From June 17 until June 23, the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference brought students from across the country to the Poe Museum for a week focused on the craft of writing. When not taking seminars from professional writers—including award-winning poet J. Ron Smith, editor Mary Flinn, and novelist David Lawrence—the group, which included only one Virginian, toured area Poe sites around the Commonwealth.
In the above photo, the students are visiting Fort Monroe, at which Poe was stationed from December 1828 until April 1829. It was there that Poe attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.
Here the students are visiting the University of Virginia, where they will see Poe’s dorm room and some of the Poe artifacts housed in the school’s library.
In this photo, the conferees are standing atop the mountain featured in Poe’s short story “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.”
The conference director was Edgar Award-winning author and Poe Foundation President Dr. Harry Lee Poe, who is pictured here in the Ragged Mountains.
In the foreground is the grave of Elmira Royster Shelton, Poe’s first and last fiancée. It is just one of the important graves to be found in Shockoe HIll Cemetery. Following in Poe’s footsteps, the students also visited Elmira Shelton’s house, Poe’s mother’s grave, the birthplace of Jane Stanard (inspiration for “To Helen”) and more Richmond places familiar to Poe.
The students also visited a number of other Poe sites in Richmond as well as the Library of Virginia, where they saw some rare documents with the Director of Special Collections Tom Camden.
At the end of the week, each student read the works he or she wrote during the conference. Afterwards, they enjoyed refreshments at a reception held in their honor.
We would like to thank all those who made this year’s conference a success.
If you are interested in attending the 2013 conference, please let us know by emailing us at email@example.com or by calling us at 888-21-EAPOE. Information about next year’s conference will be posted on this website in the fall.
Here is the latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore. Inside you will find updates about the Poe Museum’s 90th anniversary, some upcoming members-only events, and a newly discovered Poe manuscript. Spring2012newsletter
Hear tomorrow’s great writers read their latest work. The Poe Museum will host a public reading by the participants in this year’s Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference on Friday, June 22 from 7 to 8:30 P.M. This year, the conference accepted nine high school students from seven different states into a week-long intensive writing program for promising young writers. During the conference, the students are challenged to produce a work that can be read at the week-end public reading. Each day of the conference, attendees will have an opportunity to learn more about American writers Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the places he lived and worked or by taking special tours of prominent collections of Poe artifacts.
Directed by Edgar™ Award-winning author and Edgar Allan Poe cousin Dr. Harry Lee Poe, this exclusive conference is now entering its fifth year and has so far attracted students from across the country to spend a week learning the craft of writing from a variety of profession writers and editors. This year’s applicants hail from Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
Admission to the reading and reception is free. Join us in supporting tomorrow’s great writers today.
The evenings festivities centered around a dramatic performance of the tale produced in cooperation with Haunts of Richmond and we were honored that Jeff Jerome of the Baltimore Poe House & Museum came down to see us and even graced each performance of the story with an informative introduction.
Poe curators – Chris Semtner of the Richmond Poe Museum and Jeff Jerome of the Baltimore Poe House – posing outside the Old Stone House
Jeff Jerome getting into the spirit of the event with our “Berenice” actors
Richmond’s own Ethio-Jazz and World Groove powerhouse, Rattlemouth provided the evening’s musical accompaniment and their performance was much enjoyed by our guests.
Museum docent, Jessy Mullins educated and horrified guests with a brief presentation about 19th century dental practices and folks enjoyed wandering through our exhibits and taking in the ambience of the Enchanted Garden throughout the evening (despite there being a bit of rain).
Jessy grossing people out about 19th century dentistry
Unhappy Hour atmosphere
It was a splendid evening full of bite and was enjoyed by all!
Box o’ teeth used in the performance
As always, you can see more photos from the event (or share some of your own) by paying a visit to the Poe Museum’s flickr group.
Thanks to all who helped to make our May Unhappy Hour such a success!
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our NEXT Unhappy Hour, which is coming up on June 28th, 2012 and will be themed around “The Oval Portrait”. This 1842 tale by Poe inspired Oscar Wilde to write The Picture of Dorian Gray and the event should make an indelible impression on all who attend.
