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In late December of 1836, when a young Walt Whitman was early in his tenure as a schoolteacher in Babylon, a three-masted American barque, the Mexico, was driven by severe storm into a sandbar nearly a quarter mile off of Long Beach, Long Island. While the captain and crew escaped the stranded ship to safety, 115 passengers – mostly Irish immigrants, many of them women and children – froze to death in bitter cold temperatures. The dead were later gathered ashore and laid in a barn prior to their mass burial in Lynbrook. Artist James Fulton Pringle, normally a marine painter of commercial ships, captured the tragic horror of this famous event, which was also widely written about in newspapers and publications of the day. In his Specimen Days (1882), Whitman stated that he was alluding to this terrible wreck in his poem “The Sleepers,” reproduced on the wall above.

Details

  • Title: The Wreck of the Mexico
  • Creator: James Fulton Pringle
  • Date Created: 1837
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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