April 3, 2015 America's Original Bohemians Are Subject of Book Discussion

Walt Whitman and Others Gathered in a New York Saloon

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In the mid-19th century, Pfaff’s Saloon in Manhattan hosted a circle of radicals who changed American society and helped set poet Walt Whitman on the path to immortality.

In “Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians” (Da Capo Press, 2014), author Justin Martin tells the story of this colorful group of artists – regulars at Pfaff’s – who are “rightly considered American’s original bohemians.”

Martin will discuss and sign his book, which is based on his research in the Library’s Manuscript Division, on Tuesday, April 21, at noon in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress and the Library’s Manuscript Division. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Besides a young Whitman, the circle included actor Edwin Booth, trailblazing stand–up comic Artemus Ward, psychedelic drug pioneer and author Fitz Hugh Ludlow and brazen performer Adah Menken, famous for her Naked Lady routine. Central to their times, the artists managed to forge connections with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain and even Abraham Lincoln.

Justin Martin is the author of three previous biographies: “Greenspan: The Man Behind Money,” “Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon” and “Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted.” As one of the few journalists to gain access to Greenspan, Martin produced a best-selling biography of the secretive Federal Reserve chairman, which was selected as a notable book by The New York Times Book Review. Martin’s Nader biography served as a primary source for “An Unreasonable Man,” an Academy Award–nominated documentary. “Genius of Place,” the first full-scale biography of Olmsted, received glowing reviews nationally. Martin’s articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including Fortune, Newsweek and the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2011, he participated in the National Book Festival and in the Center for the Book’s Books & Beyond series.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a public-private partnership. It sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, through collaborations with nonprofit reading-promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit read.gov.


PR 15-050
ISSN 0731-3527