Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Denver, Colorado
Author:
Stifel, Timothy
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

A city founded just east of the Rocky Mountains, Denver City was named after James W. Denver, governor of the Kansas Territory, in November 1858. The economy of Denver rose and fell with the successes and failures of the gold and silver mines in the nearby mountains. Railroads connected Denver to the national economy in 1870, and the following two decades were periods of tremendous population growth. When Colorado was granted statehood in 1876, Denver became its state capital.

Walt Whitman traveled to Denver in September of 1879 with J.M.W. Geist, E.K. Martin, and William W. Reitzel, at a time when the silver mines were drawing thousands of hopeful prospectors and curious tourists. Impressed by the mountain scenery and the organization of the city, Whitman also noted that the men of Denver had become a type unique to the Rocky Mountain region. He disapproved, on the other hand, of the attempts of Denver women to imitate eastern fashions. Nevertheless, Whitman stayed in Denver's American Hotel, one of the elegant buildings that had begun to replace the original log cabins of the city. Whitman spent a day visiting the Rocky Mountains during his stay in Denver, and he began the trip eastward the next day. This trip to Colorado was too late to influence much of Whitman's poetry, but his memories of Denver became a frequent part of his later correspondence and conversation.

Bibliography

Eitner, Walter H. Walt Whitman's Western Jaunt. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1981.

Ubbelohde, Carl, Maxine Benson, and Duane A. Smith. A Colorado History. 3rd ed. Boulder: Pruett, 1972.


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