Biographies & Memoirs of Indiana People – Indiana Life Stories

Reminiscences of an Indianian

From the Sassafras Log behind the Barn in Posey County to Broader Fields

Lemcke, J. Augustus
Indianapolis: Hollenbeck 1905


From the Sassafras Log behind the Barn in Posey County to Broader Fields
Sketches –
– Wildcat Steamboating on the Wabash and its Tributaries
– Flatboating down the Mississippi
– War Times on a Mississippi River Steamboat
– Adventurous Times on the Tennessee River
– Mutiny on an Ohio River Steamboat
– Fording the Ohio on a Log
– A War Reminiscence
– The Fremon Campaign of Fifty-six in a Democratic Neighborhood
– Sheriff and a Riot

Some Sights Exceptionally Attractive and Interesting, as Observed in European Travels –
– A Glimpse of Italy’s Northern Lakes
– The Riviera from the Cornische Road
– The Great International Aquarium at Naples, Italy
– The Hill of the Alhambra
– Fairyland

Lemcke, Julius Augustus (1832-1911)

David Letterman

Lefkowitz, Frances
Chelsea House 1997

A biography of the late-night television talk show host, comedian, and comedy writer who first appeared nationally in 1978 on the Tonight Show.

Letterman, David M. (1947 – )

The David Letterman Story

Latham, Caroline
Watts 1987

A biography of the late-night television talk show host, comedian, and comedy writer who first appeared nationally in 1978 on the Tonight Show.

Letterman, David M. (1947 – )

Lincoln in Indiana

Murr, J. Edward
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University. 1917

This book length study appeared as articles in successive issues of Indiana Magazine of History. Abraham Lincoln moved with his parents from Kentucky to Spencer County, IN in 1816, at the age of seven, and he remained there until 1830 when he moved with his father and step-mother to Illinois.

See our full page of resources on Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln: Free online Books & other Resources

Lincoln, Abraham, U.S. President (1809-1865)

Little Turtle (Me-She-Kin-No-Quah): The Great Chief of the Miami Indian Nation

Being a sketch of his life together with that of Wm. Wells and some noted descendants

Young, Calvin M.
Greenville, OH: Young 1917

Little Turtle (Michikinikwa) (1747-1812)

The Pioneers of Morgan County; Memoirs of Noah J. Major

Esarey, Logan (PhD) ed.
Indianapolis: Hecker 1915

Major lived in the neighborhood of Martinsville in Morgan county from the age of nine in 1832 until 1911. Esarey, the Secretary of the Indiana Historical Survey at Indiana University, wrote in the Introduction that as far as he knew, this book was the finest tribute in existence to Hoosier pioneers.

Major, Noah J. (1823-1911?)


Nolan, William F.
Congdon & Weed 1984

“Steve McQueen was called “The King of Cool”, and his anti-hero persona developed at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s made him a top box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Cincinnati Kid, Love With the Proper Stranger, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, and Papillon … In 1974 he became the highest-paid movie star in the world.” – Wikipedia
“In his last years, Steve McQueen looked back on his life. Here is his own story, much of it in his own words, told to his friend, William F. Nolan.” -Book cover

McQueen, Terrence Stephen “Steve” (1930-1980)

Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel

Terrill, Marshall
D.I. Fine 1994

During his lifetime, Steve McQueen embodied the rebel image. Rough around the edges, driven with a passion not found in ordinary men, he was at once a loner and a leader. When McQueen arrived in Hollywood, even the biggest names had to learn fast that McQueen’s hard edge was no mere act, and before long then troubled street kid from Indianapolis was among the highest-paid movie stars in the world. The man many called crazy , who raced motorcycles and lived every day as if it were his last, was also deeply respected by his fellow artists. Edward G. Robinson, Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman, among others, ranked him among the best actors in film history.

McQueen, Terrence Stephen “Steve” (1930-1980)

“Judge Isaac Naylor, 1790–1873: An Autobiography”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 134-140

Naylor, Isaac
Bloomington: Indiana University 1908

This autobiographical sketch was written in 1852 for Harpers’s Magazine, but was never published there. Judge Naylor, who lived at Crawfordsville from 1833 until his death in 1873, was a circuit judge in a region comprising the counties of Tippecanoe, White, Montgomery, Benton, Jasper and Fountain. He was also a student of history and a veteran of the Indian wars and the War of 1812.

