Walter Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Town of Huntington, Long Island, to parents with interests in Quaker thought, Walter (1789–1855) and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873). The second of nine children, he was immediately nicknamed "Walt" to distinguish him from his father. Walter Whitman Sr. named three of his seven sons after American leaders: Andrew Jackson, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.
Moves to Brooklyn
Eleven-year-old Walt Whitman drops out of school in order to work and earn money for his family. He works as an assistant in the offices of a doctor and a lawyer.
Learns Printing Trade
Whitman gets a job as an apprentice for the Long Island Patriot newspaper. He immediately takes to the profession, and is soon freelancing on his own as a printer and typesetter for local publications.
Moves back to New York
1841 - 1845
Whitman moves back to New York City to work as a printer. He also begins publishing fiction and poetry, as well as journalistic pieces, in newspapers and journals. In 1842 his didactic temperance novel, Franklin Evans, or the Inebriate, appears in print. He stakes out radical positions on labor issues, women's property rights, capital punishment and immigration — putting him in near constant opposition to society's prevailing sentiments. In just four years in Manhattan, Whitman works briefly at the Tattler, the Daily Plebeian, the Statesman, the Mirror, the Democrat, the Sun and the Star.
First Novel Published
Whitman publishes his first novel, Franklin Evans; or The Inebriate. The pro-temperance novel is commercially popular, even though Whitman himself later comes to describe it as "rot."
First edition of Leaves of Grass
12 may 1855
Whitman publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass, a collection of twelve poems written in a bold new style. Readers are shocked and awed by the poems' raw subject material and striking style. Ralph Waldo Emerson sends Whitman a letter praising the book and congratulating him on "the beginning of a great career."
The Civil War begins. Whitman's younger brother George joins the Union Army.
Suffers a stroke
january 23, 1873
Whitman suffers a stroke, debilitating his left arm and leg. He intends to stay temporarily with his brother George in Camden, New Jersey; he occupies the rooms of his mother, who has recently died.
Death of Walt Whitman
march 26, 1892
Walt Whitman dies at home in Camden at the age of 72. He is buried in Camden's Harleigh Cemetery.