Jillian’s Cultural Museum

Whitman and Friends

Two men close to Walt Whitman were Dr. Maurice Bucke and Horace Traubel.  Both of the men worshiped Whitman and spent their lives dedicated to honoring his work.  They are also considered, Whitman’s disciples[1] for their enthusiastic willingness to spread the works of Whitman and educate others through his literature.  In addition, they were also both Whitman’s literary executors, along with his attorney Thomas Harned.

buckeMaurice Bucke

Dr. Maurice Bucke was born in 1837 in Norfolk, England but grew up in Canada after having moved there when he was one year old.  When he was sixteen years old he left home and went through near fatal journey that included walking through many mountains in harsh weather.  The result was almost fatal and left him without a foot and several lost toes.  He was extremely lucky to have survived.

Not long after Bucke recovered from his injuries, he began attending medical school at McGill University.  This opportunity came to him through an inheritance and he was fortunate enough to also study in both London and Paris.  Upon graduation he worked as a ship surgeon but later settled in the field of psychiatry.  He began his practice in Sarnia, Ontario.  Soon after he married Jessie Gurd and together they had eight children.

In addition to his work with psychiatry, Bucke was very interested in literature.  He was fascinated with Whitman and it is said that he committed much of Whitman’s work to memory.  While in Philadelphia on a business trip, Bucke crossed the river into Camden and looked up Whitman.  (Could you even imagine doing such a thing today!!)   After their initial meeting they became good friends and often traveled together.  In the summer of 1880, Whitman even stayed with Bucke at his home in Canada.  Bucke worshiped Whitman and Whitman considered Bucke a dependable and loyal friend.

In 1883 they collaborated together on a biography of Whitman.  He devoted much of his time and energy to writing, editing and overseeing the publication of Whitman materials.

Bucke also served as Whitman’s medical consultant through the end of Whitman’s life.  There is a mass of letters between the two in which Whitman asks for medical advice from Bucke and he treated him directly in the very end of his life.  He also helped Whitman to re-write his will and on the day of his death, Bucke was there with him.

After Whitman’s death, Bucke remained committed to their friendship and continued to work on editing several posthumous volumes of Whitman’s writings.  He was also one of the editors of Whitman’s Complete Writings. In 1992 a Canadian feature film, Beautiful Dreamers was filmed; it was based on the relationship between Whitman and Bucke, specifically focusing on the 1880 summer visit in Canada.

Maurice lived for ten more years after Whitman died.   He slipped on a patch of ice and died from head trauma at 65 in London, Ontario.

horace-traubelHorace Traubel

Horace Traubel was born in 1858 in Camden, New Jersey.  At the age of twelve he quit school and began working at his father’s stationary school.  This prepared him well for a job in print and at sixteen he moved to Philadelphia and became a correspondent for the Boston Commonwealth.  It has been said that Traubel is the “epitome of the Progressive Era” (SOURCE).  He believed deeply throughout his entire life in the teleological movement of humankind towards its betterment.  His personality was such that he was interested in everything for the sake of the things themselves and “he would routinely spend two to three hours per day writing letters to his friends as well as finding and sending them appropriate clippings from other newspapers”  (SOURCE).

Traubel’s friendship with Whitman began early in Traubel’s life, while he was still living in Camden as a young boy.  They first met when Whitman moved to Camden to live with his brother after his stroke.  Because Traubel was only around thirteen years old[2] when they met, neighbors were concerned and their friendship was considered a scandal.  Regardless they stayed close even after Traubel moved and in the last years of Whitman’s life Traubel authored the multi-volume biography, Walt Whitman in Camden.  Traubel felt as though he was the “spirit child” of Whitman.  He later founded, edited and published of The Conservator, a journal dedicated to Whitman.

At the time of Whitman’s death, Traubel had known Whitman for almost twenty years.  He dedicated the rest of his own life to keeping Whitman’s work alive and published many Whitman inspired poems.  He also published large volumes of his conversations with Whitman that he had written down over the years.  A month before he died, Traubel took a final trip to Canada to see a park be dedicated to the honor of Whitman.  During the dedication, speaker Helen Keller called for a standing ovation for Traubel in recognition for his tireless efforts to pass along the works of Whitman and for his continuous work in the field of humanity.

Traubel died on May 13, 1919, one year after suffering a serious stroke.  He was buried not far from Whitman in the Harleigh cemetery.

