The year was 1927 and the future had hardly ever looked brighter for the City of Camden. Times were prosperous, business and industry were booming, and the city was full of recently constructed public buildings, civic improvements, schools, the new Delaware River bridge and its new highway to the suburbs. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed were in the unimagined future.
It was in these times that Camden prepare for its 100th anniversary, and in this spirit of optimism that the city fathers under the direction of Mayor Winfield S. Price commissioned the booklet whose text you will find below.
Appearance of tall, lean man with flowing whiskers created no inkling of Walt Whitman’s identity.
Along in the springtime of 1873 there appeared in the streets of Camden a strange, tall, limping man, clad in a somber grey. His general appearance was enhanced by the picturesqueness of his flawing white beard his large white collar loosened at the throat and the manner in which he carried his head proudly, but without disdain.
Passers-by could not restrain the temptation to take a second look at the striking figure, hut few knew him as a man who had startled the intelligentsia of the world with five editions of “Leaves of Grass,” recording the life and thoughts of the typical American of the day, in a manner quite apart from the Old World style then in vague.
It was Walt Whitman. He was an a pilgrimage to the sick bed of his mother at the house of a brother, Lieutenant Colonel George Whitman, at 322 Stevens Street. And here it was that Walt suffered the greatest grief of his life, for his dearly beloved mother died three days after his arrival in Camden.
During the years that followed he lived with his brothers family, moving with them to 431 Stevens Street.
In 1883 the colonel and his wife moved to a farm at Burlington.
They invited Walt to accompany them but he decided to stay in Camden. He rented a room far a while and seems to have had a hard time. On March 26, 1884, with the aid of George W. Childs, of Philadelphia, he made the first payment on a house at 330 Mickle Street. Here he stayed until the time of his death exactly eight years after.
In this house, while an invalid, Walt Whitman wrote some of his noblest verses; and, at the last, with the assistance of the nearest friend of his last days, Horace Traubel, poet and magazine editor, prepared the tenth and “death-bed edition” of “Leaves of Grass” including in it the “Sands at Seventy” group of poems and “Backward Glances O’er Traveled Roads.” And it was here that Mr. Traubel faithfully compiled his three volumes “With Walt Whitman in Camden.”
Walt Whitman died on March 26, 1892, and was buried in Harleigh Cemetery, March 30. The funeral rites were held in a large tent and many famous persons attended. Colonel Robert Ingersoll making the principal oration.
Four years ago the City of Camden purchased the Whitman home and now maintains it as a literary shrine. It was restored to look as it did when the poet occupied it. Here is to be found the greatest collection of Whitmaniana in the world.