Biography and History

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay was born on 10 November 1879, in Springfield, Illinois. He attended Hiram College (1897-1900), and studied art at Chicago and New York (1900-1905). Afterwards, he tramped across the country, writing and performing his poetry, and became entranced by small-town life. From 1910 to 1922, he lectured and recited poems at universities. Beginning in 1914, he lectured on motion pictures at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. He became the first American poet invited to lecture at Oxford, England, in 1920. Ultimately, he became a poet in residence at Gulfport Junior College (1923-1924) and a journalist in Spokane, Washington (1924-1929). His poetic leaflets included The Tree of Laughing Bells (1905) and Rhymes to Be Traded for Bread (1912). With the publication of The Congo and Other Poems (1914), he was widely recognized as an exponent of “new poetry,” and became in great demand as a public reader of his works. He was the recipient of many awards, including Poetry magazine prizes (1913 and 1928), the Helen H. Levinson Prize (1915) for the “The Chinese Nightingale,” and others.

Lindsay married Elizabeth Conner on 19 May 1925, and together they had two children, Susan and Nicholas. He died of coronary thrombosis (or perhaps suicide by poison) on 5 December 1931; he was 52 years old.

Source: From the finding aid for C0043