Henry Thoreau at Walden Pond

Henry Thoreau was a writer, naturalist, philosopher, and political activist best known as the author of Walden, acknowledged to be one of the great books of American literature.

henry thoreau houseWalden is based on Thoreau’s two-year (1845-1847) experiment in living simply and thinking deeply in a house he built himself on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson at Walden Pond in Concord. Thoreau had his green desk with him at Walden Pond and on it wrote the first draft of Walden, which was published in 1854. While at the Pond, Thoreau also wrote “Civil Disobedience,” one of the most influential essays in the worldwide democratic tradition.

The book Walden is organized as a calendar, beginning in the summer and ending in the spring. The idea of the cycles of nature, such as the seasons, captivated Thoreau, who was always interested to know his own place in nature. About the time Walden was published, Thoreau took up the systematic study of natural cycles, recording in his journal the first flowering time of hundreds of plant species, among other phenomena. He continued this study for the rest of his life.

thoreau's desk

Thoreau had this desk made in 1838 at the time he established a school and taught with his brother, John. At this desk Thoreau wrote his most influential works including Walden.

Concord Museum Curator David F. Wood speaks on film about Thoreau’s furniture in the house at Walden Pond.

chinese sofa bed

Thoreau modified a seat from a Chinese export sofa-bed to use as his bedstead in the house at Walden Pond. Thoreau kept this bedstead with him the rest of his life.

To Learn More

Learn more about Henry Thoreau and Concord in An Observant Eye: The Thoreau Collection at the Concord Museum, by Concord Museum Curator David F. Wood.

Thoreau’s bedstead was photographed by the famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. See her photograph and find out more about her pilgrimage to Concord in 2012.

Read an excerpt from John Updike’s introduction to the 150th anniversary edition of Walden published by Princeton University Press.

Background photo credit: Alice Wellington

Photo/film credits: David Bohl; Six One Seven Studios