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Jennica’s Final Project: Cinepoem

Click here to view the embedded video.


By Walt Whitman


Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form–no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space–ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold–the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.

Where Jennica Found Whitman…

Click here to view the embedded video.

A Hand-Mirror

by Walt Whitman

HOLD it up sternly! See this it sends back! (Who is it? Is it you?)
Outside fair costume–within ashes and filth,
No more a flashing eye–no more a sonorous voice or springy step;
Now some slave’s eye, voice, hands, step,
A drunkard’s breath, unwholesome eater’s face, venerealee’s flesh,
Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour and cankerous,
Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination,
Blood circulating dark and poisonous streams,
Words babble, hearing and touch callous,
No brain, no heart left–no magnetism of sex; 10
Such, from one look in this looking-glass ere you go hence,
Such a result so soon–and from such a beginning!

(Leaves of Grass 1981-92: By the Roadside)

Visitor Center Script: Whitman’s Lincoln Lectures

Walt Whitman's Lecture. Death of Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia: April 15, 1880

Walt Whitman's Lecture. Death of Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia: April 15, 1880


Arguably, Whitman loved his country more than almost anything else in his life. When Lincoln, who to Whitman “saved” the nation during the Civil War, was assassinated on April 14, 1865, Whitman was quick to respond. On April 16, 1865, he wrote, “…if one name, one man, must be picked out, he [Lincoln], most of all, is the conservator of it [the Union], to the future” (Whitman, Specimen Days 788). He added that even though Lincoln had died, the Union had not. This was perhaps the only solace Whitman found in the death of his hero.

While it is apparent that Lincoln was always an icon that Whitman admired, Lincoln’s importance to Whitman’s life was catapulted by the President’s assassination in 1865. Whitman viewed Lincoln’s death as akin to the many great and tragic deaths of history – Caesar, Napolean, etc… – and saw it as the final event that saved the Union and brought to a (tragic) close the chaos and turbulence of a nation (Whitman, Prose Works). Whitman conveyed these sentiments some nineteen times between the years1879 and 1890 in what became known as his “Lincoln lectures” (Reynolds 531).

While the elegiac poems are the most popularly recognized example of Whitman’s love for Lincoln today, Whitman’s annual Lincoln lectures defined his popular status in the late nineteenth century (Reynolds 496). Beginning in April of 1879, Whitman delivered these public lectures commemorating the President’s death (Eiselein 1). His first lecture, on April 14th, was organized by some of his friends in the New York literary social circle (Reynolds 531). He gave the speech seated on a chair in Steck Hall to an audience of sixty to eighty people. The entire speech was recited in a “conversational tone” and he ended the lecture by reciting “O Captain” (Reynolds 531).

The “Death of Abraham Lincoln” lecture begins with a statement of purpose:

“HOW often since that dark and dripping Saturday—that chilly April day, now fifteen years bygone—my heart has entertain’d the dream, the wish, to give of Abraham Lincoln’s death, its own special thought and memorial. Yet now the sought-for opportunity offers, I find my notes incompetent, (why, for truly profound themes, is statement so idle? why does the right phrase never offer?) and the fit tribute I dream’d of, waits unprepared as ever. My talk here indeed is less because of itself or anything in it, and nearly altogether because I feel a desire, apart from any talk, to specify the day, the martyrdom.…For my own part, I hope and desire, till my own dying day, whenever the 14th or 15th of April comes, to annually gather a few friends, and hold its tragic reminiscence…” (Whitman, Prose Works) [bold is our addition].

A tribute, to Whitman, is impossible because he cannot create one that is fitting enough. Instead, he hopes to remember the day and the importance of it. After this statement of purpose, Whitman begins with a history of the tumultuous conditions in the United States leading up to Lincoln’s election (Reynolds 441). Following this brief history lesson, Whitman reminisces about the times he saw the President. After this foundation is built, Whitman launches into his enthralling and vivid eyewitness account of Lincoln’s assassination (Eiselein 1).

