Hoosier Authors: Johnny Gruelle

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

Headshot of Johnny Gruelle, n.d. Source:

After wrapping up our last blog series, “Famous Hoosiers”, many people loved learning about what Hoosiers have done to influence various industries, particularly in American literature. Over the next month, we are going to look at eight Hoosier authors. You may not have heard of them but some of their works are world-renowned! In our first edition, let us look at Johnny Gruelle.

Gruelle was born in December 24, 1880 in Arcola, Illinois; however, Gruelle and his family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana when he was two years old. At a young age, he was influenced by famous artists and authors because his father, Richard, was involved “Hoosier Group”. They were a group of impressionist artists; moreover, these individuals influenced Gruelle’s writing and artistry. His career started as a cartoonist in 1905 at the Indianapolis Star. From 1906 to 1914, Gruelle worked for numerous other newspapers such as the Tacoma Times, Spokane Press, Pittsburgh Press, Toledo News-Bee, and New York Herald (“Johnny Gruelle”, 2017).

Raggedy Ann’s Fairy Stories by Johnny Gruelle, c. 1928. Source: University Archives and Special Collections

As his career continued, he received some inspiration from his daughter, Marcella. He decided to write a children’s story based on rag doll that Marcella decided in their attic. Today, most people know this rag doll to be Raggedy Ann. His stories were published in 1918: Gruelle did all of the illustrations for all of the stories and wrote songs for Raggedy Ann. His inspiration, Marcella, passed away shortly afterwards at thirteen from diphtheria; this struck Gruelle deeply and affected his health. After his daughter’s death, he moved to Connecticut and Oregon within a span of a few years. Sadly, Gruelle passed away from a heart attack on January 9, 1938 in Miami, Florida (“Johnny Gruelle”, 2017).

Though he passed away at a young age, he gave the world one of the most recognizable dolls. Raggedy Ann is more than a doll: she is a symbol of love from a father to immortalizing his daughter for future generations.


Johnny Gruelle (2017). Retrieved from