Let’s face it: no one likes a trip to the dentist. The mere thought of a root canal is enough to make us cringe and that high-pitched whir of the dentist’s drill is more than enough to send a shiver up our spines. While the modern day dentist’s office may be a far cry from a walk in the park, dentistry in the Victorian era was even more cringe-worthy. While dental practices were experiencing a renaissance from the 18th century, they were still a far cry from modern dentistry. Without electricity or numbing agents like Novocain, going to the dentist was the definition of pain. The mere thought of tooth extraction was so horrifying that Poe utilized it in his lesser-known tale “Berenice.”
A Victorian foot-powered dentist's drill
The Victorian era dentist did not have an office separate from his home –his home was his office. Dentists were also extremely expensive, meaning only the affluent families could afford to pay a visit. The dentist would reuse his instruments instead of replacing them after every visit, and at the most give them a perfunctory wipe-down between appointments (this was an era before sterilization). The most infamous dentist tool, the drill, was powered manually by a foot pedal that the dentist had to pump furiously in order to generate enough power to use it. Because of this, what we know as preventative dentistry today did not exist; the one-stop cure for all dental maladies was tooth extraction.
Towards the latter half of the 19th century, dentists began using ether and chloroform to anesthetize their patients. These gases would render the patient unconscious, but only for a brief period of time. A dentist thus had to work very quickly to extract the tooth (or teeth) before the gas would wear off and the patient would wake up.
Tooth Keys: Corkscrews for tooth extraction
Because of the high number of tooth extractions happening in dentistry, dentures became a way of remedying the lack of teeth in one’s mouth. These dentures were not custom-made and often were one-size fits all, meaning that they were extremely uncomfortable to wear. While George Washington’s dentures are by far the most famous dentures in American history, they were not made of wood. Fake teeth at the time were made from ivory taken from hippopotamus teeth or elephant tusks. Or, if you had a doctor who dealt in the black market, your teeth had a much more sinister place of origin; grave robbers could be paid off to dig up corpses and remove their teeth to be used in dentures.
Interested in taking part in the Poe Museum’s work? Want to help inspire future generations of readers and writers? In honor of all the members, past and present, who have supported the Poe Museum during its first ninety years, we are kicking off a new membership drive with the goal of 500 new or renewing members by the end of this summer. Poe Museum members help support the Poe Museum with annual membership dues that help defray the cost of the museum’s educational programs like its student group tours, teachers’ workshops, and young writers’ conference. Funds are also used to care for the Poe Museum’s world renowned collection.
Poe Museum members get a 10% discount on all gift shop purchases, free admission to the Poe Museum, the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore, and special invitations to members-only events. As if those were not enough great reasons to become a Poe Museum member, this summer we will give a special members-only Poe Museum tote bag with every new or renewing membership. This tote will not be available in the gift shop or anywhere else. Members will also be eligible to sign up for a members-only tour of Shockoe Hill Cemetery and a members-only paranormal investigation of the Poe Museum on August 11 and August 18. Become a member of the Poe Museum today.
The totes pictured above are available in purple, red, and natural canvas. When you sign up for your membership, please note in the Special Instructions section which color you would like.
On Thursday, May 24 from 6 to 9 P.M. the Poe Museum will host an Unhappy Hour inspired by the master of horror’s first horror story “Berenice” a tale of obsession, madness, and dentistry. The event features the premiere of a new short film of the story, live performances of the tale, refreshments, and live music by Rattlemouth. Live performances of “Berenice” will be staged at 7 P.M. and 8 P.M. Guests will learn about nineteenth century dental practices from a dental historian between the performances. Admission is by optional donation, and a cash bar is available. The Poe Museum’s exhibits will be open during the event, so visitors will have a chance to see the major new show of dozens of Poe’s manuscripts and letters in addition to its world renowned collection of Poe artifacts and memorabilia.
If you have not read “Berenice,” now is the perfect time to do so. This groundbreaking tale is Poe’s first horror story, and it helped to revolutionize a genre. First printed in March 1835 in the Southern Literary Messenger, the story is narrated by a man driven to do unspeakable things by his obsession with his wife’s teeth. If you do not have a chance to read it before you come, be sure to watch one of the performances at the Unhappy Hour.
The Poe Museum first opened its doors to the public on April 26th, 1922.
On April 26, 2012, the museum celebrated its 90th birthday with a 1920s themed Unhappy Hour.
