The Museum Collection
Edgar Allan Poe's Vest
Description:This fine silk embroidered vest was once owned by Edgar Allan Poe. It serves as a reminder of contemporary descriptions of the poet as an "elegant appearing gentleman." After Poe's early death, this piece was one of the articles of Poe's clothing his mother-in-law kept in a trunk of his possessions. Although the trunk is lost, we know that it also contained Poe's socks as well as Maria Clemm's stockings and cap. Before her death, Mrs. Clemm left the trunk with her sister Elizabeth Poe Herring, through whose family the trunk descended until it came into the possession of Mrs. Edmund Morton Smith. As a child, her granddaughter fondly recalled seeing Mrs. Smith open the trunk and show her family the vest, which she said belonged to "Cousin Eddy." Usually, Mrs. Smith would return these items to the trunk after the showing, but, on the last occasion, she left the vest, socks, stockings, and cap on a shelf in her hall closet. She passed away shortly afterwards, and her possessions, including the trunk, were given to charity and forever lost. The few items of clothing that had been left on the shelf were saved by Mrs. Smith's daughter and eventually donated to the Poe Museum by her daughter, Mrs. Antoinette Suiter, the great, great, granddaughter of Elizabeth Poe Herring.
Visitors to the Poe Museum might be surprised to learn that someone who earned as little as Poe did could afford such fine clothing. Although he earned a meager income as a writer, he had been reared in the home of a wealthy Richmond tobacco exporter and had been groomed to be a Virginia gentleman. The pride, manners, and bearing of a gentleman were traits that stayed with him throughout his life.