of an American Icon
My 27 years with Walt have been and continue to be rewarding, challenging, and inspiring. My intentWalt Whitman:
of an American Icon
My 27 years with Walt have been and continue to be rewarding, challenging, and inspiring. My intention has always been to exhibit rather than write or lecture about my Walt Whitman Collection. When devotion and passion are given to something you truly enjoy, it’s inevitable that audiences will be interested to see what you collect, curious in learning why you collect and learning about the collector.
The primary focus of the collection is the commercialization of Whitman’s name, image, and body of works in memorabilia, ephemeral material, commercial products, fine art, and digital format. My reason for this madness is to enrich my knowledge of the past, preserve this aspect of collecting for future generations, and acquaint myself with the phenomenon of Whitman’s popularity. I stress that my intention is not to make a critical appraisal of his writing, but rather to generate curiosity among those not familiar with Whitman’s work, hoping it would spark an interest in familiarizing themselves with his poetry and fascinating life.
This fascination humbly began while I was researching material for an article about American poets on stamps. To my astonishment along the way I learned that the Walt Whitman House in Camden, New Jersey, was only several miles from where I lived as a teenager. I soon discovered that Walt has been depicted on advertising for cigars (ironically he never smoked), coffee, beer (he also never drank), insurance, and the list goes on and on! There are also places named after him—the Walt Whitman bridge, high schools, a shopping mall, parks, apartment building, bookstores, just to name a few.
But surprisingly, this commercialization began as early as the 1880's and Walt was not entirely opposed in having his image and name attached to products. When Whitman saw his image on a cigar box he laughed and said, "that is fame, giving the hat a little more height and it would not be such an offense." Sadly, Whitman received no monetary compensation for the usage of his image, and ironically he never smoked...
Up until the mid-1960s, corporate America invoked Whitman’s name and image with high reverence due to his iconic literary stature and fame through advertisements, services, products and merchandise having no connection to him.
As we enter the 1970s and beyond, Whitman’s image and poetry took an entirely different status in the mass media, (TV, radio, internet, movies for example). Today’s Whitman is more ambiguous, daring, complex, edgy and playful. Countless erotic photography books, he has appear on gay/straight porn publications, awful tasting gum, NYC subway card, Marilyn Monroe wall tile, just a few samples among the dozens of items in my collection...
To see more of my collection, learn about upcoming Whitman events, and read more about his poetry, please visit the following links:
http://rivertonhistory.com/2015/03/walt-whitman-i-finally-heard-him-singing-thanks-to-ed-centeno/ (showing a portion of my collection)
http://www.waltwhitman.org/ (Walt Whitman Birthplace)
http://www.whitmanarchive.org/ (Walt Whitman website)
http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/whitman/ (Library of Congress Archives)
Centeno_005@hotmail.com (my personal email)
email@example.com (12th annual marathon reading “Song of Myself”) (Read more)