Photograph of American short-story writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe.

Edgar Allan Poe

(1809 - 1849)

Born in 1809, the son of two actors in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe entered the University of Virginia in 1826, but gambling debts prompted him to abandon his studies within a year. After inviting his expulsion from West Point, obtaining and then losing the editorship of the Southern Literary Messenger, and marrying his thirteen-year-old cousin, he published “The Fall of the House of Usher” in 1839 and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” in 1841. “Nothing cheers or comforts me,” he complained in the spring of 1849. “My life seems wasted—the future looks a dreary blank.” That summer, he became “totally deranged” in Philadelphia, convinced someone was trying to kill him. He died on a Sunday morning in October 1849; the cause is believed to have been alcohol poisoning.

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It is often said that Edgar Allan Poe’s death was the result of the electioneering practice known as cooping. In his Maryland: A Bicentennial History, Carl Bode describes cooping as “the shutting up of men, usually derelicts, in rooms or coops on Election Day and then dragging them from polling place to polling place to cast their votes. To make them more docile while voting again and again, many were drugged or made drunk.” Poe may have been captured in Baltimore by an election gang, drugged, and made to vote in several places. “He was picked up unconscious near one of the rum shops used for voting,” wrote biographer George Woodbury, “and taken to Washington Hospital,” where he died on October 7, 1849.

Voices In Time

1844 | Philadelphia

Dust to Dust

Edgar Allan Poe considers burial before death.More

Voices In Time

1840 | Philadelphia

Acquired Taste

Edgar Allan Poe considers the philosophy of furniture.More

Voices In Time

1840 | London


Edgar Allan Poe trails a mark.More

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term art, I should call it “the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul.” The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of “artist.”

—Edgar Allan Poe, 1849


“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been in the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe in a letter in the last year of his life.

Voices In Time

1842 | Philadelphia

Plague Party

Edgar Allan Poe welcomes Death to the party.More

The play is the tragedy “Man,” And its hero the conqueror worm.

—Edgar Allan Poe, 1843


As editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley once received a letter requesting an autograph of the late Edgar Allan Poe that Greeley might possess from his correspondence. Greeley replied, “I happen to have in my possession but one autograph of the late distinguished American poet Edgar A. Poe. It consists of an IOU, with my name on the back of it. It cost me just $51.50, and you can have it for half-price.”

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