Walt Whitman Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1819 - 1892 *** Full Name: Walter Whitman *** Nickname: Walt *** Occupation: American Poet, Essayist and Journalist *** Date of Birth: Walt Whitman was born on May 31st 1819 *** Place of Birth: Walt Whitman was born in Huntingdon, Long Island, New York, U.S. *** Family background: His father was Walter Whitman Sr and his mother was Louisa Van Velsor. His parents were keenly interested in the Quakers *** Early life and childhood: He grew up eight siblings and was given the nickname Walt so as to know when he was being spoken to and not his father. When Walt was four years old the family moved to West Hills in Brooklyn and proceeding to move fairly often for financial reasons *** Education: Walt Whitman went to school but finished his formal education at just eleven years of age ***
Walt Whitman Fact 1: Walt Whitman was born on May 31st 1819 and during the 19th century period in history when many empires across the globe collapsed, the Spanish, first and second French, Holy Roman, Mughal and Chinese but the British and Russian Empires, the United States and German Empire where on the rise.
Walt Whitman Fact 2: Having left school he was required to find a job to help bring money into the family. He worked for two lawyers as an office boy before going to work for the Patriot, a weekly paper in Long Island as a printer’s devil and apprentice, but the job did not last very long.
Walt Whitman Fact 3: During the following summer his family decided to move back to West Hills but by then Walt was working for another printer in Brooklyn, Erastus Worthington.
Walt Whitman Fact 4: He then began working for the editor of the leading Whig newspaper the Long-Island Star for Alden Spooner who produced the paper weekly.
Walt Whitman Fact 5: While working for Spooner Walt also began to visit the local library frequently as well as joining the local town debating society and going to theater performances. At this time he published some of his earliest work in the New York Mirror.
Walt Whitman Fact 6: In 1835 aged sixteen he set out for New York and began work as a compositor. After that work began to dry up partly because of a fire in the local printing area and also generally due to collapsing of the economy in the lead up to the Panic of 1837.
Walt Whitman Fact 7: Eventually he had no choice but to return to his family and took up a teaching position, although it was not what he wanted.
Walt Whitman Fact 8: In the end he decided in 1838 he returned to Huntington in New York to start up his own paper and called it the Long Islander. He covered most jobs as the publisher, editor, pressman and distributor and also started deliveries to people’s homes.
Walt Whitman Fact 9: He sold his paper and moved on to another position as a typesetter although again this was short lived and he made a return to teaching between 1840 and 1841. While teaching he wrote for three publications a series of ten editorials and adopted a constructed persona, something he continued to do throughout his career.
Walt Whitman Fact 10: The editorials were called “Sun-Down Papers – From the Desk of a Teacher”.
Walt Whitman Fact 11: He moved from paper to paper over the next decade until he realized he wanted to become a poet.
Walt Whitman Fact 12: In early 1850 he would begin to write Leaves of Grass and would continue this collection of poetry revising it and editing it many times.
Walt Whitman Fact 13: He publishes his first edition himself, in total seven hundred and ninety five copies but does not give his name as the author but part the way through the tomb his writes "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest".
Walt Whitman Fact 14: The first edition went very well, especially when given praise by Ralph Waldo Emerson but the edition was soon criticized for its content.
Walt Whitman Fact 15: Walt revised and reprinted the book in 1860 and yet again in 1867 and even after that up until he died.
Walt Whitman Fact 16: When the Civil War began he wrote “Beat!Beat!Drums!”. His brother George fought for the cause and Whitman was found a job in army paymaster office by his friend Charley Eldridge.
Walt Whitman Fact 17: Towards the end of 1864 the Whitman family suffered various losses, George was captured by the Confederates in Virginia, Andrew died of tuberculosis and his other brother Jesse had to be committed to Kings County Lunatic Asylum. However the one piece of good news that year was an improved job.
Walt Whitman Fact 18: Although once more that job was short lived and it was thought he may have lost his job on moral grounds because of Leaves of Grass. His friend O’Connor objected and eventually Whitman found himself transferred to the Attorney General’s office and Whitman also helped himself by writing “O Captain! My Captain!” which was more of a conventional poem in Abraham Lincoln's honor at his death.
Walt Whitman Fact 19: By 1873 Whitman suffered a paralyzing stroke and was forced to live with his brother George. His mother also ill was there too until she died. While he was there he continued with his work until he finally managed to purchase his own home in 1884.
Walt Whitman Fact 20: By 1891 he was preparing himself and his work by producing a final copy of Leaves of Green, a version he nicknamed “Deathbed Edition”.
Walt Whitman Fact 21: Prior to his death he commissioned his own granite mausoleum and when to see it often while it was being built.
Walt Whitman Fact 21: Walt Whitman died on March 26th 1892 aged seventy two of pleurisy. His body laid to rest at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey.
Influence & Legacy: Walt Whitman has been referred to as America’s first poet of democracy. His close friend Mary Smith Whitall Costelloe wrote "You cannot really understand America without Walt Whitman, without Leaves of Grass... He has expressed that civilization, 'up to date,' as he would say, and no student of the philosophy of history can do without him."
Short Facts about Walt Whitman for Kids
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