Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Lavinia F. Whitman to Walt Whitman, 14 June 1886

Date: June 14, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04856

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6
page image
image 7
page image
image 8

1715 N. 21st St Phila
June 14th.

Walt. Whitman Esq.

Dear Sir—Though I made a fruitless attempt, some two years since to communicate with you about a work to be published, relating to the Whitman Geneology, in which I thought you might take an interest, as perhaps of the same family & like to add what you might know of your names,—I am about to make another effort & enclose you what has just been furnished me by Mr Farnam,1 who I know would be glad to hear from you, for you, as many others of the name, are not unknown to fame.2

I am not a Whitman myself but a daughter-in-law of the late Judge Whitman—a model of the old school gentleman & scholar.

I frequently read with interest little notices of yourself & your doings & as I hope an improvement in your health—the aid to your locomotion as the gift of friends &c.

With kind wishes & respect
Mrs Lavinia F. Whitman

To all persons bearing the name of



The great majority of those bearing the name of Whitman in the United States are descended from John Whitman, who settled in Weymouth, Mass., about 1640, and from his sons Thomas, John, Abiah and Zechariah.

The record of the family to the fourth generation was prepared by Hon. Judge Whitman, late of Portland, and for many years Chief Justice of Maine. It is the endeavor of the writer of this circular to trace out from that time the various branches, and thus continue the record to date.

If the work is to be well done, it is important that copies of old Bible records, Tombstone inscriptions, family traditions and other matters of interest should be collected and placed in proper hands for preservation and comparison. I therefore particularly request all sons and daughters of all the Whitmans to transmit to me such particulars of their own families, and of their ancestors' families, for two, three or four generations back, as they can find or obtain, stating, if possible places of residence, occupation, etc., and especially copies of records of births, marriages and deaths.

It will be thus possible to refer any correspondents to their ancient stock and name their ancestors.

I trust that all will have sufficient interest in the work to spare at least the time to prepare their own record, and will give the matter their immediate attention.

Assistant in Archæology, Yale College,
P.O. Drawer 91.

My dear Madam

Kindly send apace—address as asked for on Enclosed sheet.

I am hoping to publish soon so req an early reply.

Are there any change to record in your family since last writing?

Truly yours
C.H Farnam

Lavinia Fanning Watson Whitman (1818–1900) was the eldest daughter of John Fanning Watson—author of Annals of Philadelphia (1830) and a well known historian of Philadelphia and New York City—and his wife Phebe Barron Crowell. In 1846, Lavinia became the first woman to sponsor a United States Navy ship when she christened the sloop-of-war, the USS Germantown, in Philadelphia. She married Harrison Gray Otis Whitman, a son of Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ezekial Whitman.


1. Charles Henry Farnham (1846–1909) was an archaeologist and author from New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Yale and went on to serve as the Assistant in Archæology in the Peabody Museum at the university from 1877 to 1891. He researched Whitman genealogy for several years before publishing The History of the Descendants of John Whitman of Weymouth, Mass. in 1889. He would have been gathering material for this volume at the time Lavinia Whitman sent his request for genealogical information to Walt Whitman. [back]

2. Any prior letters are not extant, and there is no indication that Whitman replied to this inquiry. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.