Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 5 April 1869

Date: April 5, 1869

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00454

Source: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 140-141. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert

St. Louis,
April 5th 1869

Dear brother Walt

A few days since I received from Mr O'Connor1 six of the little pamphlets2 that I wrote to you about  They came in just right and have enabled me to make some very important changes in our work—I also received a letter from him yesterday saying that he would visit the U.S. Engineers office and pick up what he could for me—I do so hope he will—for they are just the books that do me the most good—and books that you cannot buy  Matters are about the same with us. Mattie is not so well for a week or so back—but I think it is the weather and then we are not so happily situated as we were before we left our room over the beer house3—nor do we live so well—I am trying to get a house and must succeed in a week or so then if Mattie dont get better I shall try and send her and the children up to Min. or Wis.4 for some four or five months. I hope and feel pretty sure that when we get to housekeeping and Mat has a better time and better food she will get all right again—she is not near as bad as she was in Brooklyn but she is not as well as she was when she had been here a few weeks. The children are well and are learning to read and write and all that sort of thing—they behave well and get along nicely—yet they are not as comfortably situated [as] I hope to have them after awhile.

We hav'nt heard from home in a long time  I suppose matters are going as usual there however. I shall try and send George some money to-day5—I hope he will succeed and get his houses done before the 1st of May6 so that Mother can get into one of them. I see that they are having some sort of a turn about in regard to the political offices in Brooklyn7—I hope that they wont reach Lane8 both for his own sake and for George's—It would be too bad to have any change in the Water Dept—The city would suffer more than could be calculated.

There is a series of papers called "Papers on Practical Engineering, published by the Engineer Dept."9 that I would like very much to get—I have seen no 5 and no 7 of them—they are of some 30 to 40 pages each, unbound—but give what of all things is the best for me—how certain works were constructed and the difficulties that they had to overcome. If Mr O'Connor or you can send me some of them I hope you will do so. Anyway the one he sent ("Memoir &c") gave me information so that I changed some portions of our work and I guess got me out of what might have turned out to be a bad fix—on the question of foundations. I shall write Mr O'Connor to-morrow—in the meantime please thank him for me—

How does the new administration affect you10—I hope that it will not be to your detriment. Are you still living the same as when I was at Washington11 and do you get along well.

By the way, in my last I forgot to tell you abt the "bitters" and to thank you for them—Mat likes them first rate and I think they do her good. I would like to get a gallon or two of them if I could—Will you ask the party making them if they can be kept in a jug and if so write me how much it will cost to get a one or two gallon demijohn and fill it and I will send you the money. Mattie takes them regularly and her appetite is kept up thereby

All send love to you—and hope to hear from you soon

Affectionately yours Jeff

Or can I buy the bitters here  if so, and you can learn where, it will do as well


1. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to William Douglas O'Connor, 16 March 1865[back]

2. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 25 March 1869[back]

3. The Hotel Garni. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 25 March 1869[back]

4. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 5 October 1872[back]

5. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to George Washington Whitman, 20 August 1868[back]

6. May 1 was moving day in Brooklyn, a time when leases were given up or renewed. [back]

7. On April 4 and 5, 1869, the Missouri Republican reported on "A Political Muddle in Brooklyn" in which Radical Republican state legislators threatened to abolish the Democratic Common Council. In what may have been a related action, a new independent water board was created on April 2, 1869, which was no longer responsible to the Board of Aldermen. Shortly thereafter, Moses Lane resigned the position he had held for seven years and was succeeded by Colonel Julius W. Adams. George evidently continued to work part time in Brooklyn until the end of the year. [back]

8. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1863[back]

9. The series "Papers on Practical Engineering," published by the Engineer Department, was intended for use by the United States Corps of Engineers. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel James L. Mason wrote Paper Five, "An Analytical Investigation of the Resistance of Piles to Superincumbent Pressure" (1850); Captain D. P. Woodbury wrote Paper Seven, "Treatise on the Various Elements of Stability in the Well-Proportioned Arch" (1858). [back]

10. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 25 March 1869[back]

11. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 2 August 1867[back]


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