Adam L’s Visitor Center Script

December 10th, 2009

Eugene V. Debs, a prominent socialist, union leader, and once presidential candidate for the American Socialist party (receiving his nomination in jail), acknowledged Whitman as an influence upon his political ideology. To illuminate Debs’ connection to Whitman, it is best to start with their mutual friend, Horace Traubel, who “is best known as the author of a nine-volume biography of Whitman’s final four years” (Folsom). He transcribed many conversations he had with Whitman, which often focused on politics and, specifically, socialism.

Traubel was born in Camden in 1858 to a father who was a printer by trade and a fan of Leaves of Grass. Traubel shared his father’s appreciation for Whitman’s poetry, and when the poet moved to Camden in 1873, the young man befriended him, and they developed a close friendship over the next twenty years. Throughout their friendship, Traubel “often tried to convince his mentor that America’s democratic promise could only be realized through socialism” (Garman 90). Whitman warned Traubel, however, that his socialism was too radical; the two never agreed politically, and although Whitman’s socialism “was a pliable as the poet himself,” Traubel contributed to perpetuating a much more radical posthumous socialist legacy for Whitman than the poet had supported in his lifetime. (Folsom). In 1890, Traubel founded a monthly called The Conservator, which was devoted to reporting Progressive reform organizations, and to keeping Whitman’s works alive. “In virtually every issue there would be essays on Whitman, reviews of books about Whitman, digests of comments relating to Whitman, advertisements for books by and about Whitman. Often, Whitman would be presented as a kind of proto-Ethical Culture thinker” (Folsom). Traubel often attempted to “connect his idol (Whitman) to Eugene V Debs’ Socialist party” in the publication (Garman 92). Accordingly, Debs often wrote for The Conservator, acknowledging Whitman as one of his primary influences (Bussell).

Born and raised in the Midwest, “his fight against capitalism was inspired as much by Tom Paine, Walt Whitman and Wendell Phillips as it was by Karl Marx” (Platt). Debs was imprisoned for his activism several times throughout his life, arrested for his involvement in the Pullman Strike, and later convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison for speaking out against World War I (Robertson). He was later pardoned by President Harding, and died in a sanitarium.

Debs’ letters were later collected and published; his own words about Whitman’s influence upon his politics speak for themselves:

2-13-1908 EVD, Terre Haute, to Stephen [Reynolds]. I have been East. Agree with your letter about organizing; have an article about that in a recent Appeal. We have to do more than talk Socialism– must get our machine in shape for political action. Will get a list of Indiana workers for you from Comrade Wayland. Will try to carry out your suggestion that Appeal discuss organization weekly. Being in West Virginia reminded me of John Brown. You are doing an immortal service which Old Walt [Whitman] would applaud. TLS 2p E (

Works Cited

Bussel, Alan. “In Defense of Freedom: Horace L. Traubel and the Conservator.”


“Eugene V Debs Papers, 1881-1940.” 2004.

Folsom, Ed. “With Whitman in Camden.” University of Iowa. 1996.

Platt, Pam. “Eugene V. Debs: The Hoosier Socialist. Courier Journal. November


Robertson, Michael. “The Gospel According to Horace: Horace Traubel And The

Walt Whitman Fellowship.” Mickel Street Review v 16.


Where Adam L Found Whitman

December 9th, 2009

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.


(The Johnstown, Penn., cataclysm, May 31, 1889.)

A VOICE from Death, solemn and strange, in all his sweep and
With sudden, indescribable blow—towns drown’d—humanity by
thousands slain,
The vaunted work of thrift, goods, dwellings, forge, street, iron
Dash’d pell-mell by the blow—yet usher’d life continuing on,
(Amid the rest, amid the rushing, whirling, wild debris,
A suffering woman saved—a baby safely born!)
Although I come and unannounc’d, in horror and in pang,
In pouring flood and fire, and wholesale elemental crash, (this
voice so solemn, strange,)
I too a minister of Deity.
Yea, Death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee,
We mourn the old, the young untimely drawn to thee,
The fair, the strong, the good, the capable,

The household wreck’d, the husband and the wife, the engulf’d
forger in his forge,
The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud,
The gather’d thousands to their funeral mounds, and thousands
never found or gather’d.
Then after burying, mourning the dead,
(Faithful to them found or unfound, forgetting not, bearing the
past, here new musing,)
A day—a passing moment or an hour—America itself bends low,
Silent, resign’d, submissive.
War, death, cataclysm like this, America,
Take deep to thy proud prosperous heart.
E’en as I chant, lo! out of death, and out of ooze and slime,
The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help, love,
From West and East, from South and North and over sea,
Its hot-spurr’d hearts and hands humanity to human aid moves on;
And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting Globe! through Space and Air!
Thou waters that encompass us!
Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or in sleep!
Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all,
Thou that in all, and over all, and through and under all,
Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resistless, sleepless,
Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some ephemeral toy,
How ill to e’er forget thee!
For I too have forgotten,
(Wrapt in these little potencies of progress, politics, culture,
wealth, inventions, civilization,)
Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying power,
ye mighty, elemental throes,
In which and upon which we float, and every one of us is