Naylor, Isaac (1790–1873)

Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue

Pauley, Jane
Ballantine 2005

“In this beautiful and surprising memoir, Jane Pauley tells the remarkable story of her extraordinary life, from her childhood in the American heartland to her three decades in television and her experience with depression and bipolar disorder. Encompassing her beginnings at a local Indianapolis station, her bright network debut—at age twenty-five on NBC’s Today—and her years at Dateline, Pauley delves into the ups and downs of a wonderful career. She addresses with humor and depth a subject very close to her heart: discovering yourself and redefining your strengths at midlife. Striking, moving, candid, and unique, Skywriting explores firsthand the difficulty and the rewards of self-reinvention.” -Book cover

Pauley, Margaret Jane (1950- )

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Cole Porter: A Biography

McBrien, William
Knopf 1998

In his life and in his music, Cole Porter was the top—the pinnacle of wit and sophistication. From the 1910s through the ‘50s, from Yale pep rallies through the Broadway triumphs of Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate, he delighted audiences with a glittering torrent of song: “I Get a Kick Out of You.” “Night and Day,” “Love for Sale,” and “Just One of Those Things.” The bright surface of these gems—their catchy melodies and ingenious lyrics—made them instant pop hits. Their more subtle qualities and their musical and emotional depth have made them lasting standards, among the greatest glories of the American songbook.
In Cole Porter, William McBrien has thoroughly captured the creator of these songs, whose life was one not only of wealth and privilege but also of tragedy, secrecy, and courage. A prodigal young man, Porter found his aesthetic and emotional anchor in a long, loving, if sexless marriage, while continuing to maintain many discreet affairs with men. In 1937, at the height of his success, he suffered a near-fatal riding accident; his last eighteen years were marked by pain, drugs, and repeated operations on his legs, years of physical agony but unstinting artistic achievement. Here is the book that Porter’s fans have long hoped for—a life that informs the great music and lyrics though illuminating glimpses of the hidden, complicated, private man.

Porter, Cole Albert (1891-1964)

Ernie Pyle in England

Pyle, Ernie
NY: McBride 1941

As a roving correspondent for a newspaper chain, Ernie Pyle earned wide acclaim for his accounts of ordinary people in rural America, and later of ordinary American soldiers during World War II. His syndicated column ran in more than 300 newspapers nationwide. – Wikipedia entry for “Ernie Pyle”.

Pyle, Ernest Taylor (1900-1945)

The Story of Ernie Pyle

Miller, Lee G.
Viking 1950

“Ernie Pyle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist. As a roving correspondent for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, he earned wide acclaim for his accounts of ordinary people in rural America, and later, of ordinary American soldiers during World War II. His syndicated column ran in more than 300 newspapers nationwide. . . He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for his spare, poignant accounts of “dogface” infantry soldiers from a first-person perspective. “No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told”, wrote Harry Truman”. -Wikipedia

Pyle, Ernest “Ernie” Taylor (1900-1945)

Reminiscences of James Whitcomb Riley

Laughlin, Clara E.
NY: Revell 1916

James Whitcomb Riley was a best-selling writer and poet. During his lifetime he was known as the “Hoosier Poet” for his dialect poetry, and was also well known as a children’s poet.

Riley, James Whitcomb (1849-1916)

Pioneer Recollections of Early Indiana

Sansberry, James W.
Privately printed 1901?

Sansberry came to Indiana as a small child with his uncle, and grew up in Muncie. He taught school there and then established a law practice in Anderson.

Sansberry, James W. (1824-1901)

“Pioneer Life In Boone County”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 332-346

Stevenson, Jane Gregory
Bloomington: Indiana University 1922

The author migrated from New York in 1834 with her family when she was a small child. In 1835 they moved from Marion county to a farm in Boone county, near present-day Zionsville. This article contains many details about the life of a typical farm family in that part of rural Indiana in the 1830s and 1840s.

Stevenson, Jane Gregory (1831-?)

“Gene Stratton-Porter”

The Indiana Historian September 1996

Indiana Historical Bureau
Indiana Historical Bureau

Gene Stratton Porter was a hugely successful novelist in the early 20th century and was also a dedicated and significant environmentalist. This 16-page paper employs many extended quotes from Ms. Porter describing her life and environmental work. Also a bibliography.

