Pictures & Sound

Gallery of Images

Date: 15 April 1887
Place: New York
Photographer: George C. Cox
Note: On the morning of April 15th, 1887, George Cox took several photographs of Whitman, who was celebrating the success of his New York lecture on Lincoln, delivered the day before. Whitman recalls that "six or seven" photos were made during the session, but Whitman's friend Jeannette Gilder, an observer of the session, said there were many more than that: "He must have had twenty pictures taken, yet he never posed for a moment. He simply sat in the big revolving chair and swung himself to the right or to the left, as Mr. Cox directed, or took his hat off or put it on again, his expression and attitude remaining so natural that no one would have supposed he was sitting for a photograph." A few months later, Whitman was angry that Cox apparently was selling copies of the photos with forged signatures and was refusing to send Whitman copies of the proofs to allow Whitman to decide which ones should be printed, but the problem was straightened out and Cox began sending Whitman modest payments for the sale of photos. By October 1888, Whitman was calling Cox "the premier exception" among photographers and claimed to have received around one hundred dollars in royalties. Cox copyrighted two of the photos from this sitting, the only time he ever did so, apparently to protect Whitman's financial interest in them, and he sold the photos only to aid Whitman. Until now, only seven photos from this session have been known to exist; this collection adds five more, bringing the total to twelve. This was Whitman's favorite photograph from the Cox session ("it seems to me so excellent—”so to stand out from all the others"), a photo he began referring to as "the Laughing Philosopher": "Do you think the name I have given it justified? do you see the laugh in it? I'm not wholly sure: yet I call it that. I can say honestly that I like it better than any other picture of that set: Cox made six or seven of them: yet I am conscious of something foreign in it—”something not just right in that place." Still, Whitman believed the picture was "like a total—”like a whole story," and he was proud that Tennyson—”to whom Whitman sent the photo—”admired it: "liked it much—”oh! so much."
Type: Print
Credit: Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress
ID: 103

Image 103


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