The Museum Collection

Desk from the Office of the Southern Literary Messenger

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Creator:
Date: 1840s
Format: desk, walnut, yellow pine, poplar
Dimensions: 61" H, 48.5" W, 32.5" D
Source: Gift of Joseph Bryan III
Collection: Poe Foundation, Inc.
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Description:

The desk was used in the office of the Southern Literary Messenger, the magazine at which Poe began his career in journalism. It was probably used in the the 1840s or later, so it is unknown if Poe ever used this particular desk during his visits to Richmond in 1848 and 1849, although there is an account that the Messenger's editor at the time, John R. Thompson, allowed Poe to use the office as his "headquarters" during those visits. One of Thompson's friends, John Esten Cooke, describes Thompson writing "upon an elegant walnut table with a covering of green cloth," a description which could apply to the present desk. Whether Thompson, Poe, or neither used this desk is unknown, but its history has been traced back to the Messenger office. At what point the piece became known as the "Poe Desk" is unknown.

When the Messenger ceased operations in 1864, the desk was used in the Westmoreland Club, which was coincidentally housed in what had formerly been the home of Edgar Allan Poe's friend, Robert Craig Stanard, whose mother had been the inspiration for Poe's poem "To Helen." Poe would have visited Robert Stanard in this house and is known to have borrowed a large sum of money from him. When the westmoreland Club combined with the Commonwealth Club, the desk was bought by the Bryan family of Brook Hill. Joseph Bryan was the owner of the Richmond Times (forerunner of today's Richmond Times-Dispatch and Media General). Joseph Bryan III donated the desk to the Poe Museum in 1977.

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