“Through the general hum following the stage pause, with the change of positions, came the muffled sound of a pistol-shot…and yet a moment’s hush-somehow surely, a vague startled thrill-and then, through the ornamented, draperied, starr’d and striped space-way of the President’s box, a sudden figure, a man, raises himself with hands and feet, stands a moment on the railing, leaps below the stage…and disappears…

A moment’s hush-a scream-the cry of murder…” (Whitman, Prose Works)

Not present at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, Whitman looked elsewhere for this “eyewitness” information. Peter Doyle, a friend of Whitman’s who was at Ford’s Theatre the night of the assassination, gave Whitman an intimate account of the tragedy (Reynolds 440). Still, many of Whitman’s details were sensationalized. In his speech he included much of the sensational news reportage that was characteristic of nineteenth-century America (Reynolds 442). Many of these details, however, were only distantly related to Lincoln’s murder. Whitman concluded the detailed account of Lincoln’s assassination with commentary on the effects and meaning of the murder on the Nation. For Whitman, Lincoln’s assassination was “the ultimate violent American melodrama whose villain was a caricature of bad acting, whose victim was the hero of the nation’s greatest drama, and whose effect was audience frenzy on a massive scale” (Reynolds 443). Beyond this, though, Lincoln’s murder was the final event that re-solidified the nation. Lincoln, in his life and his death, achieved what Whitman had always hoped to with Leaves of Grass: unification of the Nation.

In this lecture, Whitman does not lament Lincoln’s death as much as he presents it as a culminating event in the midst of all the conflicts of the era. In essence, Whitman’s lecture positions Lincoln’s assassination as the tragic sacrifice through which the nation was reborn (Eiselein 1). In discussing the timeless and global impact of Lincoln’s life and death, Whitman paints an American tragedy. This tragedy was often punctuated with Whitman’s most famous tribute to Lincoln, “O Captain”.

“]Walt Whitman on Abraham Lincoln. New York: April 14, [1887]

Walt Whitman on Abraham Lincoln. New York: April 14, [1887

The most famous of Whitman’s Lincoln lectures was his lecture on April 14, 1887 at Madison Square Theater in New York. This lecture was arranged by two businessmen who were Whitman’s friends, John Johnston and Robert Pearsall Smith. These men arranged for Major James B. Pond to publicize the event (Reynolds 558). As a result, this April 1887 appearance became a memorable spectacle and a society event. The event drew a large society crowd including Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, and James Russell Lowell. The entire “performance” had a dramatic theme, including an ending in which a young girl walked on stage to hand Whitman a bouquet of lilacs (Reynolds 555). The spectacle did not end there, however, as there was a reception following the lecture that was at least as spectacular as the event itself. Even though the event netted Whitman $600.00, he had mixed feelings about it (Reynolds 555). To John Johnston, Whitman said that this lecture was the culminating hour of his life, but to Traubel he remarked, “It was too much the New York jamboree – the cosmopolitan drunk” (Reynolds 555).

If nowhere else, Whitman’s dedication to Lincoln’s memory is evident through his final lecture. In April of 1890, despite his failing health, Whitman gave his “Death of Abraham Lincoln” lecture for the final time (Reynolds 575).

Reading copy "Death of Lincoln" lecture, 1879, Bound printed and manuscript pages

Reading copy "Death of Lincoln" lecture, 1879, Bound printed and manuscript pages

Partial Transcription: “. . .the true spirit, the true development of America. Life serves, & death also-even the death of the sweetest and wisest. . . . With the first breath of a great historic triumph and in murder and horror unsurpassed Abraham Lincoln died. But not only the value he gave the New World in life survives for ever, but the value of his death survives forever” (Library of Congress, “Poet of the Nation”

Here’s a link to the full text of Walt Whitman’s speech, “The Death of Abraham Lincoln”.

