blacktitle.jpg (12329 bytes)

Chronology of Lindsay's Life and Work

Based upon the chronology in Letters of Vachel Lindsay, edited by Marc Chénetier.

Lindsay's life was dedicated to the arts and was consumed, in various ways, by travel. As a young man he studied art in Chicago and New York, and when later he turned to poetry as a career, he continued his dual commitment to drawing and poetry by illustrating many of his books. His father, a doctor in his birthplace of Springfield, Illinois, supported Lindsay in his early writing career, when he was able to bring in little or no income from his work. With his family Vachel Lindsay was also able to travel in Europe and in China. In the summers of 1906, 1908, and 1912, Lindsay took walking tours from Florida to Kentucky, from New York City to Ohio, and from Illinois to New Mexico. On these tours he developed his own "rules of the road," stipulating chiefly that he barter for room and board by offering an evening's entertainment--reading his own poetry--or a half day's work the next morning. After he became famous as a poet in 1914, much the rest of his life was spent traveling across the United States earning the greater part of his income by recitations of his poetry. The principal source for the following chronology is the excellent, more detailed account in the Letters of Vachel Lindsay edited by Marc Chénetier, xvii-xxiii.

1879 Nov. 10: Nicholas Vachel Lindsay born to Vachel Thomas Lindsay and Catherine Lindsay née Frazee, in Springfield, Illinois.

1897 Lindsay graduates Springfield High School, matriculates at Hiram College, Ohio, where he takes up the study of medicine.

1900 Lindsay discontinues study at Hiram College, goes home to Springfield.

1901-1903 Art study at the Chicago Art Institute, also intensive period of writing.

1903 Art study at the New York School of Art.

1904 While home in Springfield, Lindsay has his first episode of visions. Much writing during this time as well as drawing, including his "Map of the Universe."

1905 Back in New York, Lindsay is dissuaded from a career in art by his instructors. More visions. Tries to sell his poetry on the streets in NYC, voluntarily teaches night courses in art history at YMCA, with such success that this soon turns into a paying job.

1906 March-May: Lindsay walks from Jacksonville, Florida, to Kentucky, some 600 miles.

1908 April-May: Lindsay walks from New York City to Hiram, Ohio. In August Lindsay is at home in Springfield, where he witnesses the race riots there.

1909 In Springfield, writing. Lindsay mostly remains at home, writing and drawing, for the next three years.

1910-11 700 copies of Linday's The Village Magazine self-published. Reviewed by Hamlin Garland, who exchanges visits with Lindsay.

1912 May-September: Lindsay begins cross-country walk from Springfield, intending to travel by foot to California, ends in New Mexico. On the way he gives out copies of his Rhymes to Be Traded for Bread, The Gospel of Beauty, and an illustrated book, all self published; Lindsay also works as a harvester in Kansas.

1913 Publication of poems in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, including "General Wiliam Booth Enters Heaven." "General Booth" becomes the title poem of a book published in the fall by Mitchell Kennerley and is awarded the Poetry prize for best poem published in the magazine that year.

1914 Recitations of "The Congo" in Springfield and Chicago. Publication of The Congo and Other Poems and Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty in the fall. Romance with Sara Teasdale, at one point headed toward marriage, comes to a crash at year's end when she marries Ernst Filsinger, a wealthy businessman.

1915 Recitation before President Woodrow Wilson and his cabinet. The Art of the Moving Picture published; for the second time, Lindsay honored for best poem of the year by Poetry, this time for "The Chinese Nightingale."

1916 A Handy Guide for Beggars published.

1916-19 Recitations throughout the United States.

1917 The Chinese Nightingale and Other Poems published.

1920 Three books published this year: The Golden Whales of California and Other Rhymes in the American Language, The Daniel Jazz and Other Poems, and The Golden Book of Springfield. In England, recitations at Oxford, Cambridge, and the Westminster Central Hall.

1920-22 Almost continuous touring in the United States.

1921 Summer trip to Glacier National Park, Montana.

1923 Publication of Going-to-the Sun and Collected Poems. Collapses while on tour in January, cancels schedule for rest of year.

1923-24 Lindsay teaches poetry at Gulf Park Junior College for Girls, Gulfport, Mississippi.

1924-29 New residence in Spokane, Washington.

1924 Several trips to Glacier Park.

1925 February: Meets Elizabeth Conner. May 19: Marries Elizabeth Conner, who is 23 at the time.

1926 Two books published this year: Going-to-the-Stars and The Candle in the Cabin. Daughter, Susan Doniphan Lindsay, born in May.

1927 Son, Nicholas Cave Lindsay, born in September.

1928-29 October-March: In great financial difficulty, Lindsay makes a marathon speaking tour in the East and Midwest that eliminates his debts. Special $500 prize from Poetry magazine for lifelong achievement.

1929 Two more books published: The Litany of Washington Street and Every Soul a Circus. In April Lindsay moves his family to Springfield. May 10 in Chicago, he recites "The Virginians Are Coming Again" at a féte arranged by Poetry.

1930-31 On tour with few breaks.

1931 December 5: Lindsay commits suicide, drinking a bottle of Lysol.

Return to Vachel Lindsay