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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr., Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, George Washington Whitman, Andrew Jackson Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman, and Edward Whitman, 14 March 1848

Dear Father,

Since I wrote to Mother nothing of importance has transpired. This will be the eighth or ninth letter we have sent you,1 and we have not received a single one from you. Mr Wilson2 in the Eagle office sent Walter one in which he said that he called there and that you were all well. Do write to us, Father, even half a sheet would be better than nothing. I go to the post office every day so we shall get it as soon as it gets here. I have written one to Mr Brown3 and William Devoe4 and (as Walter said in his last letter)5 I shall write one to you at the beginning and middle of every month

Walter and myself are very well. I am now at work in the "Crescent" office at five dollars per week, and my work is done by three o'clock every afternoon. I dont know how long I shall stay there, but it shall be as long as I can make it.

Walter gets home much sooner than he thought he should; he is hardly ever later than eleven o'clock, and one night he was home at half past nine o'clock, he gets a few books most every day but none of them worth much.6

Father, you wanted me to ask how much carpenter's wages were here. I am told they are from forty to fifty dollars a month and found,7 which I think is a pretty good sum, but every thing is so much here that you hardly know whether you get a good bargain or not.

To My Dear Mother

I do want to hear from you very, very much, do write to Walter or me and tell us how you have been getting along since we came away and give a description of sister Mary's visit (I wrote her a letter soon after we got here). I will give you a little bit of city news.

New Orleans is a very level place and you do not dig down above two feet before you come to the water. It is also [a] very dirty place. Mother, I never wanted your cleanliness so much before as I did at our first boarding house, you could not only see the dirt, but you could taste it, and you had to too if you ate anything at all. And the rooms too, were covered with dirt an inch thick. But now we are through with all that. We are now liveing at the Tremont house, next door to the Theatre and directly opposite the office.8

Their has been two or three procession (and one thing or other) days since we have been here, and some rather funny ones too.

Mr. Tombs,9 (the man that has or will give you the letter from Walter and the bundle of papers) is a brother of the foreman of the Eagle office.

He has not heard from his Father and Mother for a year and a half yet they have written to him three or four times. (Doubtful. W. W.[)]10 He has had the yellow fever three times within the passed summer. Last Sunday we took a walk in the old Cathilic cemmetery,11 and a very beautiful place it is to. Flowers of every description were on some of the tombs, large white roses and red ones too were all along the walk from one end to the other. At night too the streets are filled with women with baskets full of flowers.

On Sunday morning we took a walk down to the old French church12 and an old looking thing it is too. Every one would go up and dip their fingers in the holy water and then go home and whip their slaves. One old black took a bottle full home to wash the sins out of her family.

I will write to you Mother again, you must write to me as often as you possibly can

To George and Andrew

Dear Brothers, I should like to see you very much but as I can not you must write to me too. On Saturday the 4th of March we had a grand fireman's procession13 and I think it was larger than the one (the firemen part) in New York. the engines were very large and are drawn by horses (six or eaight). Right opposite here they are fixing it up for a balloon ascension on next Sunday. I suppose I shall see all the fun  I am going to night to see Mr Collins14 and I expect some fun. You must write to me as soon as you can.

To Sister Hannah

Dear Sister. Your part of the letter comes on the part where their is no lines, so I think it will be pretty crooked, but you must not mind that

I beleive I promised to send you something but every thing is so d[amned] much that I cannot get it

New Orleans would be just the place for you, you could have flowers all the year round which I know you are a great lover of. Bye the Bye, Walter wants to know (an you must tell him in your letter) whether the trees and flowers he sat out are living yet. Dear Sister you must also write to me (but please pay the postage)  Among the others I must not forget my dear brother.

Eddy you must go to school and try to write and read so I can send letters to you and you can read them.

I must bid you all good bye but I will write again soon.

good bye Father, good bye Mother good bye all Jefferson Whitman


  • 1. Only one of these letters—from Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr. and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 18(?)-28 February 1848—is extant. [back]
  • 2. Probably Peter W. Wilson, a printer. [back]
  • 3. Probably Henry Brown; see Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr. and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 23 April 1848. Three men with this name are listed in the 1848 Brooklyn directory: a merchant, a bookkeeper, and a well digger. [back]
  • 4. William Devoe, a carpenter. He corresponded with Jeff as late as 1885. See the letter from Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman of February 23, 1885. [back]
  • 5. This letter is not extant. [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman recommended to Crescent readers Cooper's Jack Tier, C. W. Webber's Old Hicks, the Guide, and Erastus Everett's System of Versification, but he criticized Dickens' Dombey and Son as "inartistical" (Joseph Jay Rubin, The Historic Whitman [University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973], p. 195). [back]
  • 7. Jeff means that carpenters receive additional compensation ("found") such as room and board along with their wages. [back]
  • 8. Jeff and Walt Whitman boarded with P. Irwin on St. Charles Street at the price of nine dollars per week. [back]
  • 9. Andrew W. Toombs, a printer. [back]
  • 10. This parenthetical remark was inserted by Walt Whitman, who corrected Jeff's New Orleans letters. [back]
  • 11. St. Louis Number One, the oldest cemetery in the city (1788), located on Basin Street between St. Louis and Toulouse. [back]
  • 12. The St. Louis Cathedral, located in the Place d'Armes (renamed Jackson Square in 1850). [back]
  • 13. These annual parades celebrating the founding of the volunteer fire department began in 1837 or 1838 and continued for fifty years. [back]
  • 14. John Collins, an Irish comedian and vocalist popular on the New York stage, performed this night at Armory Hall. [back]
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