Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Whitman’s last pencil

[“Walt Whitman’s pencil / the last used / Given me by John Burroughs / 1 April 1892.”]

From Walt Whitman at the Lilly, an Indiana University online exhibition: Whitman’s (alleged) last pencil. It’s a Dixon’s American Graphite. Click through for a much larger photograph and Whitman’s thoughts about pencils and their uses. (Hint: spoon .)

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

comments: 11

Fresca said...

Working on editing a Lincoln book for kids, I just read that L. used to wave at Walt when they saw each other in Washington.
I like to imagine that.

I also imagine Lincoln used pencils? Do you know?

Never mind, I googled it, and––how amazing!
As you may know, Lincoln was carrying, among other things, a small pencil in his pocket on the night he was shot.

"A small pencil"--the sort of detail that makes history feel read (and, in this case, sad).

There's a photo of the contents of his pocket here (but I don't spy a pencil):

Michael Leddy said...

That’s great, Fresca. It’s curious that the one thing missing from the photographs is the pencil. It makes me think of Henry Petroski’s observation in The Pencil: when antiques dealers buy toolboxes, trunks, and the contents of artists’ and architects’ studios, they throw out the pencils. Though I doubt that Lincoln’s pencil was thrown out. But where is it?

I found a picture of one Lincoln pencil, posed very much like the Whitman pencil.

Michael Leddy said...

P.S.: If I were a kid, I would be excited to read about what Lincoln was carrying in his pockets. (As I am now.)

Frex said...

Oh, I love the photo of Lincoln's pencil!
Thanks for that.

[I'd transcribe the handwritten note "the week before he died" not the "work".]

"“What has it got in its pocketses?"
(You know, LOTR.) An endlessly fascinating question, I think.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, it’s “week.” I had to look up “LOTR” to know what it stands for: it’s way off my radar. But now I understand.

Frex said...

Yeah, looking again, I can see the capital-style "e" clearly in "Gen", same as in "week".

Sorry--I've been so surrounded by fandoms, I forget not everyone instantly recognizes the shorthand!
Lord of the Rings is not really my thing;
though I loved it in high school, unlike Star Trek it didn't interest me later. But one fandom bumps up against the others, so I catch the lingo.

Michael Leddy said...

I think most people in the English-speaking world understand “LOTR.” I’m an outlier. : )

The Crow said...

I use pencils to stir my coffee and tea. Just came across a bag of some of the many pencils (mostly stubs) I've held on to over the years, and thought of you.

Michael Leddy said...

Isn’t it funny (and great) how we make these associations? I can’t open a can of sardines without thinking about our fish adventures.

Frex said...

And may I piggyback on this conversation and say I ate a can of sardines and liked it pretty well---just bought one in lemon olive-oil and one in tomato sauce---and it's all because of you two (Martha & Michael)!
My brain thanks you.
I shall eat them with a pencil. (Not.)

Michael Leddy said...

Martha, we’ve made a convert.

I wouldn't’t eat them with a pencil either, but they would go well with penne, or any pasta: some garlic, oil, red-pepper flakes, sardines, all smushed up in a pan and then mixed with the pasta.