Indianapolis Pulitzer-prize-winning author Booth Tarkington based his juvenile Penrod stories, in part, upon his own experiences growing up in Indianapolis. First serialized in magazines in 1913, the stories were collected and published in book form in 1914. Penrod was followed by two other collections, Penrod And Sam (1916) and Penrod Jashber (1929). The Penrod stories made Tarkington a major figure in juvenile literature. Though they did not impress the critics, the stories were enormously popular with the average reader who felt them to be honest and endearing. The stories enjoyed a double audience, captivating both young readers and adults.

Title page of Penrod, 1914
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Twelve-year-old Penrod Schofield and his bemused dog, Duke, make high adventures of everyday occurrences—dance class, school pageants, girls’ birthday parties. Though Penrod and his companions are never exactly bad, their energy, inventiveness, and lack of foresight cause every episode to end in disaster. Because Tarkington’s boyhood in the Hoosier capital had been a happy one, the Penrod stories are charmingly nostalgic. In them, Tarkington admonishes his readers to remember what it was like to be a middle-class, midwestern boy “in the days when the stable was empty but not yet rebuilt into a garage.” 

The Penrod Society, founded in 1967 to support the Indianapolis Museum of Art (see Newfields), takes its name from Tarkington’s character.

Revised February 2021

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