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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 21 December 1866

Dear Walt,

Sent letter to Worthen1—as soon as received  Mother received letter and book—by the way can I get one of the books to present to Ruggles2  The $31 was made up as follows  Moses Lane $5.  Davis $5.3  self $5.  McNamee,4 Brower,5 Story,6 Bergen,7 Ward,8 Lewis,9 Clapp10 and Van Buren11 (all young men employed in our office) each $2. Hope you wont be disappointed in the smallness of the amount—but Davis had to go away and did'nt have time to see if he could collect any at his office.

Mother Mat and the children are all quite well—but have rather a hard time to keep warm12—wish when you write Mother you would always say something abt Hattie's learning to read and play &c  it sets her ahead wonderfully—you know how such things please children—should like to have you write me that long letter—I hope also to be able to pay you a short visit this winter—soon after the Holidays—everything is going abt as usual with us at home

affectionately yours Jeff


  • 1. William Ezra Worthen (1819–97) graduated from Harvard in 1838 and soon became a leading civil and hydraulic engineer. He designed and built many dams and mills in New England, some of which still operate. Originally from Massachusetts, he settled in New York in 1849 and served as sanitary engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Health of New York City, 1866–69. He became noted for designing and testing pumping engines, including some for James P. Kirkwood during the early stages of the new St. Louis Water Works, and developed a major reputation as a consultant. He published several books on engineering and served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1887. [back]
  • 2. Jeff probably wanted to give Edward Ruggles a copy of Drum-Taps or William D. O'Connor's The Good Grey Poet. [back]
  • 3. Moses Lane (1823–82) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. Joseph Phineas Davis (1837–1917) took a degree in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1856 and then helped build the Brooklyn Water Works until 1861. He was a topographical engineer in Peru from 1861 to 1865, after which he returned to Brooklyn. A lifelong friend of Jeff's, he became city engineer of Boston (1871–80) and completed his distinguished career as chief engineer of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (1880–1908). [back]
  • 4. Probably either John or Robert McNamee, both of whom were engineers. [back]
  • 5. Probably David Brower, an engineer who worked for the city. [back]
  • 6. Probably William H. Story, a surveyor. [back]
  • 7. The son of Congressman Teunis G. Bergen (see Jeff Whitman's letter to Walt from May 14, 1865), Van Brunt Bergen (1841–1917) graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1863 with a degree in civil engineering. He was employed on the Brooklyn Water Works from 1864 to 1895 and wrote a short history of the department which was printed in Henry R. Stiles, ed., The Civil, Political, Professional, and Ecclesiastical History...of the County of Kings and the City of Brooklyn, N.Y. from 1683 to 1884 (New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 1884), 584–94. [back]
  • 8. In Brooklyn at this time there were three engineers by the name of Ward: James, John, and Timothy. [back]
  • 9. Probably David J. Lewis, an engineer. [back]
  • 10. Unidentified. [back]
  • 11. Robert Van Buren (1843–?) graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1864 and joined the Brooklyn Water Works in 1865 as an assistant engineer. He was promoted to chief engineer in 1877, resigned in 1879, and was then reappointed in 1880 and held the post until 1893. [back]
  • 12. The family had moved to 840 Pacific Streeet on May 1, 1866. Located on top of a hill, this house was difficult to heat, but as Louisa Van Velsor Whitman noted, "Jeffy makes my fire when it is very cold" (see her letter to Walt Whitman from January 17, 1867 [Trent Collection, Duke University]). [back]
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