Walt Whitman Biography

Walt Whitman Biography

WALTER ‘Walt’ Whitman is one of the most prominent poets of the American canon, who also was an essayist, and a journalist. Known as the ‘father of free verse’ Whitman was a controversial poet of his times. Born on May 31, 1819, to Walter and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman in Long Island, he was the second born among nine children. Walt Whitman’s childhood was generally unhappy due to his family’s poor economic condition. At the age of 11, Walt Whitman finished his formal schooling.He took up employment to shore up his family’s finances by working as an office boy for two lawyers.Later he began aworking as an apprentice for the weekly Long Island newspaper, Patriot. It was here he taught himself to read the great classics and became enamored with the written word.

Born: May 31, 1819, West Hills, New York, United States
Died: March 26, 1892, Camden, New Jersey, United States
Full name: Walter Whitman
Nationality: American
Parents: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Walter Whitman, Sr.

Early Career

Walt Whitman continued to work for different printers and weeklies till the age of 16. In 1836, as the economy collapsed, he left the printing business and took up teaching young students at school. He continued to teach till 1841 and returned to journalism as a full time job.

He began the weekly newspaper Long Islander and later went on to edit other newspapers. During this period he continued to write freelance essays and poems. In 1842 he wrote a temperance novel, Franklin Evans. By 1850 Walt Whitman began working on a collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, which would turn out to be his most controversial work. In 1855, he published this collection with his own money and received strong praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson. This collection of poetry, Walt Whitman continued to revise and expand till his death.

American Civil War

As the civil war began, Walt Whitman wrote his poem ‘Beat! Beat! Drums!’ and worked as a volunteer nurse. He wrote of this period in ‘The Great Army of Sick’ and also in a book Memoranda During the War. In 1865, Walt Whitman took up the job of a low grade clerk, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior. At this time he published the ‘Drum Taps’. In 1860, Walt Whitman was transferred to the Attorney General’s office. In 1868 Poems of Walt Whitman were published in England. In 1972 he was invited to Dartmouth College to give the commencement address.

In 1872, Walt Whitman suffered a stroke and died on March 26 1892.


  • Walt Whitman claimed the title of America’ first ‘Poet of Democracy”
  • Walt Whitman’s poetry has been set to music by a large number of composers.

Walt Whitman was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame


“Resist much, obey little.”
― Walt Whitman

“What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.”
― Walt Whitman

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