Whitman and the Role of New York City on His Work

In 1828 Broadway extended only as far north as 10th Street, and 14th Street was opened from the Bowery to the Hudson. In 1860, commissioners were appointed to lay out streets north of 155th St. In 1820, the city had 123,706 inhabitants. By 1860, there were 813,669 inhabitants—and these residents were from everywhere—from Asia, Europe, and Africa.

While the population was expanding, New York became a city of extremes:

• There was a continuing divide between the rich (the Vanderbilts and Astors of 5th Avenue) and the poor (the immigrants living in Five Points).

• Architectural landmarks were going up all over town:

- The Crystal Palace exhibition hall, erected in 1853, was a monument to the optimism of the age.

- Central Park, constructed from 1857 to 1860, was envisioned a quiet place where all citizens could find leisure.

• Cultural life flourished. From P.T. Barnum's American Museum to the elegant Astor Place Opera House, there were all manner of venues for entertainment and inspiration.

New York City was representative of the potential of America. What more perfect place for the new American Adam of poetry to grow up?

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