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Walt Whitman to Horace Tarr, 13 December 1890

Dear H T

Y'rs just rec'd1—I send photo of Jeff2—If properly handled ("processed" is the common way, for preparing for printing on the power press) it can be made a capital picture, can be enlarged to any size.3 Is a good likeness & was taken eight or ten years ago—Yes I will write a few lines to go with it—I shall want some copies sent here by mail without fail. My copies of the Eng[ineering] Record with article have not come—slips also not come—I hope they will not be neglected—& will ask you if convenient to jog the editor's memory—Horace, ab't the kind mention & offer ab't my dear niece4 (God bless you, Horace dear boy—and God bless the dear engineers5)—I do not at this moment know what to say definitely (for Jessie)—and will write you further—also ab't the sculptor—am unwell to–day—

Walt Whitman

Tho' I sit up & eat my rations & have my right arm & (sort o') mentality I am paralyzed & utterly disabled here—cannot walk across the room—my respects to Worthen6—show him this—

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. See Tarr's letter to Whitman of December 13, 1890. [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 figure. For more on Jeff, 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. Walt Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson Whitman died unexpectedly from typhoid pneumonia on November 25, 1890. In Tarr's letter to Whitman of December 1, 1890, Tarr had asked the poet to write an obituary for Jeff that could be published in the engineering journals. Whitman's obituary for his brother "Thomas Jefferson Whitman: An Engineer's Obituary" was published in the Engineering Review of December 13, 1890. Tarr had followed up with a letter dated that same day, December 13, 1890, to ask for a photograph of Jeff, and here, the poet is responding affirmatively to that request. [back]
  • 4. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the second and youngest daughter of Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873). [back]
  • 5. In his December 13, 1890, letter, Tarr went on to inquire about Jeff's "probable financial condition" because, after having spoken with William E. Worthen (1819–1897), an engineer and old friend, Tarr thought that "a thousand of dollars or so could be cheerfully raised, or given" to support Jeff's family. [back]
  • 6. 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]
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