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Collection Walt Whitman Papers in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection

About this Collection

The papers of poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection consist of approximately 28,000 items spanning from 1763 to 1985. The bulk of the items date from the 1840s through Whitman's death in 1892, and into the twentieth century. The collection of correspondence, literary manuscripts, books, proofs, and associated items represent periods of Whitman's life from his early time living in New York, middle-age in Washington, D.C., and the last phase of his life in Camden, New Jersey. The papers include primary documentation of Whitman's friends and family; his experience as a civil servant and hospital volunteer in Washington, D.C., during the American Civil War; his contributions as a lecturer and social commentator; and his decades-long career as a journalist, prose writer, literary and arts critic, and poet.

The items were assembled by collector and businessperson Charles E. Feinberg (1899-1988), resident of Detroit, Michigan, and Florida, over a period of six decades. The Feinberg-Whitman materials were acquired by the Library of Congress by gift, deposit, transfer, purchase and deposit converted to gift and purchase, from Charles E. Feinberg and others, between 1952 and 2011.

The Feinberg-Whitman collection contains letters, notes, postcards, telegrams, poems, articles, essays, and memoranda written by Whitman; letters written to him by friends and admirers; memorabilia and printed materials; and a variety of draft manuscripts and proofs, many of them annotated and revised by Whitman, demonstrating his creative process and the development of ideas in his prose and poetry. Whitman's private concerns and interests, some of which would later be voiced in his writings, are revealed in diaries, notes, commonplace books, and notebooks.

Of special note is a surviving page from the original manuscript of the first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855), as well as various trial lines, draft fragments, and printed versions of Whitman poems. Memorabilia includes a walking stick given to Whitman by his friend, the naturalist John Burroughs, as well as a haversack used by Whitman during the American Civil War, a plaster bust of Whitman by Sidney H. Morse, and various personal items, including eyeglasses, a pocket watch, and pen. Included in the collection are proofs and manuscripts by others.

Among the correspondents represented are Richard Maurice Bucke; John Burroughs; Edward Carpenter; Francis Pharcellus Church; William Conant Church; Moncure Daniel Conway; Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe; Thomas Donaldson; Edward Dowden; Peter Doyle; Charles W. Eldridge; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Fanny Fern; Hamlin Garland; Anne Burrows Gilchrist; Joseph Benson Gilder; Richard Watson Gilder; Ulysses S. Grant; Bret Harte; Robert Green Ingersoll; John Johnston; William Sloane Kennedy; Sidney H. Morse; Ellen M. O'Connor; William Douglas O'Connor; T.W. Rolleston; William Michael Rossetti; Bethuel Smith; Logan Pearsall Smith; Robert Pearsall Smith; J.M. Stoddart; Bram Stoker; John Addington Symonds; Alfred Tennyson, Baron Tennyson; Horace Traubel; J.W. Wallace; George Whitman; Louisa Whitman; Oscar Wilde; Talcott Williams; and members of the Stafford family, as well as letters to soldiers for whom Whitman provided care as a hospital volunteer in the American Civil War, or their family members.

Books from the Feinberg-Whitman collection are housed separately from the manuscript materials in the Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photographs and visual images from the collection, most of which have been digitized and are available online through the Library's online catalog or the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, are housed in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Two other collections of Whitman materials in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division are the small Walt Whitman Papers Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection and the Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman Papers, both also available online.

Description of Series

This collection is arranged in ten series noted below. Links to specific folders of digitized items within each of these series are included in the finding aid contents list.

Diaries, Diary Notes, and Address Books, 1863-1891
Diaries, diary notes, address books, notebooks, and commonplace books kept by Whitman as daybooks or memorandum books. Organized by type of material and chronologically therein.

Family Papers, 1852-1892
Letters exchanged between family members, a diary, and miscellaneous items belonging to George Whitman. Organized alphabetically by name of correspondent and chronologically therein.

General Correspondence, 1841-1892
Letters sent and received, postcards, telegrams, memoranda, envelopes, and miscellaneous enclosures. Organized alphabetically by name of correspondent and chronologically therein.

Literary File, 1841-1919
Handwritten drafts, proofs, notes, printed matter, correspondence, printing and binding statements, and miscellaneous items relating to Whitman's published and unpublished writings. Organized into four subseries--Books, 1855-1919; Poetry, 1842-1892; Prose, 1841-1892; and Speeches, 1876-1890--which are subsequently arranged alphabetically by title or chronologically by date of publication or composition.

Notes and Notebooks, 1847-1891
Organized into two subseries: Notebooks, 1855-1884, and Notes, 1847-1891. The former, arranged chronologically, contain thoughts and ideas written in the form of personal and literary jottings, including trial lines and titles for poems, clippings, manuscript fragments, and names and addresses. Also includes reference notes and synopses of studies conducted by Whitman on topics such as human rights, slavery, religion, philology, language and grammar, and classical studies. The Notes subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject or type of material and chronologically therein. The headings relate to names and addresses, Brooklyniana, literary notes, miscellany, personal notes, printing and publishing notes, and reference notes.

Miscellany, 1834-1918
Correspondence, business and financial papers, marginalia, scrapbooks, real estate documents, annotated maps, labels and wrappers, estate papers, cards and invitations, documents concerning Whitman's death and burial, and organizational records. Arranged alphabetically by subject or type of material.

Supplementary File, 1806-1981 (partially scanned)
Personal papers of individuals associated with Whitman and articles, books, and speeches written about him. Organized in six subseries, Personal Papers, 1854-1980; Ancillary Correspondence, 1806-1960; Speeches and Writings File, 1866-1978; Walt Whitman Review, 1955-1981: Printed Matter, 1866-1969; Photocopies, 1840-1965; and Catalog cards and index, undated.

Memorabilia, undated
Personal possessions including Whitman's cane, haversack, pen, watch, and spectacles. Arranged alphabetically by type of item.

Addenda, 1763-1985 (partially scanned)
Correspondence, literary manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, notes, photocopies, printed matter, and printed copies of books, articles, and poems by and about Whitman; production material for the Walt Whitman Review; and papers of William White received after the main corpus of the Feinberg Collection had been organized. This material is arranged into four subseries based on the date when it was added to the collection: Addition (1982), 1891-1981; Addition (1997), 1763-1985; Addition (2012), 1864, 1878, undated; and Addition (2013), 1892-1915.

Oversize, 1844-1952
Oversize material consisting of correspondence, literary manuscripts, supplementary material relating to individuals associated with Whitman and to articles and books written about him, newspapers and other printed matter, memorabilia, and miscellaneous items. Organized according to the series and containers from which the items were removed.