Group members: Chris Countryman, Jennica Kwak, Tara Wood


Works Cited

Eiselein, Gregory. “Lincoln’s Death.” The Walt Whitman Encyclopedia.
Eds. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings. New York: Garland
Publishing, 1998. 30 November 2009
<> .
Reynolds, David. Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography.
Whitman, Walt. “Death of Abraham Lincoln.” Prose Works. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1892;, 2000. [30 November 2009].
Whitman, Walt. “The Death of Abraham Lincoln.” Specimen Days. Whitman
Poetry and Prose. New York: The Library of America, 1996.

All Images: Library of Congress, “Poet of the Nation: Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass.” an American Treasures exhibition:

“After the Battle” – a Walt Whitman Cinepoem, by Brian Reece

Click here to view the embedded video.

For a good accompanying soundtrack, listen to Kurt Bestor’s choral work, “Prayer of the Children.” I have tried to embed this particular musical piece in the video many many times, but to no avail.

Visitor’s Center Scripts – Whitman’s Family

On Walter & Louisa Whitman, and their first 5 children:

Whitman Family Dates

Father: Walter Whitman, Sr. (b. 1789, m. 1816, d. 1855); &

Mother: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (b. 1795, m. 1816, d. 1873)

Brother: Jesse Whitman (b. 1818, d. 1870)

Walt Whitman (b. 31 May 1819, d. 26 March 1892)

Sister: Mary Elizabeth Whitman (b. 1821, d. 1899)

Sister: Hannah Louise Whitman (b. 1823, d. 1908)

Brother: Andrew Jackson Whitman (b. 1827, d. 1863)

Brother: George Washington Whitman (b. 1829, d. 1901)

Brother: Thomas Jefferson Whitman (b. 1833, d. 1890)

Brother: Edward Whitman (b. 1835, d. 1892/1902 [some sources differ])

The second son [and second child overall] of Walter and Louisa Whitman [nee Van Velsor], Whitman had 5 brothers and 2 sisters.

Walt’s father, the carpenter Walter Whitman, died in 1855, and thus did not live to see any of Walt’s aesthetic work. Walt, however, did not believe his father would have appreciated Walt’s work any more than did the rest of Walt’s family [which was allegedly very little]. Walt believes his father would have still accepted and loved him, but not understood him, much as with the rest of his family (Schmidgall 34).

Walt loved his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and spoke much more of her than of his father. Walt describes himself and his mother as “great chums” and speaks highly of her belief in his ability (Schmidgall 33), though she never appreciated nor understood Leaves of Grass.

Walt identifies his family background as Quaker, though he describes his father more as a “friend” or “follower” of a Quaker figure and his mother Louisa as having Quaker “leanings,” “sympathies,” and “tendencies,” rather than as practicing Quakers (Schmidgall 34).

Little is known about Jesse Whitman aside from his being a sailor and his death. Even Horace Traubel, famously close to Walt, knew little of Jesse other than that he died of an aneurism on March 21, 1870 while a patient at the Kings County Lunatic Asylum in Flatbush, Long Island [an event about which Walt was informed by a letter sent the next day]. Traubel alleges that Walt never spoke of Jesse even when showing the letter to Traubel (Schmidgall 37).

Carrying on the Dutch heritage of her mother, Mary Whitman married a mechanic by the name of Van Nostrand in 1840 and lived in Greenport, Long Island. Walt visited her frequently but, according to Traubel, hardly spoke of her in conversation. In the conversation with Traubel in which Walt does speak of Mary, he refers to her frailty resulting from rheumatism, though she had been full of energy as a child (Schmidgall 34-35).

Hannah Whitman [also Hanna], often referred to in family letters as “Han” or “Hann,” seems to be often thought of but seldom visited or visiting. Hannah lived in Burlington, Vermont with her husband, Mr. Heyde. This marriage did not seem to be a happy one, as Hannah often would express frustration “that Heyde could be so amiable with others and hateful to her” (Pollak 226). Heyde appears an unfortunate real life Mr. Hyde.

