Tall Masts of Mannahatta!

Tall masts of Mannahatta

The tall masts of Mannahatta, as coined by Walt Whitman in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," is etched along the pier at Fulton Street. Written before there was a bridge to Brooklyn, the words hark back to a time when Whitman worked mere steps from here at the Brookyn Daily Eagle in the 1840s.

These words of Walt Whitman adorn the pier at Fulton Street in Brooklyn. I imagine a time before skyscrapers and bridges when the masts of ships rivaled church steeples for the highest point in town. When the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, its towers were the highest structures in the Western Hemisphere. At its opening, people who walked across its central pedestrian footpath had never achieved such heights. Now, the token ship masts that tenuously hang onto Manhattan are dwarfed by a city that extends into the sky.

Whitman wrote these words in Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, which was first published in 1856. Not far from this spot, at the end of Fulton Street, Whitman became editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846. He was fired after two years, allowing him to focus on his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass.

I imagine ol' Walt walked this pier many times to take the Fulton Street Ferry to the city. I imagine he would love New York still.