Collection Location: Special Collections Department, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center
Collection Overview: On January 19, 1934, under the direction of Joseph L. Wheeler, the Enoch Pratt Free Library opened the Edgar Allan Poe Room to the public. That date, the 125th anniversary of Poe's birth marked the inception of a formal relationship between the Library and memory of one of America's literary giants. Dr. Wheeler was quoted a short time later, saying " Our idea was to make it [the Poe Room] a living memorial to the great genius who stimulated American literature".
Pratt's collection of Poeana has been bolstered over the years by three major gifts. The first, a gift of letters, books, clippings and other memorabilia was presented to the Library by Margaret Cheston Carey, niece of Amelia Fitzgerald Poe in 1936. Miss Poe was the daughter of Judge Neilson Poe, second cousin and close friend of the poet. The collection was left to Rev. Neilson Poe Carey of Massachusetts by Amelia Poe and, upon Rev. Carey's death in 1935 to Margaret Carey with the provision that it be presented to a public institution.
The Amelia Poe material contains many of the letters in Pratt's possession, including those written by Poe to Maria Clemm, his aunt and to Virginia Clemm, his 13 year-old cousin who he later married. The well-known lock of Poe's hair from the Amelia Poe gift was taken from his head the day after his death in 1849.
In 1942 Pratt became the beneficiary of the collection of Sara Sigourney Rice. Miss Rice, a Baltimore schoolteacher, led a crusade to clear Poe's name in the year's following his death. She was responsible for the movement that led to the erection of the Poe Monument and reinterment of his remains from a questionable location to a place of prominence at Westminster Churchyard in downtown Baltimore. Among the numerous clippings and letters in the Rice collection are notes written to Miss Rice regarding the poet by Tennyson, Whittier, Holmes, Longfellow and others. The collection of Sara Sigourney Rice was presented to the Library by her nieces Mrs. Gustav Bissing and Miss Grace Rice.
The third installment of Poe material came as part of a large gift to the Library by the children of Joseph Katz in 1960. Mr. Katz, a local advertising executive, was also known as one of the important collectors of books of Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century writers. Following his death in 1958 his collection of more than 3500 books was turned over to the Pratt Library by sons Leslie and Richard Katz and daughter Ruth Strouse. Mr. Katz's eclectic collection includes not only books but also other memorabilia including images and daguerreotypes of the poet and significant others in his life.
The gifts of these three benefactors are among the many treasures of the Pratt collection. They have been supplemented by other gifts and acquisitions including an important oil painting executed for the Library by Thomas Corner in the early 1930's which was based on the now famous Whitman Daguerreotype held at Brown University.
The finding aid to the Edgar Allan Poe Collection in the Special Collections Department describes and lists all of the works in the collection available to researchers at the Central Library, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center. If you are interested in seeing the collection, please call the Special Collections librarian at 443-984-2451 to schedule an appointment.
Related Material: Background information to many of the letters in this collection comes from Edgar Allan Poe: Letters and Documents in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, a book edited by Arthur H. Quinn and Richard H. Hart and published by Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints in 1941.