The Museum Collection
John Hill Hewitt's Albumen Print Photograph of Edgar Allan Poe
Description:This albumen print of a photograph, similar to the "Painter" daguerreotype of Poe (now owned by the Maryland Historical Society) is labeled "J. H Hewitt photo. of Poe." The "Painter" daguerreotype was copied between 1850 and 1854 from the 1849 "Annie" daguerreotype. When or by whom this albumen print copy photograph was made is unknown. The oval photograph has been removed from its orinal card and glued to a modern one.
The J. H. Hewitt mentioned in the inscription is John Hill Hewitt (1801-1890), a journalist Poe knew. In 1830, he wrote an unfavorable review of Poe's book Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems for the Baltimore Minerva and Emerald. In 1832, Hewitt became the editor of the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. When the Visiter sponsored a writing contest in 1833, Hewitt entered one of his own poems using a pseudonym and won the poetry division of the contest. Poe won the short story division but was told he would have also won the poetry division if the judges had not agreed not to give a prize to the same person for both categories. Poe believed that, as editor of the Visiter, Hewitt should not have entered the contest. Poe and Hewitt later got into a fight on the streets of Baltimore over the disagreement.
In March 1843 Poe and Hewitt met again, this time in Washington D.C. Hewitt recounted of the meeting, "He was then un homme blasse -- seedy in his appearance and woe-begone. He came boldly up to me, and, offering me his hand, which I willingly took, asked me if I would forget the past. He said he had not had a mouthful of food since the day previous, and begged me to lend him fifty cents to obtain a meal. Though he looked the used-up man all over -- still he showed the gentleman. I gave him the money -- and I never saw him afterwards."
The meaning of the inscription is vague. It could mean that J. H. Hewitt owned this photograph, or it could mean Hewitt owned a daguerreotype from which this albumen print photograph was copied. There is no record that Hewitt owned a daguerreotype of Poe, so it is more likely Hewitt owned this albumen print, which has been cut down since his ownership.