Andrew Jackson Whitman is the least-mentioned of Walt’s three brothers named after presidents. His wife, however, was quite nefarious: She is referred to as a “foul slut” who became a prostitute after he died (Gohdes viii).

In general, Walt was not particularly close with his family. He says, “A man’s family is the people who love him—the people who comprehend him,” and explains that his family never understood him or his work. With regard to his blood family, he sees himself as “isolated” or as “a stranger in their midst”; instead, he sees those close to him [Traubel, the O’Connors and others] as his true family (Schmidgall 33).


Gohdes, Clarence and Rollo G. Silver, eds. Faint clews & indirections; manuscripts of Walt Whitman and his family. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1949.

Pollak, Vivian R. The Erotic Whitman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Schmidgall, Gary, ed. Intimate with Walt : selections from Whitman’s conversations with Horace Traubel, 1888-1892. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001.

Feminism – Final Project

Beginning in 1850 Abby Price, one of the forerunners of the Women’s Rights Movement, was a spokesperson for women and their freedom.  One of the rights she lobbied for was economic independence.  She felt that without it women would never have personal, legal or physical freedom.  “She demanded equal pay for equal work, and she demanded what we now call comparable worth.”  (Ceniza 63).

Over one hundred years later women still had to stand up for their rights for equal pay for equal work.  Click on the first link below to see a Public Service Ad from the 1960′s.  Use the back arrow to return to blog.

Price “did not feel that the home rewarded women with the high sense of morality and spirituality that her society kept telling her it did.  She saw such claims as bogus, as ways to flatter women in order to keep them in their place.”  (63). 

Although Walt Whitman valued motherhood, he valued women as equal to men and able to do whatever they wanted.  He believed that if women pursued interests outside the home they would be more satisfied and happier with their domestic responsibilities. And he felt women should have the right to choose how they wanted to spend their time.

Once again, over one hundred years later, women are facing the same challenges.  In the next ad we hear a male voice telling working women that they need to be themselves once in a while and that is done through baking.  Again, use the back arrow to return to post.

Both Whitman and the members of the feminist movement wanted women out in the real world.  In Democratic Vistas Whitman wrote, ” – but great, at any rate, as man, in all departments; or, rather, capable of being so, soon as they realize it, and can bring themselves to give up toys and fictions, and launch forth, as men do, amid real, independent, stormy life.”  He wanted women to become “robust equals and workers.”  (222). 

Women like Abby Price, Paulina Davis and Ernestine Rose devoted their lives to the liberation of women.  These women, along with Whitman, spoke and wrote for the freedom that women were entitled to.  Men of the 19th century did not take them seriously, reporting in newspapers about the fashions worn at the women’s conventions instead of the content of the speeches.  And, once again, over one hundred years later women are still being mocked.   The next link shows yet another ad that makes it clear that women can become working girls, but they are expected to fulfill their domestic duties at all times.   Once again, use the back arrow to return to post.

Where Adam B. found Whitman

Pardon the poor audio quality…

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
     singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
     at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
     the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
     robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

T.Wood’s Final Project – Cinepoem – “City of Ships”

I couldn't find a way to upload this file to the website, so I uploaded it to youtube!

Click here to view the embedded video.

direct youtube link (if you want to watch it “fullscreen”)

Final note:

All music chosen for this cinepoem was either of the time that “City of Ships” was written (1865) or by local musicians in either Philadelphia or New Jersey.

Green Leaves: An Ecocritical Reading of Whitman’s Camden Poetry

The following link is to my final project prospectus.  I plan to analyze a selection of the poems Whitman wrote during his years in Camden through the lens of ecocriticism.  It seems as though Whitman, like many of his contemporaries, eagerly anticipated the booming industry of late nineteenth-century America, but also recognized the potential environmental destruction that came as a result.

Click here for my plan for tackling this Green Reading!

Adam’s visitors center script–Whitman disciples–Sadakichi Hartmann



While doing a search project about Whitman’s racism during his Camden years, I came across an interesting story about a Whitman disciple named Sadakichi Hartmann. Surprisingly, Reynolds does not mention Hartmann in his book.

