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In Memory of Walt Whitman

This photo was an oddball among the hundreds of antique slides I recently scanned and I thought it was worth preserving and sharing. It was taken in June of 1958 at Bear Mountain State park in Rockland County, New York. It is a sign telling the life story of Walt Whitman and marking the location of the statue erected in his memory in 1940. The statue depicts the poet as if he were strolling through the park. Unfortunately, a photo of the statue itself was not found in this collection, but you can see a modern day image of it here. According to the Historical Marker Database, this memorial is located at 41° 19.014′ N, 73° 59.277′ W. It is located on the path from the Bear Mountain Inn to Fort Clinton.

This sign still stands today, although it has been modified. Pieces of this original sign are framed behind glass (or plexiglass). The sign reads:


WALT WHITMAN


Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets was born at West Hills Long Island in 1819. At an early age he left the public schools of Brooklyn and dismissed all formal education to learn the printer's trade. He later became a teacher and from 1846 to 1848 was editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. At the outbreak of the Civil War he volunteered as a nurse in the Union Army after which he accepted a government clerkship in Washington D.C. but still spent practically all of his spare time in hospitals aiding the wounded. Whitman was attacked by paralysis in 1873, retired to Camden, New Jersey where he died in 1892.


Whitman is famous for his poems of democracy and America. His first and best known work "Leaves of Grass" of which the "Song of the Open Road" is part, was published in 1855 and was received for the most part with abuse, later becoming one of the best known American poetical works.


In 1940 this statue was presented to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission by William Averell Harriman in behalf of his brother and sisters as a memorial to their mother Mary Williamson Harriman on the thirtieth anniversary of her gift to the state of ten thousand acres of land and one million dollars to establish the Bear Mountain – Harriman section of the Palisades Interstate Park.


This statue of Walt Whitman was designed by Jo Davidson to portray the feeling of one of Whitman's verses in the "Song of the Open Road". It was exhibited at the New York World's Fair before being placed here.


Below are the lines cut in the rock to your right from the "Song of the Open Road".


The Song of the Open Road


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.

Camerado, I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Walt Whitman

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