Stratton-Porter, Gene (1863-1924)

The Ideas of a Plain Country Woman

Strauss, Juliet V.
NY: Doubleday 1908

Juliet Strauss was widely known as a writer and columnist. Her “Country Contributor” column was regularly published in the Indianapolis News, and her column in the Ladies Home Journal, “The Ideals of a Plain Country Woman”, was read by approximately one million people a month. This book is a collection of columns from the latter publication.

Strauss, Juliet V. (1863-1918)

“Life and Journal of John Sutherland”

Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol IV, 1917-18, 362-70

Sutherland, John
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

Sutherland was a 20-year old, living on his parents’ farm in La Porte county, IN when he began keeping a journal in 1840. The entries copied here illustrate rural Indiana life at the time. They also record his attendance at a great Whig gathering on the battlefield of Tippecanoe in support of Indiana’s William Henry Harrison in that year’s presidential election.

Booth Tarkington

Holliday, Robert Cortes
NY: Doubleday 1918

Booth Tarkington was a popular novelist and playwright who was born into a wealthy Indianapolis family. He was best known for his novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams.

Tarkington, Newton Booth (1869-1946)

Major Taylor: The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer

Ritchie, Andrew
Bicycle Books 1988

One of the first black athletes to become world champion in any sport. Until now a forgotten, shadowy figure, Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor is here revealed as one of the early sports world’s most stylish, entertaining, and gentlemanly personalities. Born in 1878 in Indianapolis, the son of poor rural parents, Taylor worked in a bike shop until prominent bicycle racer “Birdie” Munger coached him for his first professional racing successes in 1896. Despite continuous bureaucratic—and, at times, physical—opposition, he won his first national championship two years later and became world champion in 1899 in Montreal. This beautifully illustrated, vividly narrated, and scrupulously researched biography recreates the life of a great international athlete at the turn of the century.

Taylor, Marshall Walter “Major” (1878-1932)

The John Tipton Papers Volume I, 1809-1827

Tipton, John
Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau 1942

The John Tipton Papers derive their significance from the part Tipton took, between 1807 and 1839, in the transformation of Indiana from a territory of Indian lands with a fringe of white occupation along the southern boundaries into a productive agricultural state struggling for internal improvements from the Great Lakes to the Ohio. He began his public career as a local official in a southern county, the seat of justice of which became the second territorial and the first state capital. He helped locate the permanent capital in the center of the state. He became a leading citizen in northern Indiana, was twice United States Senator, and was the owner of large tracts of land and mills and city property. He was a staunch supporter of internal improvements. He died at Logansport the year after he had removed the Potawatomi Indians from the state. His papers give an inside view of the growth, in a turbulent, dangerous frontier, of democratic political organization and of substantial proprietorships.
-from the Preface

Tipton, John Shields (1786-1839)

“Sieur de Vincennes, the Founder of Indiana’s Oldest Town”

Indiana Historical Society Publications Vol. 3, No. 2. pp 39-62

Mallet, Edmond
Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society 1905

Sieur de Vincennes was the commandant of a French fort on the Wabash river in the vicinity of the present city of Vincennes in the 1730s. In 1736 he, a Jesuit missionary, and a number of other French officers were all burned at the stake in a village of Chickasaw Indians located in the present state of Mississippi. Not much more was known about de Vincennes when the author began researching his life.

Bissot, Jean Baptiste, Sieur de Vincennes (1668-1719)

Vonnegut in America: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Kurt Vonnegut

Klinkowitz, Jerome and Lawler, Donald L., eds.
Delta 1977

Kurt Vonnegut’s death in 2007 marked the passing of a major force in American life and letters. Jerome Klinkowitz, one of the earliest and most prolific authorities on Vonnegut, examines the long dialogue between the author and American culture—a conversation that produced fourteen novels and hundreds of short stories and essays. Kurt Vonnegut’s America integrates discussion of the fiction, essays, and lectures with personal exchanges and biographical sketches to map the complex symbiotic relationship between Vonnegut’s work and the cultural context from which it emerged—and which it in turn helped shape. Following an introduction characterizing Vonnegut as Klinkowitz came to know him over the course of their friendship, this study charts the impact of Vonnegut on American society and of that society on Vonnegut for more than a half-century to illustrate how each informed the other. Among his artistic peers, Vonnegut was uniquely gifted at anticipating and articulating the changing course of American culture. Kurt Vonnegut’s America shows us that Vonnegut achieved greatness by passing his own test—opening the eyes of his audience to help them better understand their roles and possibilities in the common culture they both shared and crafted.