Henning, Matthew.  Walt Whitman Biography.  http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Traubel__Horace.html

Nelson, Howard. The Walt Whitman Archive. Disciples: Biography, Richard Maurice Bucke. http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/disciples/tei/anc.00247.html

Nelson, Howard. The Walt Whitman Archive. Disciples: Biography, Horace Traubel   http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/disciples/tei/anc.00249.html

[1] There were four total disciples.  The others were John Burroughs and William Douglas O’Connor

[2] Conflicting accounts of Traubel’s age when having met Whitman; three different sources listed the age as twelve, thirteen and fourteen respectively.

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Where Jillian Found Whitman

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The poem in its entirety

Come up from the fields, father, here’s a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door, mother, here’s
a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, ’tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves
fluttering in the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and
grapes on the trellis’d vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent
after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful,
and the farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come, father, come
at the daughter’s call,
And come to the entry, mother, to the front door come right away.
Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous,
her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor
adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,
0 this is not our son’s writing, yet his name
is sign’d,
0 a strange hand writes for our dear son,
0 stricken mother’s soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black,
she catches the main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast,
cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah, now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all
its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head,
very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother (the just-grown
daughter speaks through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will
soon be better.

Alas, poor boy, he will never be better (nor maybe
needs to be better, that brave and simple soul),
While they stand at home at the door he is
dead already,
The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch’d, then at night
fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with
one deep longing,
0 that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent
from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead

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Reflections On War

This Wednesday, November 11 is Veterans Day.  On May 13, 1938, Armistice was made a legal holiday, a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.  In 1953 the day was expanded to celebrate all veterans of war and on May 26, 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the observation of Veterans Day on November 11 of each year.

I find it quite poignant that we are reading Whitman’s war poetry as Veterans Day approaches.

In honor of all the men and women who have fought in the wars, present and past, I would like to take a moment to say thank you.  And for those we have lost, a moment of silence.

For those we have lost….

My father’s father, Warren T. Schneider, was in the Army Infantry in WWII.  It was 1944.  He was killed in a recognizance mission in the French Pyrenees mountains.  He was 22 years old.  My dad was eight days old.

Each Memorial Day my father and I put flowers at his fathers grave.  A few years ago it became clear just how young my grandfather was when he died.  As I looked through the cemetery, I saw it with a different set of eyes than ever before.  These men were the same age as the men and women fighting in our present war.

Our present war…

…our future veterans.

Regardless of your thoughts and opinions on war, I urge you to take a moment to thank a soldier on Wednesday.  And if you feel compelled, leave a thought here about those who fight, those we’ve lost, those we love.

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Jillian’s Trip to the Whitman House

On Saturday November 7, myself, Dr. Hoffman and some of my classmates met for a tour of the Whitman House at 328 Mickle Street (now known as Martin Luther King Blvd).  To be honest, I was kind of dreading this trip.  A Saturday morning, in Camden, at the Walt Whitman House was not my idea of a fun time.  But the truth is, I loved it.

When we first arrived we were greeted outside and given a brief overview of the area during the time Whitman lived there.  Presently, the house is part of only four row homes standing across from a prison.  We were told that it is something of a miracle that the house still stands and I agree.  When you think about all of the changes Camden has gone through, the fact that this house is still there, is amazing.

Before we went into the house we met Dick, our tour guide, and he gave us a short history of Whitman’s time in Camden.  Dick was knowledgeable, funny and overall a great tour guide.  You could tell talking about Whitman excited him, and in turn I also felt excited by the idea of being in the same place Whitman once lived.

As we toured through the house we were able to look up close at personal items of Walt’s like his furniture, pictures, boots and even his bathtub!  As we toured through the house, Dick told stories about Walt and his family and friends.  My favorite part of the house was the stained glass window that shined down the stairwell- it was simply beautiful.  In fact, “simply beautiful” is the perfect way to sum up Whitman’s House.  From the architecture, to the wall paper, to the photos on the wall, everything was something to awe at and I was taken with how close the house was to the original.  Dick had pictures from when Whitman lived there and in it’s restoration, the house has truly been made to look like it did when he was there.  Although some of the items are replicas, many of them are actual items of Whitman’s that were donated back from either his family or his friends.

While this is not a trip I feel compelled to take again, I encourage anyone interested in Whitman to make a visit to the house once in their life.  Not only was this a lesson on Whitman’s life but I also learned a lot about the history of Camden as well.

