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About this Item

Title: Broadway Yesterday

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: April 22, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00468

Source: New York Aurora 22 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: Alex Ashland, Gabrielle K. Engstrom, and Kevin McMullen

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We did think we had exhausted all the superlatives in praise of the aspect of Broadway of a pleasant afternoon. Yesterday, however, was too fine not to receive a passing notice.

We took a stroll down to the Battery, about four P.M.1 The crowd and the jam were tremendous. Hundreds of splendid women and fashionable men filled the pave; and between the curb stones whirled one incessant clang of omnibusses, carriages, and other vehicles.

Upon the Battery, pedestrians, singly and in groups, were enjoying the lazy breeze as it wafted along from the bosom of the bay. Quite a "sensation" was created by the starting of the rival steamers, the Worcester and the Massachusetts. They put forth, like high mettled steeds, and those on board them, no doubt, felt as anxious for the success of their favorite boat as e'er a sportsman at Union course2 for the success of Eclipse or Black Maria.3 As they turned the southern point of the Battery, the Worcester was several lengths ahead.


1. From the seventeenth century until the War of 1812, the Battery on the southern tip of Manhattan served as a gun emplacement and fortress for the defense of New York City. By the 1840s, it had become a popular promenade and park for wealthy New Yorkers. [back]

2. The Union Course was located in Queens and was one of the most famous American horse racing courses during the early nineteenth century. [back]

3. Two famous racehorses. American Eclipse famously defeated Sir Henry in 1823 at the Union Course. The race was framed in sectional terms, with Eclipse representing the North and Sir Henry the South. According to one source, the combined spectatorship at the race was larger than all but three American cities of the period (Arne K. Lang, Sports Betting and Bookmaking: An American History [New York: Rowman and Littfield, 2016], 1). Black Maria was a daughter of Eclipse (Steven A. Reiss, Sports in America from Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century: An Encyclopedia [New York: Routledge, 2015], 323). [back]


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