Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Found: The Man Who Inspired William Carlos Williams’ Most Famous Poem


(Photo: Kris WUHS_Mom)

In 1923, William Carlos Williams wrote the short poem he is best remembered for today, “The Red Wheelbarrow”: 

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

But until now, no one besides the poet himself knew who owned that wheelbarrow.

William Logan, a professor at the University of Florida, has discovered the wheelbarrow owner’s identity: He was “Thaddeus Marshall, an African-American street vendor from Rutherford, N.J.,” the New York Times writes.

The poem is only 16 words; Logan has written around 10,000 words about it, the Times notes. Logan tracked down hints to the wheelbarrow’s origins—that it was “outside the window of an old negro’s house on a backstreet,” that the owner’s last name was Marshall, that he was once was a fisherman in Gloucester, that he had a son named Milton. 

In an old census, there was “only one possible candidate: Thaddeus Marshall, a 69-year-old widower who lived with a son named Milton at 11 Elm Street, about nine blocks from Williams’s house,” the Times writes.

Bonus finds: Birch bark cocoon with a human mummy inside, weird-looking leafhopperbaby rhinobees

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com. 

 

art