Features: Walt Whitman and the Arts in Brooklyn

Photographic portrait of Walt Whitman: detail

In Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Publication of Leaves of Grass

By Deirdre Lawrence, Principal Librarian, Brooklyn Museum


There will come a time here in Brooklyn and all over America, when nothing will be of more interest than authentic reminiscences of the past.

—Walt Whitman

Quoted in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery: New York's Buried Treasure

Walt Whitman (1819–1892), one of America's most influential poets, lived and worked in Brooklyn part of his life and had a lifelong interest in the independent city of Brooklyn. In honor of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass, his landmark book that was published in Brooklyn, this essay explores Whitman's involvement with Brooklyn's cultural institutions, including the Brooklyn Apprentices' Library Association (the predecessor to the Brooklyn Museum). Whitman's reminiscences provide a vivid account of artistic activity in Brooklyn and Manhattan in the nineteenth century.

The art objects and research materials illustrated here are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum. Research assistance for this project was provided by Jeffrey Croteau and other members of the Brooklyn Museum staff.