||American Studies Program|
Klapper Hall Room 345 / Telephone 718-997-4633
Walt Whitman in Queens
Click on any image on this page for a larger image. [Photos on this page by S. Lefkoe and E. Rondot]
The following words by the great
American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) are very appropriate today to Queens College, to the Borough of Queens and to all of New York:
from I Hear
I hear America
singing, the varied carols I hear...
from The Preface
to Leaves of Grass
...The United States themselves are essentially the greatest
poem... Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations...
from Democratic Vistas
...And, topping democracy, this most alluring record, that
it alone can bind, and ever seeks to bind, all nations, all men, of however various and distant lands, into a brotherhood, a
family. It is the old, yet ever-modern dream of earth, out of her eldest and her youngest, her fond philosophers and
Those who know any local history related to Walt Whitman usually think only of his Manhattan, Brooklyn and Huntington, L.I. connections. Some also think of Camden, NJ.
A young Walt Whitman lived, taught, politicized and worked
on newspapers here in Queens as well! The neighborhoods include Flushing, Jamaica, Little Bay Side and
Whitestone. Many of Whitman's
connections to the Borough of Queens in the late 1830s and early 1840s are highlighted in this exhibit presented by Queens College.
One of our exciting
local "finds" is a copy of the page of the US Census for 1840 that documents
that Walt Whitman lived in Jamaica as of the census date - June 1, 1840. His entry is just under the entry for his
employer / landlord James J. Brenton.
"Walter Whitman" is identified
as a free white male, single, age 20 to under 30, employed in the learned
professions / engineer.
Among Queens College's own connections to Walt Whitman are the following:
- Professor Emory Holloway came to Queens College as one of the
original faculty in 1937, having already won a 1927 Pulitzer Prize for his work
on Walt Whitman. He became Chair of
Queens College's English Department. Holloway continued to publish books on
Whitman, and was instrumental in many high-profile local commemorations of
Whitman's works, including: 1) the naming by Queens College of Walt Whitman
Hall, 2) the commissioning and placement of a statue of Whitman at the nearby
1939-40 Worlds Fair, and 3) the formal designation of the Walt Whitman
Birthplace as a NYS Historic Site.
Professor Holloway died in 1977 at age 92.
Queens College renamed its "A' Building (also known at the time as The English Building) Walt Whitman Hall in 1939.
- One of the local schools where Walt Whitman taught was Jamaica Academy.
Based on his research, Jeff Gottlieb (QC alum; President of the Central Queens Historical Association) believes that the
site of that school is now part of the Queens College campus.
- Queens College's Professor Emeritus Stephen Stepanchev,
first Poet Laureate of the Borough of Queens (1997-2000), has written
"Whitmanesque" poetry about the College and Whitman's spirit here, and
about the tearing down of Walt Whitman Hall.
We hope you enjoy our exhibit and celebrate with us the
150th anniversary of the publication of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
Following are the major categories illustrated in the exhibit:
- Walt Whitman in Queens (approximately 1839-1841)
- Images of Walt Whitman
- Leaves of Grass
- Maps of Queens (Mid-19th century, early 20th century, and current)
- Around the Same Time... (early 1840s and following)
- Selected Whitman Commemorative Events in Queens (1939 to present)
- Poetry is Alive and Well in Queens Today
[Expanded outline of the exhibit]
Contributors: Nancy Bareis, Steve Barto, Joe Brostek, Jeff
Castellan, Regina DeRise, Ben Eichler, Jeff Gottlieb, Syd Lefkoe, Ellen Rondot, Bob Weller, Nancy Williams
Dr. Bette S. Weidman, Program Director of the American Studies Program, made the critical connections
responsible for the scope of the July 14, 2005 exhibit on campus.
It was then developed into the larger December 2005 exhibit at the
The Flushing Library exhibition was arranged through the
efforts of Queens College alums Joe Brostek (Events Office) and Tom Galante
(Director, Queens Public Library System).
We also gratefully acknowledge
Special thanks to our new friends in the Flushing Library of the Queens Borough Public Library
who made this exhibit easy and enjoyable for us to arrange and accomplish.
- the cooperation of faculty and staff from the following
Queens College offices and departments: Financial Aid Services, Rosenthal
Library, Rosenthal Library / Archives, Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Friends of the
Queens College Library, Design Services, Reprographics, Photo Services, the American
Studies Program, the English Department, Office of Converging Technologies, and of course the Office of Special
Events and Alumni Affairs;
from: the Municipal Archives, the Long Island Division of the Queens
Borough Public Library, the
Queens Historical Society, the Central Queens Historical Association,
the New York Public Library - Maps Division, and the New York
This exhibit began as a much smaller exhibit that was part of the Walt Whitman Garden Dedication / Reception at Queens College, July 14, 2005, as Queens College commemorated the 150th anniversary of the publication by Walt Whitman of Leaves of Grass. This new exhibit includes photos and other publicity about that event. More on that event on the CUNY Web Site at
Selected Walt Whitman Resources
Prepared and posted by the exhibit committee.
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