May 27, 2022

National Archives (NARA) Celebrates Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday

From the National Archives (NARA):

Perhaps no poet captured the exuberance of the American experience than Walt Whitman. Born 200 years ago on May 31, 1819, Whitman remains a fixture in the nation’s literary canon, and his major work, Leaves of Grass, is an American epic that is read and taught and loved to this day.

The National Archives has several unexpected connections to this great poet. Some of the most iconic images of Whitman are from the Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes in the Records of the War Department, Office of the Chief Signal Officer. No surprise that Whitman is included in this collection, for he lived and worked in Washington for over a dozen years.

n 1865, he secured the first of a series of clerical jobs with the Federal Government, and it is through these posts that another connection between Whitman and the National Archives becomes clear. In April 2011, the Archives announced that it had identified nearly 3,000 documents in Whitman’s hand from the records of the Office of the Attorney General.

At the time, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero remarked, “Although Whitman is not the official author of these documents, in most cases, they definitely passed through his mind and his fingertips. They shed light on Whitman’s postwar poetry and his cultural criticism.” Kenneth Price of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln explained how these documents provide fresh insights into Whitman’s life and art in his article “Whitman, Walt, Clerk.”

Learn More, Read the Complete Post

Digital Collection: Walt Whitman Papers (Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection. LC)

“In Electric Discovery, Scholar Finds Trove of Walt Whitman Documents in National Archives” (2011)

From the 92 Street Y

Listen Online: James Earl Jones Reads Walt Whitman (1973)

From the Beinecke Library, Yale University

From the Brooklyn Public Library

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.