Vonnegut, Kurt (1922-2007)

Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C. J. Walker

Lowry, Beverly
Vintage 2004

Madam C. J. Walker created a cosmetics empire and became known as the first female self-made millionaire in this nation’s history, a noted philanthropist and champion of women’s rights and economic freedom. These achievements seem nothing less than miraculous given that she was born, in 1867, to former slaves in a hamlet on the Mississippi River. How she came to live on another river, the Hudson, in a Westchester County mansion, and in a New York City town house, is at once inspirational and mysterious, because for all that is known about the famous entrepreneur, much that occurred before her magnificent transformation—years that trace a circuitous route across the country—remains obscure.
By breathing life into scattered clues and dry facts, and with a deep understanding of the times and places through which Madam Walker moved, Beverly Lowry tells a story that stretches from the antebellum South to the Harlem Renaissance and bridges nearly a century of our history in her search for the distant truths of a woman who defied all odds and redefined conventional expectations.
“Wherever there was one colored person, whether it was a city, a town, or a puddle by the railroad tracks, everybody knew her name.”
–Violet Davis Reynolds, Stenographer, Madam C. J. Walker Co

Walker, Madam C. J. (Sarah) (1867-1919)

Lew Wallace: Militant Romantic

Morsberger, Robert E. and Morsberger, Katharine M.
McGraw-Hill 1980

Lew Wallace was the son of a governor of Indiana, David Wallace, who had been a graduate of West Point Military Academy and had established a law practice. Lew began studying law in his father’s firm in his late teens, then volunteered for military service during the war with Mexico. After the war he practiced law, entered politics, and continued his involvement in military affairs as a militia commander. When the Civil War began in 1861 he was appointed a Brigadier General in the Union Army. In 1878 he was appointed by the President the Territorial Governor of New Mexico, and afterward as the Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. In addition, Wallace was also a writer. His novel ‘Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ’ was a best-seller for many years, and made him a wealthy man.

Wallace, Lewis (1827-1905)

Lew Wallace: an Autobiography vol 1

– Volume 2

Wallace, Lew
NY: Harper 1906

“No more frank and informal record of personal experience has ever been written. In a way, no higher compliment can be paid to his story than to say that it is one of those grown-up books which a boy would read with understanding and enjoyment.”
“General Wallace’s war experiences were full of romance, adventure and inspiration. He has not failed to let his kindly, mellow sense of humor play over his narrative.”
– The Book Review Digest

Lewis “Lew” Wallace (1827-1905) was an American lawyer, Union general in the American Civil War, governor of the New Mexico Territory, politician, diplomat, and author from Indiana. Among his novels and biographies, Wallace is best known for his historical adventure story, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880), a bestselling novel that has been called “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.”
– Wikipedia

See also: Wallace, Lewis, Ben-Hur in Fiction – Novels from Authors W, X, Y & Z

Wallace, Lewis (1827-1905)

Collective Biographies

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940

Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress

This collection of life histories consists of approximately 2,900 documents, compiled and transcribed by more than 300 writers from 24 states, working on the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories. They chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, grueling factory work, and the immigrant experience.
– From the Collection’s Website.

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

Biographical and Historical Sketches of Early Indiana

Woollen, William Wesley
Indianapolis: Hammond. 1883

This 560-page volume contains about 60 biographical sketches of governors and other distinguished men who had passed away as of the date of publication; no living men were included. There are also chapters on “Free Masonry in Indiana”, “Madison from 1844 to 1852” and “Indiana Press in the Olden Time”.

Eminent and Self-Made Men of the State of Indiana vol 1

With portrait-illustrations on steel, engraved expressly for this Work

– Volume 2

Cincinnati: Western Biographical 1880

This type of biographical encyclopedia was produced mainly to sell to the men who were profiled. Nearly all the biographical sketches therefore were for fairly prosperous men alive at the time of publication. These two volumes contain several hundred sketches and over 200 portraits.

