The Museum Collection

Rosalie Poe's Piano

ID #: 88.4
Creator: Dubois, Bacon, and Chambers
Date: 1838-1840
Format: piano forte, mahogany
Dimensions: 34" H, 32.5" W, 28.75" D
Source: Gift of Mrs. Allen B. Rowlett
Collection: Poe Foundation, Inc.
Place of Publication:
Publish Date:


This is the piano played by Edgar Allan Poe's sister Rosalie Mackenzie Poe. When Poe's mother died, his only sister, Rosalie Poe, was taken in by the Mackenzie family in Richmond while his older brother William Henry Leonard Poe stayed with his grandparents in Baltimore.

Rosalie never married, and she lived with her foster mother, Mrs. Jane Scott Mackenzie, until Mrs. Mackenzie's death in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. Her Mackenzie relatives lost most of their fortune after the War, and Rosalie's inheritance was squandered by one of her foster brothers. She spent most of her later years moving between relatives' homes in Richmond, Matthews County, Powhatan County, and Baltimore before dying in a charity home in Washington D.C. While she was living with her Mackenzie relatives at Sherwood in Powhatan County, Virginia, Rosalie played this piano, which she referred to as her piano. In 1872, the Mackenzies sold Sherwood to Dr. William Turpin and gave him the piano to settle a debt.

Dr, Turpin gave the piano to his daughter, Mrs. Agnes Sledd. Her daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Harris, inherited the piano from her and loaned it to the Poe Museum to exhibit in 1944. After 44 years on loan to the Poe Museum, her heir Mrs. Allen B. Rowlett donated it to the Museum in 1988. As evidence of the songs once played on this piano, the Poe Museum also owns several books of sheet music from the Mackenzie family.

Since Poe often performed his poetry for audiences, his work was written not only to be read but also to be heard. Although no recordings were made of Poe?s recitations, we can learn more about the style of his performances by studying the music he enjoyed and the plays he attended.