Most the Poe Museum’s holdings never go on display. In addition to its museum collection of Edgar Allan Poe artifacts and memorabilia, the Poe Museum also holds an extensive group of objects in its reference library. This study collection features thousands of books, articles, videos, and audio recordings exploring Poe’s life and influence. Accessible by appointment, the reference library is a rich source of information compiled over the past nine decades for the benefit of students and researchers. As would be expected, the collection contains several volumes of scholarly works of biography and criticism, but there are also numerous photographs, drawings, and prints of Poe, the people he knew, and the places he lived, worked, and visited. There are also manuscripts, letters, illustrations, advertisements, facsimiles, and rare documents.
While the Poe Museum’s library is a great place to look for scholarly works and materials on Poe and his oeuvre, it also documents the evolution of other authors’ and artists’ responses to Poe. That is why one will find several works of fiction inspired by Poe here. These vary from novels featuring Poe as a character (like The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard and An Unpardonable Crime by Andrew Taylor) to ones with Poe-inspired elements (like Kelly Creagh’s teen romance Nevermore and Linda Fairstein’s mystery thriller Entombed). There are even historical novels focusing on Poe’s life. Among these are John May’s Poe and Fanny and Barbara Moore’s The Fever Called Living.
Other novels focus on the lives of those he knew. Harriet Davis’s Elmira tells the story of Poe’s first fiancée Elmira Royster Shelton while Lenore Hart’s The Raven’s Bride gives Poe’s wife’s perspective. Poe’s mysterious death is the subject of novels including Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow and Frank Lovelock’s Lenore. The Poe Museum is featured in the short story “Murder at the Poe Shrine” by Nedra Tyre. Obsessive Poe collecting is the theme of Robert Bloch’s “The Man who Collected Poe.” Poe has inspired other authors to write sequels to his works. In 1897, Jules Verne wrote The Sphinx of the Ice Fields (also known as An Antarctic Mystery) as a sequel to Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. More recently, Clive Barker wrote “New Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a sequel to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”
Poe’s works have also been reimagined in music, plays, and an opera. Then there are the comics. Richard Corben’s masterful interpretations of Poe’s stories and poems into comics are among the best to date, but Berni Wrightson, Michael Golden, and others have also produced great adaptations. Let us not forget to mention MAD Magazine’s parody of “The Raven” and the Scooby Doo mystery “Cravin’ the Raven.” Then there are entire series like Jason Asala’s Poe and Dwight Macpherson’s The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo. In the 2003 series Batman Nevermore, Poe joins forces with the Dark Knight to fight crime, but Poe had already battled evildoers alongside the “World’s Smallest Superhero” The Atom back in 1950.
The study collection abounds in illustrated editions of Poe’s works by artists including Dore, Dulac, Clarke, and Robinson. More recent illustrated editions have been produced by artists including Mark Summers (this edition has a preface by Neil Gaiman), Greg Hildebrandt, and Gris Grimly.
If you would like to visit the study collection for research purposes, simply contact the curator to schedule an appointment.
The Poe Museum is regularly contacted by Poe family members looking for information about their relationship to Edgar Allan Poe. Although, the Museum’s main focus is Edgar Allan Poe, but its archives do contain some material related to his extended family. Among the pieces concerning Poe’s genealogy, George Poe, Jr.’s bible and the typescript of The Poe Family of Maryland are the most informative. These documents from the museum’s collection may not be of use to everyone seeking Poe genealogical information, but we hope they will be of interest to both Poe family members and the general public. You can read the documents by clicking on the links below.
The first piece is a Poe family that originally belonged to George Poe, Jr. (1778-1864). George’s father was Edgar’s grandfather’s brother, which means George and Edgar Poe’s father, David Poe, Jr., were first cousins. George Poe, Jr. was a successful banker, and both Edgar Poe and his father asked him for loans. George rejected a 1809 request from Poe’s father but did send Edgar Poe $100 in 1836 in order to help Edgar‘s mother-in-law open a boardinghouse.
This is a picture of George Poe, Sr. (1744-1823) and his wife Catherine Poe (1742-1806).
The most interesting feature of this bible is the family history contained on the pages seen here. Notice the diagram of a Poe family burial plot at Westminster Burying Grounds in Baltimore. Edgar was buried in the same cemetery but in a different plot—that of his paternal grandfather David Poe, Sr. In 1875, Edgar’s remains were moved to their present location near the cemetery gate.
This following link takes you to a PDF of the pages of Poe family births and deaths from the bible:
George Poe’s Bible
The next piece reproduced here is a typescript entitled The Poe Family of Maryland. It was given to the Poe Museum in 1930 by the granddaughter of Edgar Poe’s cousin Amelia Poe, twin sister of Neilson Poe (1809-1888). Edgar called Nielson his “worst enemy in the world.” Before Edgar married his cousin Virginia Clemm, Neilson, who was married to Virginia’s half-sister Josephine Emily Clemm, offered to take Virginia into his own home to see that she was properly educated.
Here is a fine photograph of Neilson Poe’s father Jacob Poe, brother of George Poe, Jr.