Some suggested books for genealogy research in Indiana: Genealogy & Local History – Indiana

Encyclopedia of Biography of Indiana

Reed, George Irving
Chicago. Century 1895

This is Volume 2. Volume 1 was not found. This 360-page volume contains biographies for approximately 150 prominent 19th century Hoosiers, with portraits of some.

Some suggested books for genealogy research in Indiana: Genealogy & Local History – Indiana

Governors of Indiana

Oval, Charles Joseph
Indianapolis: Oval & Koster. 1916

This centennial book contains one-page biographies of all Indiana governors through the date of publication, with full-page portraits of each.

See also: Indiana History Politics & Government

Indiana Governors

Men of Indiana in Nineteen Hundred and One

Benesch, Adolph B.
Indianapolis: Benesch 1901

About 250-300 men are included; indexed by city and by name. Each has a large photo portrait. No biographical information is found beyond professional title.

Some Torch Bearers in Indiana

Dye, Charity
Indianapolis: Hollenbeck. 1917

Each of the ten chapters has profiles of several individuals who were ‘Torch Bearers’, or early leaders. Some of the chapter subject areas are: Industry; Education and Religion; Patriotism and Statesmanship; Law, History and Journalism; Science and Invention; Civil and Social Progress; Art and Music.

A few of the individuals profiled are: Mother Therese Guerin, William A. Wirt, Abraham Lincoln, John Milton Hay, Dr. Logan Esarey, Richard Owen, Jonathan Jennings, Sarah T. Bolton, and Edward Eggleston.

For works about leading American women of the 19th century, see:
– Adams, Elmer Cleveland and Foster, Warren Dunham, Heroines of modern progress in Century Past Collective Biography A – F
Parkman, Mary Rosetta, Heroines of service in Century Past Collective Biography G – P;
Worthington & Co. , Our Famous Women in Century Past Collective Biography Q – Z

Logan Esarey, Richard Owen, Edward Eggleston, John Milton Hay, Mother Therese Guerin, William A. Wirt

“The Old Indian Traders of Indiana”

Indiana Magazine of History Vol. 2, Issue 1 PP 1-13, March 1906

Lasselle, Charles B.
Bloomfield: Indiana University

This brief history was written about 1860. The author provides an account of some of the early French-Canadian traders who operated around Vincennes beginning in 1702, and includes a list of traders licensed by Governor Harrison in 1801-2. There are also a few details about other trading posts in the northwest.

“Pioneer Stories of the Calumet”

Indiana Magazine of History Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 166-176; Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 347-358

Lester, J. William
Bloomington: Indiana University 1922

J.W. Lester from Gary, IN was a local historian who recorded the reminiscences of elderly people in Lake County who had lived there in pioneer times. This two-part article is a collection of seven of those accounts.

19 Stars of Indiana: Exceptional Hoosier Men

Maurer, Michael S.
Indiana Historical Society 2010

19 Stars of Indiana: Exceptional Hoosier Women

Maurer, Michael S.
Indiana Historical Society 2009

The 19 outstanding contemporary Hoosier women profiled by Michael S. Maurer — one for each star in the Indiana state flag — are leaders and pioneers who have excelled in a variety of pursuits, including law, business, philanthropy, government, medicine, music, art, athletics, religion, and education. Among the inspiring life stories are those of the first woman named chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Indiana, the first to establish a Holocaust museum in the state, and the first woman elected Indiana’s lieutenant governor. Maurer also introduces international golf and billiards champions, opera singers, a rabbi, the founders of Vera Bradley Designs and For Bare Feet, and others. Many of these women led heart-pounding lives. All worked hard, and with zeal, to achieve their dreams. Indiana women of every generation will enjoy and appreciate their stories.
Sarah Evans Barker
Mary Bolk
Angela M. Brown
Alecia A. DeCoudreaux
Christel DeHaan
Nancy Shepherd Fitzgerald
Eva Mozes Kor
Jeanette Lee
Sylvia McNair
Patricia R. Miller
Nancy Noël
Mercy Okanemeh Obeime
Jane Blaffer Owen
Ora Hirsch Pescovitz
Ernestine Raclin
Sharon Rivenbark
Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
Becky Skillman
Carolyn Y. Woo

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