2009-01-29 / Features

Postal Service Honors Poe With Commemorative Stamp

By Marilyn Loeser

The Postal Service paid tribute to Edgar Allan Poe - poet and father of the mystery novel - on the anniversary of his 200th birthday, January 16, by dedicating a commemorative stamp in his honor. Ceremonies took place at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

Getting to know Poe

Born January 19, 1809, in Boston, Poe's mother passed away and his father disappeared when Poe was just shy of 3 years old. Edgar was taken in by wealthy Richmond, Va., residents John and Frances Allan.

After attending schools in England and Richmond, Poe registered at the University of Virginia in 1826. But when Mr. Allan failed to give him enough money for what Poe deemed necessary expenses, a quarrel ensued, and Poe was asked to leave the Allan home.

Poe left Virginia and over the next several years lived in various places along the East Coast, struggling to get by and to get his writings into print. He found publishers for Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems (1829), and Poems (1831), yet made very little money.

During this time, he survived with the help of paternal relatives in Baltimore, Md., and by joining the U.S. Army. He obtained an appointment to the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point and was admitted in 1830, but was dismissed in early 1831.

In October 1833, Poe's fortunes took a turn for the better when he won a short-story contest sponsored by a Baltimore newspaper. His MS. Found in a Bottle brought him $50 in prize money and greatly improved his job prospects.

He accepted a job as editor for the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond and soon after married his cousin, Virginia Clemm.

Poe and his bride moved to Philadelphia in 1838 where they lived for six years. There he was an editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and Graham's Magazine, and in 1844, Poe went to New York where he found work on the New York Evening Mirror and continued writing reviews, poetry and fiction.

A masterful storyteller with a vivid imagination, he published some of his most terrifying tales during this period, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum.

In April 1841, Graham's printed Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue, which introduced the fictional character C. Auguste Dupin. Poe's Dupin stories inspired a host of mystery writers, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. In the early 1900s, Doyle said that Poe was the originator of the detective story.

It was in 1845 that Poe became famous when he penned The Raven.

With success in hand, Poe rented the little cottage in the Fordham section of Bronx, N.Y., in 1846, where he and his wife lived the last years of their lives.

Poe's wife died of tuberculosis on January 30, 1847.

The circumstances of Poe's death, however, remain a mystery. After a visit to Norfolk and Richmond for lectures, he was found unconscious in Baltimore and taken to a hospital where he died October 7, 1849.

He is buried in the yard of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Baltimore.

Visiting Poe haunts

The Poe Museum in Richmond, Va.,, chronicles Poe's life and career by documenting his accomplishments, including the world's finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe's manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings.

The museum also features pictures and relics from 19th century Richmond.

The museum is located at 1914 - 16 E. Main St. in Richmond. For more information check the Web site at www.poemuseum.org or call 1- 888-21E-APOE.

The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, located at 203 North Amilty Street in Baltimore, Md., is where Poe lived with his Aunt Maria Clemm and his future wife, Virginia Clemm, in the 1830s.

For more information check http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poehse .htm or call (410) 396-7932.

In Philadelphia, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is located in a home once rented by Poe. Poe lived at 532 N. 7th Street with his aunt/mother-inlaw Maria Clemm and his wife, Virginia.

The house was later purchased by Richard Gimbel, son of the founder of Gimbels Department Store. An avid fan of Poe, Gimbel refurbished the house and opened it as a museum. In his will, he left the house to the city of Philadelphia. Today, the National Park Service oversees the property.

For more information check www.nps.gov/edal/index.htm or call 215-597-7130.

The last place the Poe family lived was a cottage in Bronx, N.Y.

Edgar Allan Poe spent the last years of his life, from 1846 to 1849, in Poe Cottage, now located at Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse.

The cottage is restored to its original appearance, with auheld thentic period furnishings. A film presentation and guided tour help bring Poe Cottage to life. Visitors can see the bed in which Virginia died and the rocking chair Poe used.

For more information check www.bronxhistoricalsociety.org/p oecottage.html or call (718) 881- 8900.

Westminster Burying Grounds and Catacombs in Baltimore is the final resting place for Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia. The gravesites are in the southeast corner of Fayette and Greene streets.

For more information on the Edgar Allan Poe commemorative stamp, check the Web site usps.gov.

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