Whitman at 200

Penn Projects


Penn Projects

The following projects were organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts for Whitman at 200:


We Contain Multitudes: Celebrating Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday with Poetry, Song, and Cake

May 31, 2019

This community poetry reading, focusing on diversity, marked the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman, America's "poet of democracy." Readings of Whitman's poetry were interspersed with musical performances and special guest appearances, ranging from icon Patti Smith and Jesse Paris Smith to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. The event also offered free letterpress printing for individuals wanting to make their own Whitman souvenir, as well as a five foot tall bicentennial birthday cake by The Fancy Crumb, winner of Whitman’s “Birthday Cake Bake-Off.” See the full lineup by clicking the link below.



Whitman Vignettes: Camden and Philadelphia

May 29-August 8 (opening reception May 28), 2019

The American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) spent the last two decades of his life officially residing across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey. This exhibition, in conjunction with the 200th anniversary, on May 31, 2019, of the birth of Walt Whitman, focuses on the Camden/Philadelphia connection, both during Whitman’s life and in the decades that followed. Mining Penn’s important Whitman Collection, which includes original paintings by Herbert Gilchrist, son of Whitman’s English admirer Anne Gilchrist, it explores his friendships, his writings, his influence, his collectors, his legacy, and even the naming of his bridge.


Shades of Whitman: A “Look-Alike” Contest

April 13, 2019

Whitman at 200 is collaborating with Philadelphia Brewing Company for a nontraditional take on a Walt Whitman “Look-Alike” contest, Saturday, April 13th at 3:30pm (drink specials from 3pm – 6pm). Participate in a look-alike contest where your looks don't matter! In celebration of the 200th birthday of “America’s poet of democracy” in 2019, this event will crown the individual who best captures Whitman in both body and spirit. All are encouraged to participate regardless of age (21+), race, sexor gender identity. Judging will be based on the following categories: 1) Best Costuming 2) Whitman Trivia 3) Poetry Reading 4) Pitch – why should you win?

The winner will receive two tickets to see Patti Smith and Jesse Paris Smith at The Philadelphia Museum of Art on May 30, a prize from Philadelphia Brewing, and become an “unofficial representative” of the Whitman at 200 project.


Whitman at 200: Looking Back, Looking Forward

March 29 & 30, 2019

This symposium will explore Walt Whitman, his work and his life, from various perspectives. The keynote, “Whitman Getting Old,” will be given by Ed Folsom (Iowa), co-director of the Whitman Archive and editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and the Whitman Series for the University of Iowa Press. Speakers include Matt Cohen (UNebraska, Lincoln), Jay Grossman (Northwestern), Virginia Jackson (UCalifornia, Irvine), Meredith McGill (Rutgers), Don James McLaughlin (UTulsa), Michael Warner (Yale), Edward Whitley (Lehigh), and Michael Winship (UTexas, Austin).


Birthday Cake Bake-Off

February 26, 2019

Get your tickets now for this historic birthday cake bake-off, eat your weight in cake, and help decide which local bakery will have the honor of making Walt's 200th birthday cake. The winning cake will be featured at Whitman's birthday poetry reading at City Hall on May 31, 2019.

Contestants will be judged on design, taste, and creativity. Nick Malgieri, pastry chef, author, and member of Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, will head the team of judges and be joined by local press. 

*Please check back to purchase tickets or contact whitmanat200@upenn.edu to register as a bakery.    


Walt Whitman, From Photographs to Print: A Series of Three Workshops

January 26, February 9, February 23

As part of Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy, the Common Press and the Penn Libraries are offering a series of three workshops around the creation, translation, and printing of images, which was a major part of the nineteenth century print trade in which Whitman played an important role. Create your take on Whitman’s visage.

  • January 26: Drawing from Vintage Photographs with artist RA Friedman.

  • February 9: Cutting a Linoleum Block with artist Barbara Henry.

  • February 23: Printing from Linoleum Blocks on the Letterpress with printing expert Mary Tasillo.