Walter “Walt” Whitman was born on May 31, 1819 in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island, New York. His parents were Walter and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and followed the Quaker beliefs. Walter was called Walt in order to distinguish him from his father. He was the second of nine children and one of seven sons.
Walt was four years old when the family moved from West Hills to Brooklyn; they moved numerous times due to bad investments. “Whitman looked back on his childhood as generally restless and unhappy, given his family’s difficult economic status. One happy moment that he later recalled was when he was lifted in the air and kissed on the cheek by the Marquis de Lafayette during a celebration in Brooklyn on July 4, 1825.”
Whitman finished his formal schooling at age 11 and then sought employment in order to help his family financially. He worked as an office boy for two attorneys; he then worked as an apprentice and printer’s devil at the Patriot, a newspaper edited by Samuel E. Clements in Long Island, and learned about setting type and printing. He worked for another printer the next year.
Whitman was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. He also began publishing his poetry. He was a “humanist” and “was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse….
“… Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman’s major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined. He died at age 72 on March 26, 1892, in Camden, New Jersey."