Whitman’s admiration for Asian civilizations is apparent in his work. In “Passage to India,” he suggests that the complete of the transcontinental railroad as the completion of Columbus’ voyage, and America as a connection between the great civilizations of Europe and Asia. Whitman had a circular view of civilization–Asia as the beginning of civilization, Europe as the absolute end. In “Passage to India,” he even advocates interracial marriage.

Passage to India!

Lo, soul, seest though not God’s purpose from the first?

The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,

The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,

The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,

the lands to be welded together (Whitman, 532)

Whitman was horrified by the Chinese Exclusion Act passed by Congress in 1882. Whitman threatened to denounce his citizenship in protest saying, “In that narrowest sense, I am not an American—count me out” (Li, 181). He made his view on immigration clear telling Traubel,

“Restrict nothing—keep everything open: to Italy, to China, to anybody. I love America, I believe in America, because her belly can hold and digest all—anarchist, socialist, peacemakers, fighters, disturbers or degenerates of whatever sort—hold and digest all. If I felt that America could not do this I would be indifferent as between our institutions and any others. America is not all in all—the sum total: she is only to contribute her contribution to the big scheme” (Traubel 1:113).

Whitman’s contact with Asian immigrants was rather limited since Camden had only two Chinese-Americans in 1880 and fifty-four in 1890. By 1895, the city directory listed 29 Chinese-run laundries. As their numbers grew, so did anti-Chinese hatred. In the late 1890s, white locals stoned, burned, and dynamited Chinese laundries. Chinese were frequently harassed, beaten, and on a few occasions, murdered (Dorwart, 91).

Whitman’s only known contact with an Asian American in Camden was with Sadakichi Hartmann. He was born in Japan in 1867 to a German father and Japanese mother and raised mostly in Germany. When his father disinherited him for refusing to attend military school, Hartmann immigrated to California. There, he was harassed on suspicion of being a Japanese agent. He moved to Philadelphia to live with an uncle and studied briefly at the Spring Garden Institute. A “dusty bookseller” encouraged Hartmann to visit the poet in Camden telling him, “He is living across the river in Camden and likes to see all sorts of people.” Hartmann visited the poet frequently and became a Whitman disciple, founding a Whitman club. Their relationship soured when Whitman told Hartmann, “There are so many traits, characteristics, Americanisms which you would never get at . . . After all, one can’t grow roses on a peach tree” (Hartmann, 8). Whitman was furious when Hartmann published some of Whitman’s catty remarks about contemporary writers in the New York Herald (Li, 184). The annoyed Whitman questioned Hartmann integrity to Traubel.

“In is in him something basic—something that relates to origins . . . He is a biggish young fellow – has a Tartic face. He is the offspring of a match between a German—the father—and Japanese woman: has the Tartic makeup. And the Asian craftiness, too—all of it!” (Traubel 5:38).

Just before Whitman’s death, Hartmann and his wife visited Whitman and the two made amends. When he learned of Whitman’s death, Hartmann was in New York and unable to afford the train fare to attend Whitman’s funeral. He went to Central Park and “held a silent communion with the soul atoms of the Good Grey Poet, of which a few seem to have wafted to me on the mild March winds” (Hartmann, 50).

Like many of Whitman’s disciples, he wrote a short book detailing his interactions with Whitman. In 1894, he wrote Conversations with Walt Whitman. Hartmann wrote became an early proponent of literary Modernism in the twentieth century. He wrote several volumes of poetry in the early and was one of the first to write English language haikus. He died in 1944.

Works Cited

Dorwart, Jeffrey M. Camden County: the making of a metropolitan community, 1626-2000. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Hartmann, Sadakichi. Conversations with Walt Whitman. New York: Gordon Press, 1972.

Li, Xilao. “Walt Whitman and Asian American Writers.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 10.4 (1993): 179-194. Print.