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Jillian for 11/5

As I have previously mentioned, the focus on Whitman’s war poetry has been of great interest to me.  In his Songs of Parting, the titles are enough to send chills, and they did.  But as I read on, the poems took on a life of their own.  In them, I could see the faces of all the men (and women) who have fought in the various wars throughout history.  I think that is what I find most inviting about Whitman; his poetry stands the test of time and speaks for more than just the Civil War.

This is the poem that touched me most in the Songs of Parting:

The sobbing of the bells, the sudden death-news everywhere,
The slumberers rouse, the rapport of the People,
(Full well they know that message in the darkness,
Full well return, respond within their breasts, their brains, the
    sad reverberations,)
The passionate toll and clang—city to city, joining, sounding, passing,
Those heart-beats of a Nation in the night.

For the first time this semester, Whitman’s writing brought tears to my eyes.  Lately, I have been thinking so much about war, feeling practically immersed in it.  Many of my family members have fought in war, as well as many of my friends.  We were so lucky recently to welcome home another soldier close to us.  But the horrible reality, is that we aren’t all so lucky.  And that is what this poem spoke to me.

“The sudden death-news everywhere” and “those heart-beats of a Nation in the night” really begin and end the poem in a way that tears at one’s emotional strings.  I actually, as much as I was enjoying it, found the poems tough to read and at times had to walk away from it.  Overall though, I feel Songs of Parting is some of Whitman’s best work.

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JillianS- Cultural Museum

These days the ferry is not the most popular choice for transportation, however before bridges, major highways and speed lines came along, the ferry was the only practical option for people looking to get across the Delaware River into Philadelphia from New Jersey.  The first know ferry system from Camden to Philadelphia was developed in 1688.  That ferry was abandoned and later picked back up in 1695 by Daniel Cooper.  By 1809 there were seven ferry systems operating out of Camden, NJ.


The West Jersey Ferry circa 1895

The city of Camden was still young when Walt Whitman was residing there, from the years 1873 to 1892.  In addition to making transportation remarkably easier, the ferry was considered to be partially responsible for the industrial rise in Camden City.  The advent of the ferry opened up doors for new business in what was a growing city.  In addition, the ferry allowed people in Philadelphia more job opportunities as they could take the ferry to and from work.  The new businesses brought about more homes resulting in a larger population, which further helped build the riverfront city.


The entrance to the Camden Ferry

Walt Whitman often rode the Camden Ferry and spent much time reflecting on his river-crossing experiences in his poetry.  As a young adult he had often ridden the ferry in Brooklyn where he grew up; I think riding the Camden Ferry in his old age was a way to get in touch with who he was as a young man.  In his collection Specimen Days there are three poems that I feel most clearly express his general reflections on riding the Camden Ferry; Scenes on a Ferry and River- Last Winter’s Night, Delaware River-Days and Nights, and Only a New Ferry Boat.  And although his poem Riding the Brooklyn Ferry gives the impression to be solely about his experiences in New York, I feel it can also be applied to his experiences in Camden.

The following are specific excerpts from the text which I believe best articulate Whitman’s time in Camden and on the ferry:

From Scenes on a Ferry and River- Last Winter’s Night-

What exhilaration, change, people, business, by day.  What soothing, silent, wondrous hours, at night crossing on the boat, most all to myself–pacing the deck, alone, forward or aft.

For two hours I cross’d and recross’d merely for pleasure–for a still excitement.

From Delaware River-Days and Nights-

But let me bunch and catalog the affair–the river itself, all the way from the sea–cape Island on one side and Henlopen light on the other–up the broad bay north, and so to Philadelphia, and on further to Trenton;–the sights I am most familiar with…

From Only a New Ferry Boat

…all along between Philadelphia and Camden, is worth weaving into an item…in the midst of it all, in the clear drab of the afternoon light, there steamed up the river the large new boat…as pretty an object as you wish you could see…

The ferry traffic began to decline in the 1920’s beginning with the building of the Delaware River Bridge and after one hundred and sixteen years, the Camden Ferry took its last ride across the river at 9pm on March 31, 1952.  The Camden Ferry was the last running form of water transportation, and “when it closed it would be the first time in 264 years that Camdenites and Philadelphians would find themselves without a ferry system” (Baisden 18).  For many years the ferry served Whitman and the people of Philadelphia and Camden well; it was the end of an era the night the ferry closed.


