Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 5 October [1871]

Date: October 5, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00180

Source: The Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. 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.

Editorial notes: The annotation, "from dear mother," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "Direct to George at Camden Iron Works, Camden N.J.," is in the hand of George Washington Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, and Natalie Raabe

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Oct 51

my dear walt

i2 send you the receipt for the money george3 has sent you by addams s express4 100 dolr he wants you to write to him at the above direction when you receive it all right to day is the 4th i want to go down to the post office to morrow and see if alls right with the order george is here but will go back to morrow our company is here yet and i dont know how long they will remain5 i have to work but i suppose i shall get through i will write again walter dear i got your letter satterday with the money it come very acceptable

good bie


1. This letter dates to October 5, 1871. The executors did not date this letter, and Edwin Haviland Miller did not list it in his calendar of letters (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:369). Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter "Oct 5," and based on her statements that she had visitors and that she planned to make a long-delayed trip to the post office tomorrow, the letter dates to 1871. A week earlier, Louisa had noted her irritation at the arrival of her daughter Mary Van Nostrand and family with "bag and baggage" just as she planned to go out to the post office (see her September 28, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman). According to this letter, "our company is here yet," but Louisa planned to take her delayed trip to the post office tomorrow. Louisa's daughter Mary came to Brooklyn with husband Ansel and her two daughters Louisa and Mary Isadore "Minnie." Mary had requested a week-long visit for shopping in preparation for her daughter Minnie's approaching marriage in mid-October (see Louisa's September 15–26, 1871 letter to Walt). [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

3. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

4. Adams Express, founded in the northeast in the 1840s, was a packet and letter service that spread nationally as a reliable alternative to the United States Post Office. Adams Express was noted for its trustworthiness and its guarantee of privacy for shippers, which made it a favorite for conveying material that was deemed valuable or otherwise called for discretion. The Whitmans used Adams Express to transfer larger sums of money both during and after the Civil War, but Walt Whitman generally sent Louisa Van Velsor Whitman smaller sums via the postal service. For the trust accorded to Adams Express, see Hollis Robbins, "Fugitive Mail: The Deliverance of Henry 'Box' Brown and Antebellum Postal Politics," American Studies 50.1/2 (2009), 12–13. [back]

5. The company that is "here yet" is Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's daughter Mary Elizabeth Van Nostrand (1821–1899), her husband Ansel Van Nostrand, and their daughters Louisa and Mary Isadore "Minnie." The four used Louisa's Brooklyn residence as a home base for a full week of shopping in preparation for Minnie's upcoming marriage. For Louisa's anxiety regarding the Van Nostrands' planned visit, see her September 15–26, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman. For her irritation at their arrival with "bag and baggage," see her September 28, 1871 letter to Walt. Minnie married Leander Jay Young (1846–1937) on October 18, 1871. For the date of the marriage, see Gertrude A. Barber, compiler, "Marriages of Suffolk County, N. Y. Taken from the 'Republican Watchman': A Newspaper Published at Greenport, N. Y. Years 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876" (1950), 1:3, [back]


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