Poe Museum volunteers (the esteemed Heather and Courtney) posing as “Cigarette Girls” to collect donations to keep the Poe Museum around for another 90 years
For such an auspicious occasion we wanted to do something extra special so we managed to arrange for some 1920s authors to travel through time (perhaps in an old Ford a la Midnight In Paris?) and regale guests with tales of their lives and work as well as their interest in Poe. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, H.P. Lovecraft and James Branch Cabell were all on hand to pay tribute to Poe and to mingle with Unhappy Hour guests. (Many thanks to our wonderful living history actors that helped us bring them to life!)
The Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein at Unhappy Hour
Author H. P. Lovecraft of Providence, Rhode Island, reading his poem “In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walk’d
Richmond author James Branch Cabell enjoying the company of our lovely “Cigarette” Girls
State Delegate Jennifer McClellan in the Enchanted Garden during the event
In addition to our 1920s authors State Delegate Jennifer McClellan was kind enough to pay us a visit and was gracious enough to help us out in acting as a judge for our 1920s costume contest (along with Scott and Sandi Bergman, owners of Haunts of Richmond).
1920s Costume Contest Participants
Many guests really got into the spirit of the event and there were many lovely 1920s style costumes in evidence throughout the evening.
Assorted guests getting into the spirit of the evening
A great jazz accompaniment to the festivities was provided by the John Winn Duo.
Guests were able to get a chance to see our new exhibit “From Poe’s Quill: The Letters and Manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe” which provides a unique opportunity to examine dozens of Edgar Allan Poe’s original manuscripts, including several never before displayed in public, a heretofore unknown draft version of his poem “To Helen” and even an alleged manuscript written by Poe frombeyond the grave transcribed with the help of a medium!
It was a wonderful celebration and we at the Poe Museum are very grateful to everyone who came out to enjoy and make it a success. As usual, you can check out more photos (and even share some of your own if you have some you’d like to share!) on the Poe Museum’s flickr group.
And get ready because our 90th Anniversary celebrations will be continuing all year – our NEXT Unhappy Hour will take place on May 24th and will feature Poe’s short story “Berenice”. Music will be provided by Richmond’s celebrated world jazz ensemble Rattlemouth.
Three years after the Edgar Allan Poe Museum opened its doors in 1922, tragedy befell the city of Richmond in the Church Hill area when the train tunnel beneath what is now Jefferson Park collapsed, killing four people and burying a train engine beneath the hill. Although the bodies of one worker and the conductor were recovered, the locomotive and the remains of two workers are still trapped under the earth.
Completed in 1875 to connect the C&O Railroad to the Shockoe area, the Church Hill train tunnel had a history of structural problems. Because the soil contained a high clay content, the ground which the tunnel was built through retained a large amount of groundwater after rain, making the tunnel structurally unsound. During its initial construction, ten workers were reportedly killed due to collapses. Because of this instability, the tunnel fell into disuse after the construction of the river viaduct, and would be unused for twenty years.
In 1925, efforts were made to restore the tunnel to a useable condition to increase railroad capacity in the city. It was during these repairs that the western end of the tunnel would collapse on October 2nd, trapping six people, Train Engine #231, and ten flat cars beneath the hill. Two workers managed to crawl out to the eastern end beneath the flat cars; by the time rescue teams managed to dig to the engine, they discovered the bodies of the conductor and one other worker. Due to the tunnel’s instability, however, the bodies of the two remaining workers were never recovered. The Virginia State Corporation Commission ordered the tunnel sealed to prevent others from being trapped in subsequent cave-ins. The train locomotive and the cars are still there today.
Even after the tunnel was sealed, it continued to be a problem for the Church Hill area, collapsing in various other locations and creating sinkholes. On one occasion the collapses claimed many houses, and another collapse destroyed a church between 24th and 25th streets. In 2006, the Virginia Historical Society drilled a hole through the tunnel seal and used a camera to look inside and see if there was any way to recover the lost train engine. The tunnel was discovered to be full of water and silt, and any attempts to open the tunnel would inevitably result in further sinkholes developing in Church Hill.
The sealed western end of the tunnel lies mere blocks away from the Poe Museum at 18th and Marshall Streets, and can be visited by the public.