The link below takes you to a PDF of the typsecript:
The Poe Family of Maryland
The above images were pasted onto pages of the typescript. Also included was this photograph of a pastel portrait of Edgar Allan Poe. Notice it is copyrighted 1893. That is the year Neilson Poe’s daughter Amelia Poe requested that the original 1868 pastel by Oscar Halling (then in the possession of Neilson’s son John Prentiss Poe) be photographed in order to sell the photos at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Over the years, Poe relatives have contributed to the Poe Museum’s collections by donating pieces like Virginia Clemm Poe’s trinket box, Edgar Allan Poe’s vest, and Amelia Poe’s album containing Poe’s manuscript for “To Helen.” They have also donated portraits of various Poe family members. This is said to represent William Poe (1755-1804), the youngest brother of Edgar’s grandfather David Poe, Sr.
The Poe Museum would not have survived for the past ninety years without the help of Edgar Allan Poe’s relatives around the world. The museum will always be grateful for their contributions.
This photograph of the Poe Museum’s Old Stone House dates to around 1881. The bearded man standing by the front door is R. L. Potter, the Wheelbarrow Man. Long before anyone ever thought to have a Poe Museum in the Old Stone House, Potter used the building to display his own collection of 1,600 curiosities, which included rattlesnakes, two wolves, rocks and minerals collected on his travels, and—according to one source—a live bear. Admission was probably about fifteen cents, which is the price he charged when his collection was on display on Marshall Street, according to an advertisement in the November 29, 1881 Daily Dispatch.
Potter was born in Marietta, Ohio but moved to Albany, New York, where he had a wife and three children. When Grant won the Presidency, Potter refused to shave his beard until a Democrat was in office. He earned the name Wheelbarrow Man by pushing a wheelbarrow carrying 100 pounds from Albany to San Francisco in 1878. He walked the 4,100 miles in just 160 days, becoming famous in the process. During the trip, he adopted and tamed two wolf cubs, which followed him for the rest of his life. He also filled his wheelbarrow with rocks, minerals, live specimens, and other “curiosities” he found along the way. Upon Potter’s arrival in San Francisco, the poet Samuel Booth wrote “The Song of the Wheelbarrow Man,” a stanza of which reads, “He started from Albany five months ago,/ And trundled his wheelbarrow steady and slow,/ In storm and in sunshine, through dust, wind, and rain,/ Four thousand odd miles trudged the Wheelbarrow Man.”
When asked why he took the trip, Potter told reporters he wanted to make his name doing something no one else had ever done. That distinction was short-lived. In a publicity stunt to sell papers, newspaper owner George Hearst offered a prize to whoever could win a wheelbarrow race from San Francisco to New York. Potter’s competition was L. P. Federmeyer of Paris, France. Federmeyer won the race, but Potter continued to tour the country, never returning to his home in Albany because, according to a May 19, 1881 interview in the National Republican, “I have three children there. The reason I don’t go home is that if I get there with my children I can’t get away.”
In the same interview, Potter mentions that he has exhibited his collection of curiosities in a number of cities and will take it to Virginia. By July 27, 1881, he was showing his “museum of natural curiosities” in Woodstock, Virginia, according to the Shenandoah Herald of that date. By November 27, 1881, when an advertisement for his museum appeared in the Daily Dispatch, he was in Richmond.
The exact dates of his time in the Old Stone House are unknown. An 1894 guide to the Old Stone House (which was then in service as the Washington’s Headquarters Antiquarium and Relic Museum) states that Potter rented the house for eight months beginning in 1879. Poe Museum trustee Rosemarie Mitchell, who is researching a history of the Old Stone House, theorizes Potter might have rented the house in late 1882 or early 1883. By 1883, he returned to New York to accept the challenge of pushing his wheelbarrow from New York City to New Orleans.
Potter died shortly afterwards. The April 30, 1883 issue of the New York Times reported that he was killed while crossing the railroad bridge over the Yadkin River in North Carolina. His last surviving pet wolf remained at his master’s side and was retrieved by Potter’s widow.
As the Poe Museum celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, it is easy to forget that the Old Stone House was already a Richmond landmark—and even a museum—decades before the Poe Foundation took over the property. Although the bear, wolves, and rattlesnakes are long gone, we still like to think we have an interesting, if slightly less dangerous, collection of Poeana.
One fine day in April, 1945, a group of industrious young members of the John Marshall Chapter of the International Quill and Scroll Society gathered in the Enchanted Garden of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum for tea and an initiation of several new members.
Quill and Scroll Society Members visiting the Poe Museum, April 26,1945
Old photographs such as this provide a curious window into the past, an invaluable record of how it was. Many of the people in these pictures have long since passed away – yet the memory of these moments in time lives on through the muted sepia tones of a photographic image. As Collections Coordinator of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, I have the opportunity to ensure that these records remain intact for future generations to enjoy, through both diligent record-keeping and proper handling and storage.
Because 2012 marks the 90th anniversary of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, I am taking this opportunity to share with you some images from the museum’s yesteryear. The Poe Museum has a long standing history of welcoming school groups for tours, as evinced through several of the photographs I have stumbled upon recently.
Several happy young people dip their toes into the pond of the Enchanted Garden of the Poe Museum. This pond was in the place of the current fountain. Photograph dated April 17, 1942.
A school group gathers in front of the Poe Shrine. Photograph circa 1945.
The Poe Museum is proud to have inspired generations of young literature enthusiasts and will continue to offer poetry and insight for many years to come.
First blog here from the Poe Collections Manager. We have some amazing artifacts on view that have to do with our favorite author. We are always moving things around and showing off new books – will update soon.
Come see our new Poe Revealed temporary exhibit and our permament exhibits. You will be able to see great works on paper, clothing, hair (!) and much much more!!!!!