In February 1842, Whitman began writing brief articles for the New York Aurora, established in November 1841 as an “American newspaper” that would concentrate on American writers and American news in contrast to what the editors saw as an undue preoccupation with European writers and news in most of the New York City newspapers. The Aurora was a daily of four pages, which sold for two cents a copy, and was initially edited by Thomas Low Nichols, a social reformer and journalist. When Nichols left the paper in February 1842, Whitman was named the editor by the publishers, who announced on March 28, 1842 that they had “secured the services of MR. WALTER WHITMAN, favorably known as a bold, energetic and original writer, as their leading editor.” Whitman wrote a variety of articles for the paper on education, politics, and current events, including a brief review of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lecture “Nature and the Powers of the Poet” that he attended on March 5, 1842. Although Whitman did not meet Emerson at that lecture, Emerson’s impact on his career as a poet is widely regarded as crucial. In his review, Whitman wrote that “the business of the poet is expression—the giving utterance to the emotions and sentiments of the soul.” Whitman published two poems in the Aurora but left his position as editor by late April, following disagreements with the publishers over their efforts to shape his editorials.
The Whitman Archive presents page images of the Aurora from 1 February 1842 through 30 April 1842, a three-month span which should cover all of Whitman's contributions to the paper. The New York Aurora has been digitized from original print issues held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ.
A longer introduction to Whitman's work for the Aurora is forthcoming.
Clicking on a thumbnail image below will open a larger image, from which users can navigate forward and backward within the issue. To close images of an issue, click in the background. We are in the process of developing a more effective interface for the presentation of the newspaper.