Notice of the discontinuation of the Camden Ferry- March 31, 1952 @ 9pm

Today there are four major bridges that, for four dollars, will connect you from Philadelphia to New Jersey or vice versa.  Let us suppose you are coming from Philadelphia to see a concert in Camden, NJ.  By the time you add up the gas, bridge toll and parking costs, you have spent well over $15-20.  Or how perhaps you lives in Haddonfield and want to grab dinner in Old City.  Gas, bridge toll and parking…at least $20.  Want another option?  How about the good old Camden Ferry, or as it is known as today, the Riverlink?  For $6, you get a round trip from Camden to Philadelphia and save yourself both time in traffic and money.


The RiverLink-  Camden’s Current Ferry

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Jillian for 10/15

I am really enjoying these poems recently.  After struggling to get through the first few weeks this has been refreshing, and dare I say it…fun. 

I have always been interested in the Civil War and at one time was a History major.  Although my major has changed, my passion for History has not wavered. 

In his journal entries during the Civil War, Walt Whitman places himself carefully in between the living and dead, combining the arts of war and writing what results in what I believe is some of his most beautiful poetry.  I know critics believe that Whitman’s civil war poetry is dead but I disagree.  I found it intriguing, and moreover it’s deep historical presence I believe are extremely relevant to today.  Whitman provides for the men who died a history…he remembers them as they should be remembered.  

Having just welcomed home someone close to my heart from the War in Iraq, reading these poems took on a new level of poignancy.  These days, it is difficult to find anyone who doesn’t know someone in the war or who has fought in his war.  Many of these poems reminded me of stories I have heard either on the news or firsthand, but the one that really resonated with me most was In the Weather–Does it Sympathize with these Times? I could apply much of what Whitman wrote to the letters I had recieved in the past from my loved one at war. 

Some of the lines that stood out most:

 “Whether the rains, the heat and cold and what underlies them all, are affected with what affects man in masses.”

“There since this war and the wide and deep national agitation, strange analogies, different combinations, a different sunlight or absence of it; different products out of the ground.”

“In the army hospitals, where the wounded are lying in their cots, and many a sick boy come down to the war from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and the rest.”

The last line is exceptionally difficult and can easily compared to the war today.  Hospitals are overloaded with men (and now women) from all over the United States.  They come from the North, South, East and West.  They are black, white and hispanic.  They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends.  They are the everyman that Whitman was talking about.

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Jillian for 10/8

We celebrate Lincoln on his birthday each year.

There are eighteen counties (as noted in black) in the United States named in honor of Abraham Lincoln.


There are numerous monuments, most famously Mount Rushmore and Lincoln Memorial, that honor Abraham Lincoln.



We carry Abraham Lincoln’s face on both pennies and the five dollar bill.




But what does that all mean? 

Perhaps no one celebrated the life of Abraham Lincoln in quite the way Walt Whitman did.  Whitman could tell you what it all meant, of that I am sure. 

I studied Lincoln many times throughout my years in school but it is an entirely different experience reading about him through Walt Whitman’s eyes.  Whitman’s perspective is not so much unique (as Lincoln is universally loved) but written in a such a way that humanizes him beyond a presidency. 

Despite the fact that they never actually met in person, Whitman deeply admired Lincoln.  Whitman focused many of his writing on what was mostly a passerby friendship between himself and Lincoln.  Having learned of Lincolns death through newspapers, he feverishly began writing down his thoughts on Lincoln.  What resulted was nothing short of amazing.  I am awed by Whitman’s ability to mix brutality with beauty in his poem When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.  He both mourns for the death and celebrates the death; reconciling with himself (and a nation) the great loss that has taken place.  In addition, he uses symbols throughout the poem rather than Lincoln’s name which adds to the proufoundness of the writing.

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Jillian for 10/1

I never realized how important a title was when it came to poetry.

Last semester, in a class with Dr. Sill ,we had a class conversation about titles of chapters in novels.  Some of the students did not feel a chapter title was necessary, while others liked it as a form of foreshadowing.  I fell somewhere in the middle of this debate.  Where novels are concerned, I don’t think chapter titles are necessary but I do enjoy them when they are included.

Poetry is an entirely different beast for me.  Without a title I felt lost.  Completely lost.  The funny thing is, for the most part even when they are titles, I struggle with understanding poems.  But I still find it easier to have one as a means of gaining a possible insight to what I will be reading.  In addition to that, a title is a mechanism to draw a reader into the poem.  I know that if I am given a choice, I am more likely to be drawn to a poem that it titled in a way that catched my eye.

