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A sketch of Thoreau by Daniel Ricketson, “H. D. Thoreau returning to his Shanty from Concord,” circa 1855 (Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum)

“Every movement reveals us....We judge a horse not only by seeing him handled on a racecourse, but also by seeing him walk, and even by seeing him rest in a stable.” 

Michel de Montaigne

–Michel de Montaigne1 

Thoreau was a prodigious walker. By his own account, his constitution required walking four hours a day at least.2 And he did not walk as others did. His contemporaries agreed...

Thoreau at Walden, N.C. Wyeth

Join us for the Thoreau Bicentennial Annual Gathering!  We have an exciting lineup of activities planned this year, including walks, conversations, music, dramatic performances and more.  All are welcome to help celebrate Henry David Thoreau's 200th Birthday! For more information, visit Thoreau Bicentennial.org

Suillus granulatus (Granulated Slippery Jack) in old pine woods north of Punkatasset Hill. Photograph by Cherrie Corey © 2015.

In this particularly unsavory presidential campaign season, Thoreau’s descriptive references to “election cake” fungi leapt off his journal pages and caught our attention. On July 29, 1853, Thoreau wrote that he had observed “shining & glossy yellow fungi--like an election cake atop.” Over the course of the next six years he made at least nine other references in his journal to election cake fungi.1

Election cake was a sweet yeast bread traditionally served on Election Day in 18th- and 19th-century New England. It was a descendent of the English “great cakes” and part of a...

Among the many occupations that Henry Thoreau plied throughout his life—school teacher, essayist, lecturer, pencil maker, and occasional helping hand in a myriad of day jobs in Concord—his career as a land surveyor, perhaps, is one of the most curious. As Patrick Chura has pointedly observed, in colonial North America, “the multiple purposes of establishing individual ownership, taxable value and legal jurisdiction were embodied in the person of the land surveyor.”1  While Thoreau “enjoyed surveying, for no other job gave him the same freedom to set his own hours and places of business,”...

Sunrise over a dusting of snow near Walden Pond, January 2016. Photograph by Chynna Lemire.

Henry David Thoreau’s early essay “A Winter Walk” is often grouped with “A Walk to Wachusett” and the posthumously published “Walking,” inviting readings that focus primarily on the act of walking. Yet for all of Thoreau’s kinetic imagery and sauntering persona, the peripatetic philosophy of “A Winter Walk” has as much to say about the act of listening. Just as one moves through the physical world, the physical world moves through us as sound. Thoreau appreciates this. His winter soundscape exists in an array of textures and apparent physical properties. These audible qualities are crucial...

Maxham daguerreotype of Thoreau (restored) National Portrait Gallery, Washington

The past few years have been marked by a series of extrajudicial murders of Black people by police and vigilantes and by the emergence of a nationwide protest movement loosely united under the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” The Black community and their activist allies have expressed outrage in the wake of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and many others, and have organized rallies, vigils, and direct actions in cities across the United States. Black Lives Matter has sought to...

The cover of "The Days of Henry Thoreau" by Walter Harding

I am delighted to join in this celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the appearance of Walter Harding’s The Days of Henry Thoreau: A Biography. Like many of my generation who engaged in undergraduate and graduate studies in American history or literature during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I initially met Thoreau in Walden, “Civil Disobedience” (then better known as “Resistance to Civil Government”), and “Walking,” as well as in occasional anthologized snippets from A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Cape Cod, The Maine Woods,...

Recipients will receive $1,000 towards travel and research expenses at archives in the Greater-Boston area on Thoreau related projects, as well as free attendance at the Thoreau Society 2016 Annual Gathering held in Concord, MA in early July.

Both emerging and established scholars, as well as Thoreau enthusiasts, are encouraged to apply. 

Preference will be given to those candidates who will use the Thoreau Society’s Walter Harding Collection housed at the Thoreau Institute for at least part of the fellowship period, but applicants intending to use any of the Thoreau Society...

Driftwood on Nauset Beach. Photograph by Elizabeth Kalman.

Henry David Thoreau’s encounter with Cape Cod begins with a scene of chaos. He writes, “…we found that the Provincetown steamer, which should have got in the day before, had not yet arrived, on account of a violent storm; and, as we noticed in the streets a handbill headed, ‘Death! 145 lives lost at Cohasset!’ we decided to go by way of Cohasset.”1 Coming upon the wreck of the brig St. John, Thoreau is confronted with a vast morgue, and is stunned by the chaotic destruction rendered to the ship by the sea. “The largest timbers and iron braces were broken superfluously,...

A Masonic image of the sun

  The town of Concord, Massachusetts, is widely known as the home of Minutemen and Transcendentalists. It is the place where “embattled farmers” fired “the shot heard ‘round the world” on the 19th of April 1775, and launched the war for political independence. It is equally famous as the residence of the writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who more than a half-century later, waged a second American revolution for intellectual and spiritual independence. But had you come to this small town of some two thousand souls, sixteen miles west of Boston, in the mid-1820s to mark...

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