The Poe Museum has received a transformative gift of nearly sixty treasured Edgar Allan Poe artifacts in honor of the museum’s 100 year anniversary. This collection of items, including personal belongings, letters and rare first editions was donated by leading literary collector Susan Jaffe Tane and will be unveiled to the public on April 28, 2022 at a special UnHappy Hour at the Poe Museum. Maeve Jones, Executive Director at the Poe Museum as of January 3, 2022, says: “The Poe Museum is honored to provide a permanent home for this transformative addition to its collection. Ms. Tane’s generous gift furthers our mission to illuminate Poe for everyone, evermore.”
Highlights of the collection include Edgar Allan Poe’s pocket watch, the engagement ring Poe gave to his last fiancée shortly before his death, and a fragment of Poe’s original coffin.
Susan Jaffe Tane says of her gift to the Poe Museum: “As a dedicated Poe collector I have understood my responsibility to preserve the best of our literary heritage. In honor and celebration of the museum’s Centennial I am proud to contribute some highlights of my collection including Poe’s pocket watch, his engagement ring to Sarah Elmira Royster and a fragment of his coffin. I am particularly pleased and comforted that these items have found a proper and ‘FOREVER’ home.”
According to the Poe Museum’s curator Chris Semtner, “Poe’s watch is especially important because this is the watch he owned while he was writing his popular horror story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ which repeatedly references a watch. This might just be the very watch Poe was envisioning when he described the old man’s heartbeat as ‘a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.’
Poe’s engagement ring is evidence of the tragic love story between Poe and Elmira Royster Shelton. Engaged as teenagers, only to have their engagement broken by her father, Poe and Shelton became engaged a second time in the last months of his life. Poe gave Shelton this ring, engraved with the name “Edgar”. He died just ten days before their wedding would have taken place. Shelton survived him by over three decades and claimed, toward the end of her life, that Poe had told her that she had been the inspiration for his final poem, “Annabel Lee.”
The coffin fragment came from the original coffin in which Poe was buried, days after his death in 1849. In 1875, Poe’s body was moved across the cemetery. When lifted from the ground, the coffin broke (and out fell Poe). Semtner notes, “Poe wrote so many stories about being buried alive that it seems only fitting that we have a piece of the very coffin in which he was buried.”
According to Maeve Jones, Executive Director, “The Poe Museum looks forward to unveiling these incredible artifacts over the course of its centennial anniversary in 2022.”