Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts about Henry 

  • His birth name is David Henry Thoreau.
  • He barely passed his entrance exams to get into Harvard, though he was an above average student thereafter.
  • The total expense to attend Harvard at the time was $179 per year. Henry’s whole family contributed to paying for his education, drawing from his parents’ income in pencil making and his siblings’ teaching salaries.
  • Henry sang in a choir and played the flute.
  • Henry was the best ice skater of all his friends.
  • Henry was 5’7” (170 cm), medium to medium-short in height for a man of his time.
  • Both Henry and his brother, John, proposed to the same woman, Ellen Sewall, and were both refused because her father, a minister, disapproved of anyone associated with Transcendentalism.
  • Henry accidentally started a forest fire that burned over 300 acres of land around Concord while he was camping with his friend Edward Hoar in 1844.
  • Henry collected local plants, animal skulls, birds’ nests, Native American relics, rocks and minerals and more for his “attic museum” in his parents’ house.
  • Henry collected many local plant specimens for Harvard’s Botany Library and the Boston Natural History Society.
  • Henry took baths in Walden Pond daily until the changing seasons made the water too cold.
  • Initially Henry thought about living in a 6 foot by 3 foot wide box with a few holes for air.
  • As a wedding gift to Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne, Henry planted a garden for them at their new house.
  • Henry amazed his companions with his remarkable success in finding Indian arrowheads by nonchalantly leaning over and picking them up off the ground. He would perform this trick in the springtime when the earth was moist and soft, and at locations he knew or suspected to have once been the grounds of Native Americans.
  • Henry named his boat “Musketaquid,” the Native American word for the place where the water flows through the grasses.
  • Henry was fascinated with Eastern literature and philosophy, including the sacred writings of Hinduism and the sayings of Confucius.
  • Louisa May Alcott fondly remembered her visits as a child to Henry while he was living at Walden Pond. Henry loved children and would entertain them with nature walks, boating on the pond and showing them the details of nature.
  • Henry could summon his favorite wild pet, a mouse, out of hiding by playing his flute.
  • Once Henry squeezed over 25 guests into his small, one-room house.
  • When a woodchuck chewed up a large part of his bean field, he captured it in a steel trap, but couldn’t bring himself to kill it. Instead he carried it over two miles and set it free and he never saw it again.
  • The inside of Henry’s house was as simple as the outside. His total furniture, much of it homemade, consisted of a bed, a table, a desk and three chairs.
  • For three years, Henry and his brother, John, ran a special school with a practical approach. They took students for field trips into nature, showed them how to make a boat, had recesses for fresh air and taught applied mathematics using surveying equipment.
  • In the last year of his life, Henry took a trip to Minnesota hoping it would cure his tuberculosis. He returned early, however, in worse condition than when he left.
  • Henry’s personal heroes were: the contemporary American poet Walt Whitman; the abolitionist activist John Brown who was executed for his attempt to arm the slaves by raiding Harper’s Ferry; and Joe Polis, a Penobscot Native American who had been Henry’s guide in Maine.
  • Henry’s final words were “moose” and “Indian.”
  • Henry’s sister Sophia organized and prepared his manuscripts for publication after his death.
  • Henry is buried near the Emersons, Hawthornes and Alcotts in a part of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord called Author’s Ridge.