Famous Hoosiers: Booth Tarkington

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

American and Hoosier native author, Booth Tarkington, head and shoulders portrait, facing left, 1922. Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booth_Tarkington

Portrait photograph of Booth Tarkington, 1922. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booth_Tarkington

As our series, “Famous Hoosiers” continues, Indiana has an influential lineage of Hoosiers authors such as Norman Bridwell, Gene Stratton-Porter, John Green, Lew Wallace, and Kurt Vonnegut, to name a few. As previously stated in ‘Famous Hoosiers: Marilyn Durham’, a few weeks ago, C.S. Lewis stated, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” Our focus today is on Hoosier author, Booth Tarkington.

Seawood Kennebunkport, Maine July 9th, 1941 Dear Mr. Lipsey: Thank you indeed for a letter that must encourage any writer to bask in sensations unbecoming to modesty. I haven’t been so rigid as to deny myself great pleasure from your indulgent appreciation of writings of mine; so please let me be, merely, Gratefully yours, Booth Tarkington. Source: University Archives and Special Collections

Correspondence from Booth Tarkington to Mr. Lipsey, 1941. Source: University Archives and Special Collections, Booth Tarkington collection.

Tarkington was born on July 29, 1869 in Indianapolis, Indiana Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017a). He attended Purdue and graduated from Princeton in 1893. Tarkington served as a member of the Dramatic Club, writing, directing, and acting in several of his productions. By the beginning of the 20th Century, he begun to write several best-selling novels such as The Gentleman from Indiana (1899), Penrod (1910), The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), and Alice Adams (1921) (Indiana Historical Society, 2017). He won numerous awards like the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for The Magnificent Amberson in 1919 and Alice Adams in 1922; moreover, he was the first of three authors to win the Pulitzer twice, along with William Faulkner (1955, 1963) and John Updike (1982, 1991) (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017b).

Booth Tarkington lived at 4270 North Meridian Street from 1923 until 1945. Image: Bass Photo Co. Collection, Indiana Historical Society. Source: http://historicindianapolis.com/in-the-park-tarkington-park/

Booth Tarkington lived at 4270 North Meridian Street from 1923 until 1945, n.d. Source: http://historicindianapolis.com/in-the-park-tarkington-park/

Tarkington was married twice to his wife, Laurel (1902-1911) and Susannah (1912-1946). He had no children. During his time, he was an antique furniture and painting collector (Indiana Historical Society, 2017). Tarkington passed away in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 19, 1946 (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2017a).


Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2017 April 10). Booth Tarkington. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Booth-Tarkington

Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2017 April 10). Pulitzer Prize. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pulitzer-Prize

Indiana Historical Society (2017). Booth Tarkington collection: Biographical sketch. Retrieved from http://www.indianahistory.org/our-collections/collection-guides/booth-tarkington-collection.pdf

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