On August 1, 1871, Whitman was invited by the Board of Managers of the fortieth National Industrial Exposition of the American Institute to write a poem for the opening ceremony. His invitation included the offer of travel expenses and a $100.00 fee. A delighted Whitman agreed and produced the poem, "After All, Not to Create Only," which he read at the opening of the Exposition in New York. Whitman had agreed to provide copies of the poem for publication, and the poem appeared in the New York Commercial Advertiser on September 7, 1871. The editors published the poem with a description of the opening exercises of the event, including the statement that "At the conclusion of the prayer, the national poet, Walt Whitman was introduced." The Commercial Advertiser, established in 1797 as the successor to Noah Webster's American Minerva, was one of the oldest newspapers in New York City. The primary purpose of the paper was to carry mercantile news, such as important events like the National Industrial Exposition. But the Advertiser also carried political and national news and was widely regarded as a quality newspaper. The paper began as a morning paper but became an afternoon newspaper after the Civil War; the issue which printed Whitman's poem gives the time of the "First Edition" as 1:00. Whitman's poem was reprinted in a number of other newspapers, but few gave it the prominence of the Commercial Advertiser.
"After All, Not to Create Only." New York Commercial Advertiser 7 September 1871: . This poem was published on the same day in the Brooklyn Standard and New York Evening Post, p. 2. It was reprinted in several newspapers and as a pamphlet, After All, Not to Create Only (1871); as "Song of the Exposition" in Two Rivulets (1876); and with some revisions in Leaves of Grass (1881–82).
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Loving, Jerome. Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
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Wolfe, Karen. "'Song of the Exposition'" (1871). Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia. Ed. J. R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings. New York: Garland, 1998.
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