The William Sloane Kennedy Memorial Collection of Whitmaniana

William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929), son of a minister from Oxford, Ohio, graduated from Yale University in 1875 and attended Harvard Divinity School. In 1879 he joined the staff of the Philadelphia American and began a career as a journalist and literary figure. In the 1880s he worked for the Boston Evening Transcript, where he developed a friendship with Walt Whitman that led to many visits and an extended correspondence. Kennedy became a prolific writer, publishing biographies of Longfellow and Whittier, studies of Ruskin and John Burroughs, a small anthology of his own poetry entitled Breezes from the Field (1886), and a collection of nature essays, In Portia’s Gardens (1897). His most important contributions, however, were his studies of Whitman, including Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896), an edition of Walt Whitman’s Diary in Canada (1904), and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926).

During the later years of his life, Kennedy escaped the northern winters in Winter Park, Florida, where he met and befriended Edwin O. Grover (1870-1965), Professor of Books and College Library Director. Grover persuaded Kennedy to leave a legacy to memorialize his friendship with Whitman by donating his personal collection and establishing an endowment fund for Whitman materials at Rollins.

The William Sloane Kennedy Memorial Collection of Whitmaniana was processed and described in 1996 by Kathleen J. Reich, Professor Emerita and Head of Archives and Special Collections of Rollins College.