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Date: July 1878
Place: New York
Photographer: William Kurtz
Note: Written on the back of the Library of Congress copy of this photo: "Walt Whitman with 'Kitty' (Katharine Devereux) and 'Harry' (Harold Hugh) Johnston, children of John H. and Amelia F. Johnston." Johnston was a New York jeweler who befriended Whitman and housed him for long stays in New York in the late 1870s. During his first stay in 1877, Whitman experienced the death of Amelia Johnston as she gave birth to Harry. In 1878, Whitman wrote that "The little 15 months old baby, little Harry . . . is a fine, good bright child, not very rugged, but gets along very well—”I take him in my arms always after breakfast & go out in front for a short walk—”he is very contented & good with me—”little Kitty goes too." Whitman worried about Harry's health—”"I hardly think its tenure of life secure." Whitman reported that the children called him "Uncle Walt," and he found them "model children lively & free & children" who "form a great part of my comfort here." In a 1911 letter, J. H. Johnston remembered that during his brief two-day visit in July 1878, "Walt enjoyed rambling up & down the Avenue and opposite in Central Park with our two youngest children, and one day of his own accord he took them down to Kurtz-then the most famous photographer in New York and had himself photographed with them." There is also a cropped and touched up version of this photograph with a clutch of grass added in Harry's hand. The grass in Harry's hand turns him into a representation of the child in "Song of Myself" who said "What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands."
Type: Carte-de-visite
Credit: Alderman Library, University of Virginia
ID: 065

Image 065


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