"My idea in designing this monument was to produce something simple, chaste, and dignified, to strike more by graceful outlines and proportions than by crowding with unmeaning ornament."
George A. Frederick, ca. 1874
The November 1875 unveiling of the Poe Monument culminated a 10-year effort to memorialize Baltimore's beloved adopted son. Designed by architect George A. Frederick, best known for Baltimore's City Hall, the marble tomb quickly became a popular destination - and remains today a shrine for Edgar Allan Poe devotees from across the globe.
The remains of Virginia, Poe's wife and cousin who died in 1847 in New York, and Maria Clemm, Poe's mother-in-law and aunt who died in Baltimore in 1871, were moved here in 1885. Their names were added to the monument in 1977.
The Unveiling Sara S. Rice had the honor of unveiling the Poe Monument. Rice, a British native and beloved teacher at neighboring Western Female High School, spent 10 years raising money by organizing literary benefits and soliciting local school children through a "penny campaign."
The Dedication ... of the Poe Monument ... November 17, 1875
The Maryland Historical Society
"The ceremonies attending the unveiling and dedication of the monument in memory of the poet, Edgar Alan Poe, in Westminster Churchyard, took place this afternoon, the exercise preliminary to the unveiling taking place in the Western Female High School, in which building, adjoining the churchyard, the initial movement was taken in October, 1865 to devise some means to perpetuate the memory of one who has contributed so largely to American literature. Before 2 o'clock ... the school-house was crowded ... The platform was occupied by invited guests, nearly all ... citizens of Baltimore, with the exception of Walt Whitman..."
New York Times, November 18, 1875
Courtesy of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Central Library / State Library Resource Center, Baltimore, Maryland
Many men of letters were there, but chief and fittest for the hour was Walt Whitman, the living poet of America ... His grand physique is not often seen in a lifetime. To-day his tottering steps, his snowy beard, mingling with locks long and white, his kindly face, was photographed for life upon the memory of the hundreds who with hime stood around the grave of Edgar A. Poe..."
The Republican (Baltimore), November 18, 1875
Photograph of Walt Whitman by Jacob Spieler, ca. 1876
Courtesy of the Bayley-Whitman Collection of Ohio Wesleyan University
Italian Marble Hugh Sisson, Baltimore's marble king, executed George Frederick's design for the Poe tomb. Its white veined marble was imported from Italy; the granite base was quarried in nearby Woodstock, north of Baltimore. Sisson's handiwork was marred by one mistake, not of his doing: Poe was born on January 19, not the 20th.
Hugh Sisson, Steam Marble Works...
Advertisement published in George W. Howard's Monumental City (1874)
Courtesy of Benjamin R. Krimmell
Embraced by the French Stephane Mallarme's sonnet, composed in 1875 for a Poe memorial volume published by Sara Sigourney Rice, became a literary classic memorized by generations of French children. In 1921, a bronze memorial donated by the Societe des Gens de Letteres de France was attached to the Poe Monument. Later stolen, its likeness appears in the plaque to your right.
Le Tombeau D'Edgar Poe
by French Poet Stephane Mallarme (1875)
Translated by Richard Macksey
Such as at last into Himself eternity
Transforms him, the Poet rouses with a naked sword
His age struck with terror to have ignored
In that strange voice the triumph of fatality!
They, like a Hydra's vile spasm, on hearing then
The angel give a purer meaning to the words of the tribe,
Bruited the slander of a witchcraft wont to imbibe
In the honorless flood of some black drunken fen.
From the warring earth and hostile sky, Antithesis!
If our imagination does not carve a frieze
That we may adorn Poe's dazzling tomb with it.
Calm block fallen from some obscure disaster,
At least let this granite forever mark the limit
To dark flights of Blasphemy unloosed long after.
A New Entrance Orrin C. Painter, an ardent Poe admirer, got permission to create a new gated entrance in October 1912. It was designed by Baltimore architect Otto Simpson and paid for by Painter. Dr. Henry E. Shepherd (right), former Superintendent of Public Education in Baltimore, had delivered an address at the monument's unveiling in 1875.
Painter (left ) with Dr. and Mrs. Henry E. Shepherd, May 30, 1912.
First & Franklin Street Presbyterian Church Archives
Paying Homage A wreath laying tradition - done today on Poe's January 19 birrthday - dates to the 1920s with the founding of Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe Society
A Pimlico Junior High School field trip, May 26, 1971.
Joseph DiPaola, photographer
Copyright 1971 reprinted with permission of the Baltimore Sun