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Hartshorne, William (1775–1859)

William Hartshorne grew up in Philadelphia but moved to Brooklyn around the close of the eighteenth century. He later became city printer for the city of Brooklyn.

In 1831 Hartshorne was printer for the Long Island Patriot when a twelve-year-old Walt Whitman became an apprentice for the paper. Whitman boarded with Hartshorne's granddaughter, and the older man took Whitman under his wing. Hartshorne initiated Whitman into the printing trade and showed him how to set his first page of type. He and Whitman often conversed, and Whitman loved to hear Hartshorne tell stories about meeting George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and about the early days of the republic and the American Revolution.

Although Whitman described him as small and rather fragile, Hartshorne lived to be eighty-four. Soon after Hartshorne died, Whitman wrote a tribute to him in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Hartshorne was described as a quiet, kindly old man and was one of the most influential persons on Whitman's early years. Whitman said it was "impossible that he should ever have a biography—but he deserves one full as much as more eminent persons" (Whitman 246).


Allen, Gay Wilson. The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman. 1955. Rev. ed. 1967. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985.

White, William. "A Tribute to William Hartshorne: Unrecorded Whitman." American Literature 42 (1971): 554–558.

Whitman, Walt. The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman. Ed. Emory Holloway. Vol. 2. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1921.

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