In 2016 we celebrate the Bicentennial of statehood for Indiana. One-hundred years ago, Gene Stratton-Porter contributed to Indiana’s Centennial Celebrations.
Indiana in the late 19th century and early 20th century, was in the Golden Age of Literature. Indiana was second only to New York state in the number of best selling authors and number of books they produced. Gene was part of this special assemblage of literary talent and was recognized as such by the Hoosier state.
Meredith Nicholson wrote the book “The Hoosiers” in 1900. It was about the literary figures in Indiana. This was published before Gene wrote her first book, “Song of the Cardinal” in 1903. For the 1916 celebration, she decided that a new revised edition was in order and called it “The Hoosiers: Centennial Edition.” Gene was included in this edition. Meredith describes her as “one of the most popular American novelists.” Her books that were written about Limberlost have “endeared her to thousands of readers.”
George Ade asked his fellow Hoosier writers to contribute a work of theirs to a book created for the Centennial Celebration. It was called “An Invitation to You and Your Folks from Jim and Some More of the Home Folks.” Gene was pleased to be included and contributed “A Limberlost Invitation” which was a poem that she had written. It was appropriate that Gene had created a poem about the Limberlost because she would be forever tied to the place that she made famous. This Indiana homecoming booklet and issued by Bobbs-Merrill Company, under the auspices of the Indiana Historical Commission. The proceeds from the book benefited the Centennial Celebrations. Others in this book were Gov. Samuel M. Ralston, United States Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, former United States Vice President Charles Fairbanks and other literary celebrities including: Booth Tarkington, James Whitcomb Riley, Meredith Nicholson, the Country Contributor Juliet Strauss, Kin Hubbard, William S. Blatchley and several others. Gene was in very distinguished company.
On June 12, there was a “Telegraph Tea” hosted by the Women’s Press Club of Indiana in Indianapolis held in the Riley Room of the Claypool Hotel. It was advertised as “novel and notable.” Gene participated by sending in a short writing called “A Limberlost View.” Gene wrote about her views of marriage and raising children. She wrote, “I stand for love, by which I mean a proper commingling of respect, admiration and passion….I stand for old-fashioned homes, won by work, love, mutual effort and both man and woman.”
Gene was asked to present a program at “Corn School Week” in LaGrange as part of the Centennial Celebration. Gene’s program was on Friday, October 6. After her program, she presented the Sweepstakes winning boy a gold medal in the corn growing contest with a special bound volume of one of her books.
“On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” by Paul Dresser is Indiana’s state song. The Wabash River wraps around Geneva where Gene lived for twenty-five years. We at the Limberlost State Historic Site would like to extend a special “Limberlost Invitation” for all to visit the site or attend one of our special events this year.
The research is a Bicentennial Legacy Project that was the inspiration for the Limberlost State Historic Site’s upcoming exhibit called Limberlost Then and Now.
Article was published in the Berne Tri-Weekly, Limberlost Notebook column, 29 Jan 2016, p. 4.