"This trove of Mr. Austin's
literary papers and artifacts reflects his important role as
Illinois' first poet laureate," said Stein, the Illinois poet
laureate since 2003. "A rare gift to our state's citizens, this
collection embodies the nature of a writer's work in the pre-digital
Howard Benjamin Austin was born in 1886 in Macon County and was
appointed by Illinois Gov. Henry Horner in 1936 to be the state's
first poet laureate, a position he held until his death in 1962.
Austin, an accountant by trade, lived in Pawnee and was known for
his folksy verse, often improvised on the spot. Only four people
have held the poet laureate position in Illinois -- Austin; Carl
Sandburg, 1962-1967; Gwendolyn Brooks, 1968-2000; and Stein.
The Howard B. Austin donation includes 162 photographs of Austin,
his family and friends, including the musical groups with whom he
performed -- the U.S. Army Band during World War I, the Dragoo
Brothers and the Pawnee Four. Audio recordings of Austin reading his
poetry are included, as are approximately 90 written items from
1936-1961, including poems, prose tales and letters. The donation
also features two books: "Howard B. Austin, 1886-1962, Illinois'
First Poet Laureate" (2007), by Howard's grandson, Roger A. Austin;
and "Selected Poems by Howard B. Austin" (1955).
The 2007 Austin biography is also available for purchase by the
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"My dad and his poetry had quite a profound impact during his
day," said Dean Austin, Howard's youngest son and a lifelong
resident of Springfield. "Our family is elated that his legacy will
be preserved by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library for future
generations to enjoy."
The Austin donation was announced during the last few days of the
presidential library's "Chapter and Verse" poetry exhibit, which
ends Sunday. The exhibit of items from the library's collections
features the four poet laureates of Illinois, as well as Vachel
Lindsay's art and poetry, a Valentine's Day composition by a young
Susan Lawrence Dana, delightful miniature books published by Ward
Schori of Evanston, campaign songs, political satire and poetry, and
images from the American Civil War.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is the state's chief
historical and genealogical research facility, with collections
pertaining to all eras of Illinois history. Its holdings include
more than 183,000 published materials, 10.9 million manuscripts,
462,000 photographs and other audiovisual materials, and 5,000
newspaper titles on 100,000 rolls of microfilm. In addition, its
50,000-item Abraham Lincoln Collection is the world's largest trove
of pre-presidential Lincoln material. For more information on the
presidential library and its programs and collections, visit
from Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum news release received from the
Illinois Office of Communication and Information]