So, imagine my relief when I discovered that there were titles for this weeks readings, Children of Adam and Calamus.  Of course, like with the previous readings titles, all of them are simply the first line of the poem; still, better late than never.

In Calamus, which I liked better than Children of Adam, the title I was most drawn to was Are You the New Person Drawn toward Me?.  This title made me want to read and moreover, after reading, it made me want to write.

As I have previously written, Whitman and poetry are both a bit of a struggle for me, so finding something to connect with means a great deal.  I connected to every line of this poem; it has been tough for me to understand how people relate so deeply to poetry…until now.

I have noted my thoughts in red.

Are you the new person drawn toward me? The title/first line sets up the scene for me.  It made me think of what I ask myself when meeting new people.  To some extent, it is much like this.  I wonder what I will be in this persons life and what they will be in mine.  Is this someone you will know for one minute, one day, one year?  A lifetime?
To begin with take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose; When meeting someone the first time, it is hard to be ones “real” self.  I feel like there are many different versions of me and in my life people, depending on who they are, know a certain version.  Some people get the surface, some get a little more and some get the whole deal, but in the first meeting it is all about first impressions.  And in my opinion, they don’t offer a whole lot in the long run.
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this facade, this smooth and tolerant
manner of me? These lines express further the idea of getting to know someone.  When I meet someone, it takes me time to let them in, to feel a trust and a love but for some this happens quickly.  It is difficult not to question ones reasons or motives.  It is hard to let down walls and build trusts.
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought O dreamer that it may be all maya, illusion?  This last line really got to me.  It is easy to dream up a connection with someone that isn’t truly there and it hurts to find out that it wasn’t as real as you thought  I think here, this is the final warning…you can get to know him, but understand that you might get hurt.  What you see may not be what you created.  In a new friendship, and very much so in relationships, it is easy to only see the good and look past all the not so good.  When the real comes out past the surface, you may realize it had all been an illusion.

The older I have gotten the more important real relationships have become in my life.  It has become clear to me what I will and will not tolerate in friendships/relationships.  I think of myself as a very real and true person, but I am also guarded when it comes to letting people in.  I felt a personal relationship with this poem and for the first time this semester, I really felt connected with what Whitman was saying.


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Jillian for 9/24

Throughout the reading of Leaves of Grass, I repeatedly came back to two thoughts; that Whitman was a radical and that his writing was a metaphor for America.  Over and over during the reading I kept coming back to these ideas.  Additionally, I feel that our class discussions over the last two weeks support these ideas.

Whitman as a radical:

  • I think Walt Whitman achieves a confident freshness by creating dramatic images in his prose.  In addition, he succeeds in maintaining a calm and peaceful tone while surfacing some of the crudest topics; ones which were not generally discussed openly in his time.

The metaphor for America:

  • Universally speaking, I think Whitman uses grass throughout his work as a metaphor for America with all of the blades of grass representing people.  I did some research on Whitman and it is said that some people did believe he was the voice of America.  This is not collectively agreed upon, but I agree that Walt Whitman is representative of the growth of the American individual in the American society.  While controversial, I think Whitman is the voice that gives rise to a unique American identity.


Being that I am new to Whitman, I found myself focusing on examining the voice behind the prose while reading Leaves of Grass.  While I did find the work enjoyable, I have to admit I struggled at times with the reading.  For the most part the words and ideas made sense to me, but at times I would get lost in Whitman’s stream of consciousness.  He so often jumped from idea to idea, writing down everything he was thinking, that I felt in some ways it took away from the work as a whole.

I was able to take away much from this reading…there were pieces that really resonated with me.  It was finding these small pieces within the poem that made me keep reading, they are what got me through the struggle.

The following lines are some of my favorite:

  • “I celebrate myself/And what I assume you shall assume/for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”  (page 27).
  • “This is the grass that grows whenever the land is and the water is/This is the common air that bathes the globe”  (page 43).
  • “And I know I am solid and sound/To me the converging objects of universal perpetually flow/All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means”  (page 46).
  • “Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you/You must travel it for yourself”  (page 82).
  • “You are also asking me questions, and I hear you;/I answer that I cannot answer…you must find out for yourself”  (page 83).
  • “Happiness not in another place, but this place…not for another hour, but this hour”  (page 98).
  • “Each belongs here or anywhere just as much as the well off/just as much as you/Each has his or her place in the procession”  (122)

Feel free to share some of your favorite lines….

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