The Museum Collection
Edgar Allan Poe's Trunk
Description:When Poe lay dying in a Baltimore hospital, his attending physician asked him where his trunk was. Since Poe was traveling when he died, it was assumed he had a trunk of clothes with him, but he could not remember what had happened to it. The piece was discovered only after Poe's death and was obtained by Poe's cousin Neilson Poe, who Edgar considered his worst enemy. With the trunk in his hands, Neilson found himself besieged with parties claiming rightful ownership of the trunk and its contents. From Richmond, Poe's closest living relative, his sister Rosalie Mackenzie Poe, contacted Neilson through her representative John R. Thompson, to request the trunk be sent to her because, as Poe's closest living relative, she had the legal right to it. From Fordham, New York, Poe's mother-in-law Maria Clemm wrote asking Neilson to send her the trunk. From New York City, Poe's literary executor, Rufus W. Griswold, wrote Neilson requesting the manuscripts and annotated editions from the trunk to be used in Griswold's upcoming edition of Poe's collected works. After some time, Neilson finally passed the manuscripts to Griswold and the trunk to Rosalie Poe, who, in her later years, left it with her foster family, the Mackenzies.
Rosalie Poe gave it to her foster niece, Martha Mackenzie Byrd Miller. When Poe collector James H. Whitty contacted Rosalie Poe's relatives in search of Poe artifacts for his collection, he discovered the trunk, which Mrs. Miller insisted that Rosalie Poe had always told her belonged to Poe. For several years, Mrs. Miller refused to sell the trunk, but in 1922, her daughter, Mollie Mackenzie Byrd Miller, sold it to the Poe Museum for $35. By then, the trunk was empty. Rosalie Poe may have sold the contents to support herself after her foster family lost its fortune in the aftermath of the Civil War.
The key to the trunk, which is also in the Poe Museum, is said to have been found in Poe's pocket after his death.