when read aloud
James Whitcomb Riley was a poet who achieved national fame in the United States during late nineteenth and early twentieth century. “Little Orphant Annie” is one of Whitcomb’s most well known poems. Originally published in the Indianapolis Journal on November 15, 1885 under the title “The Elf Child,” the poem was inspired by a girl named Mary Alice “Allie” Smith. She was orphaned at age twelve when her father was killed in the American Civil War. Smith lived near the Riley’s home, and they learned of her plight through a family member. Riley’s father was also a soldier in the war, leaving his wife Elizabeth to manage the household affairs in his absence. She brought Smith into their home in Greenfield, Indiana. As was customary at that time, she worked alongside the family to earn her board. In the evening hours she often told stories to the younger children, including Riley. Smith did not learn she was the inspiration for the character until the 1910s when she visited with Riley.
The piece kept its original title in its first two printings, but Riley decided to change its title to “Little Orphant Allie” in a 1897 printing. The printing house incorrectly cast the typeset during the printing, unintentionally renaming the poem to “Little Orphant Annie”. Riley at first contacted the printing house to have the error corrected, but decided to keep the misprint because of the poem’s growing popularity.
During the 1920s, the title became the inspiration for the names of Little Orphan Annie and the Raggedy Ann doll, created by fellow Indiana native Johnny Gruelle. The rhyme’s popularity led it to being reprinted many times. It was later compiled with a number of other children’s poems in a illustrated book and sold.
The verses of the poem detail the scary stories told by Annie when her housework was done, repeating the phrase “An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you ef you don’t watch out!.” [sic] It was popular among children, and many of the letters Whitcomb received from children commented on the poem. It remains a favorite among children in Indiana and is often associated with Halloween celebrations.
All rights are reserrved on this video recording copyright Jim Clark 2012