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Roosa, Daniel Bennett St. John (1838-1908)


A graduate of the University of New York Medical School, Dr. Daniel Bennett St. John Roosa worked at Broadway Hospital in New York City, the same hospital Walt Whitman occasionally visited to comfort the sick and wounded among his working-class friends during the 1850s and early 1860s. Roosa recalls that "[n]o one could see him [Whitman] sitting by the bedside of a suffering stage driver without soon learning that he had a sincere and profound sympathy for this order of men" (Roosa 30).

Roosa's impression of Whitman was that he "had no intimate acquaintance with the literary New Yorkers of that time" and he "was not generally considered a literary man" in 1860. Scholar Gay Wilson Allen argues that while Roosa was underinformed, the general impression he gives of Whitman is correct. Whitman dined with him at Pfaff's on at least one occasion, but Roosa was apparently unaware either that Pfaff's was a Bohemian gathering place or that Whitman was a Bohemian poet. Moreover, the time of day that Roosa and other doctors visited Pfaff's was not popular among the writers, so the group of doctors never met the Saturday Press crowd. (Allen 267-69).