By Mary Giorgio
Mention the name Cole Porter and most Americans will conjure the image of a great Broadway talent. During his career, Porter wrote well over 100 Broadway songs. He was also one of the few songwriters of his day to write both lyrics and music for his songs. Porter’s hits include “Night and Day,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “Anything Goes.” Many people don’t know that the famed American composer is a native Hoosier, born and raised in Peru, Indiana.
Porter was born on June 9, 1891, in Peru, Indiana. His father was a druggist and his mother was the daughter of James Omar Cole, known at the time as “the richest man in Indiana.” Cole had earned his fortune in the coal and timber industries. He was heavily involved in the family’s affairs and paid for much of young Porter’s education.
Porter’s mother encouraged his interest in music. By age 6, he was taking violin and piano lessons, although he quickly developed a preference for the piano. At age 10, Porter wrote his first operetta, which his mother succeeded in getting published.
At the age of 13, Porter left Indiana to study at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. He was said to have arrived at the boarding school with his upright piano in tow and made friends by delighting the other boys with his tunes. In 1909, Porter enrolled at Yale University. There, he studied English, music, and French. At Yale, Porter joined many musical groups. He was an early member of the Whittenpoofs a cappella group and as a senior, served as president of the Yale Glee Club. During his Yale years, Porter wrote 300 songs, including Yale’s famous football fight songs “Bulldog” and “Bingo Eli Yale.”
Porter’s grandfather insisted that he study law, so in 1913, he enrolled at Harvard Law School. He soon realized that the program was not for him and switched to the music. Porter’s mother supported the move, but was said to have hidden the switch from her father.