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Horace Tarr to Walt Whitman, 1 December 1890

 loc_vm.00443.jpg My Dear Mr. Whitman:—

Since Jeff's2 death I have been constantly thinking that there should be some proper obituary notice of him published in one of the engineering journals.

At the time of the death of Moses Lane,3 I found that the notices which I wrote brought forth others from his friends, and withal it was very satisfactory to his family and those to whom he was especially dear.

In Jeff's case, there is no one of us that knows enough of his early life to write a proper notice, in fact, there is no one that can do this with justice to his memory among us, save possibly Worthen,4 or Joe Davis,5 and we cannot hope for anything from them. Therefore, the thought has occurred to me that if you would write a notice that would take up say not over half a column Publisher says you may take a whole column, (as it is very difficult, you know, in one of these engineering journals, to get more than this), if you would do this, I would attend to having it published in one of the engineering journals, and I know that it would be a very great satisfaction to his friends in the profession.6

The death of Jeff has been a very great blow to me personally, as for a good many years I looked upon him as one of my warmest friends. Our association of the last four or five years has been constant, and very close, and I have learned to lean upon loc_vm.00444.jpg loc_vm.00445.jpg him in so many ways that I feel as though a prop were taken out of my life by his death.

I am sorry to have to write you a machine letter now, but my crippled arm makes this a necessity.

If you agree with me, and are willing and strong enough to furnish me the manuscript, I would suggest your doing it at once, as I shall be away from home after a few days, and besides that, it should be published as soon as possible.

Very truly yours, Horace Tarr B.  loc_vm.00446.jpg  loc_vm.00441.jpg f'm Horace Tarr 65  loc_vm.00442.jpg

Horace G. H. Tarr (also G. Horace Tarr and Horace G. Tarr) (ca. 1844–1922), a native of Missouri, was the nephew of the Brooklyn engineer Moses Lane (1823–1882). Tarr served in the Civil War, enlisting with Company K 20th Regiment of the Connecticut Infantry Volunteers in 1862, when he was still a teenager. After Gettysburg, Tarr was promoted to first Lieutenant, and, during the Atlanta campaign, he became the Captain of Company F. After the Civil War, Tarr worked as an engineer and a business manager for two iron companies. He later married, and he and his wife were the parents of six children. Tarr was mentioned in the correspondence between Whitman and his brother, Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890) and seems to have been a longtime friend of Jeff Whitman.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Mr Walt Whitman | Camden | N.J. It is postmarked: New York | DEC 2 | 7 PM | 90; Camden, N.J. | Dec | 6 AM | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized name. Whitman probably had his brother in mind when he praised the marvels of civil engineering in poems like "Passage to India." Though their correspondence slowed in the middle of their lives, the brothers were brought together again by the deaths of Jeff's wife Martha (known as Mattie) in 1873 and his daughter Manahatta in 1886. Jeff's death in 1890 caused Walt to reminisce in his obituary, "how we loved each other—how many jovial good times we had!" For more on Thomas Jefferson Whitman, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Moses Lane (1823–1882) 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. He was instrumental in promoting Thomas Jefferson Whitman's career and employed George Washington Whitman as a pipe inspector after the war. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's December 21, 1866, letter to Walt Whitman. For Lane's career, see "Moses Lane," Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers (February 1882), 58. [back]
  • 4. William Ezra Worthen (1819–1897) 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, 1866–1869. 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 (The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography [New York: James T. White & Company, 1904], 7:206). He published several books on engineering and served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1887. [back]
  • 5. 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 Thomas Jefferson Whitman's, Davis became city engineer of Boston (1871–1880) and later served as chief engineer of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (1880–1908). For Davis's work with Jeff Whitman in St. Louis, see Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letters to Walt Whitman from May 23, 1867, January 21, 1869, and March 25, 1869. [back]
  • 6. Whitman did write the obituary, which was published in The Engineering Record on December 13, 1890. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price note that there were at least seven published obituaries of Jeff Whitman ( see Berthold and Price, eds., Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman [Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984], 189). [back]
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