Walter "Walt" Whitman was born May 31 1819 in West Hills, New York. He was the second of nine children and was nicknamed Walt to distinguish him from his father. At age 2 Walt's family moved from West Hills to Brooklyn. Whitman often looked back on his childhood as restless and unhappy. He stopped going to school at age 11 to get a job to help bring in another income for his family. He was an apprentice and printer's devil for the weekly Long Island newspaper the Patriot, which was edited by Samuel E. Clements. This is where whitman learned of the printing press and typesetting. It has been said he might have written a few sentimental bits of filler material for some issues.
The following summer Walt worked for another printer, Erastus Worthington, in Brooklyn. After his family moved back to West Hills, Walt stayed in Brooklyn to work as the shop of Alden Spooner, who was the editor of the Long-Island Star. While at the Star, Whitman became an active member in the society. He was a regular patron at the library, he went to theater shows, and anonymously published some poetry in the New York Mirror. At the age of 16, Whitman, moved to New York to work as a compositor. Due to the Panic of 1837, work was hard to find after Whitman left his job as a compositor. In May 1836, whitman moved back home with his family, where he taught at schools until 1838.
After teaching, Whitman moved back to Huntington, New York where he founded his own paper, the Long Islander. He took on the job as his own publisher, editor, pressman, distributor, and even did home delivery. Ten months expired and Whitman sold the publication to E. O. Crowell. After working for another paper, Whitman took another stab at teaching from the winter of 1840 to spring 1841. Whitman wrote a series of ten editorials called "Sun Down Papers- From the Desk of a Schoolmaster," in three newspapers between the winter 1840 and July 1841. In these essays, Whitman used a constructed persona, a technique he would employ throughout his career. In 1842 he was editor of the Aurora and from 1846 to 1848 he was editor of the Brooklyn Eagle.
IIn 1864 the Whitman family had a difficult time. On September 30, 1864, George, Whitman's brother was captured by the Confederates in Virginia. Also Andrew, another brother of Whitman, died of tuberculosis. He lived in Washington for jobs. After Whitman suffered a paralytic stroke in 1873, Whitman moved from Washington to the home of his brother George. His mother got ill while they both lived there and she died in May of the same year. He lived in New Jersey for many years sick. He dies on March 26, 1892 from pleurisy of the left side, consumption of the right ling, general miliary tuberculosis and parenchymatous nephritis.
5 important events in Whitman's life:
1842: Whitman publishes his first novel Franklin Evans; or The Inebriate. The novel was popular even though Whitman latter describes it as a rot.
May 12, 1855: Whitman publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass, a collection of twelve poems written in a bold new style.
November 1856: Writer Henry David Thoreau and educator Bronson Alcott visit Whitman
April 14, 1861: President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated at Ford's Theater. Whitman, now a clerk at the U.S. Department of the Interior, writes the poems "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "O Captain! My Captain!" in honor of the fallen president.
June 30, 1865: Whitman is fired from the Department of Interior because of the supposedly obscene content of Leaves of Grass.
1866: Whitman and friend William D. O'Connor publish The Good Gray Poet, a defense of Whitman in the wake of his firing from the Department of Interior.
Whitman's work broke the boundaries of poetic form. He used unusual symbols and images in his poetry, like rotting leaves, tufts of straw, and debris. He had a strong tendency to use free verse in his poetry. He put an emphasis on the real details of the everyday world but also on transcendent and spiritual themes. He put an emphasis on democracy and love of other people. He talked about himself in some of his work. The speakers in his poems spoke honestly and directly, in simple language so that most of his readers could understand what was being said. Whitman put an emphasis on optimism, idealism, discerning and celebrating anything good and worthy in humanity. He also wrote about death and sexuality, including prostitution. He is often said to be the father of free verse.
"Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you." -Walt Whitman
"Happiness, not in another place, but this place, not for another hour, but this hour." -Walt Whitman
"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends." -Walt Whitman