2019 85¢ Literary Arts: Walt Whitman
Value: 85¢ 3-ounce First-class rate (Forever)
Issue Date: September 12, 2019
First Day City:
Huntington Station, NY
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd.
Printing Method: Offset, Microprint
Format: Pane of 20
Quantity Printed: 12,000,000
Walt Whitman (1819-92) was one of America's most influential poets. Known as the "Father of Free Verse," he pushed the limits of poetry and saw the connection between the poet and society.
Whitman dropped out of school when he was 11 to support his family and was self-taught after that. He spent years teaching and working at newspapers, but writing was his passion. In 1850, he began working on his first collection of poems, Leaves of Grass. Self-published in 1855, it received both praise and criticism for its controversial imagery. Over the next 40 years, Whitman reworked the collection, expanding it from 12 poems to over 400 in its final edition.
During the Civil War, Whitman volunteered as a nurse in army hospitals and penned patriotic poems for the North. He was shaken by Abraham Lincoln's death a the end of the war and wrote multiple poems about the tremendous loss. Among these was "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." The imagery was inspired by lilacs he had seen in his family's yard the day Lincoln died. The poem captured the nation's transition from grief to acceptance.
At a time when America was re-forging its national identity in the wake of the Civil War, Whitman became the country's first "poet of democracy." As one poet stated, Whitman is "America's poet... He is America."