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About this Item

Title: Playing in the Park

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: April 12, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00461

Source: New York Aurora 12 April 1842: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Aurora when this editorial was written, and Herbert Bergman identified him as its author in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Jason Stacy, Gabrielle K. Engstrom, and Kevin McMullen

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It is customary for numbers of boys, of pleasant days, to congregate in the Park, and amuse themselves by running races, trundling hoops, playing marbles, and the like. Most of these are poor, ragged little devils, with plenty of dirt, and plenty of signs of poverty about them. They offend nobody, interfere with nobody, and generate no evil to themselves in these innocent and wholesome amusements. Yet it is customary for one or two understrappers who have charge of the Park, to rush into the midst of the squads of youngsters, beat them with rattans, and cuff them, and disperse them. It may be thought a small matter to speak about, but we nevertheless shall take the liberty of saying that it is a useless and brutal proceeding. Because these children are poor, dirty, and ragged, that is no reason why they should be whipped in this manner, and prevented from pursuing their little amusements. On the Battery,1 and in other public grounds, any quantity of the offspring of the rich and fashionable may be daily seen playing, and no objection made. Such conduct may hardly have the effect of teaching the proper moral to young republicans.


1. Located on the southern tip of Manhattan, the Battery was formerly a system of gun emplacements for defense of New York City culminating in the erection of Fort Clinton during the War of 1812. By the 1840s, it had become a popular promenade and park. [back]


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