Text: Michael J. Deas, “The ‘Annie’ Daguerreotype,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 47-51 (This material is protected by copyright)


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The “Annie” Daguerreotype

Of the eight known original daguerreotypes of Poe, the so-called “Annie” daguerreotype (fig. 20) and its variant, the “Stella” daguerreotype, are the most difficult to chronicle. At various times each plate has fallen victim to theft or has disappeared for long periods of time; both were perfectly copied at an early date by other daguerreotypists; both are so alike in size and appearance that the two originals have sometimes been mistaken for one. Together, these irregularities have resulted in a body of published information that appears to be almost totally unreliable.(92) The slight documentation available indicates that the two plates were taken at a sitting held in Lowell, Massachusetts. The date of the sitting, frequently given as Autumn 1848, was probably early Summer 1849; the total number of plates produced at the sitting was only two — not three, as has often been alleged. Of these two originals, one was given to Mrs. Annie L. Richmond of Lowell, while the other, the “Stella” daguerreotype (fig. 21), was eventually given to the poet Stella Lewis.

In contrast to the confusion that clouds its history, the “Annie” daguerreotype remains an image of exquisite clarity. Curling strands of hair are rendered with jewellike perfection; minute details, such as a small scar beside the left eye, are defined with extraordinary precision. The eyes shimmer with reflected light and gaze poignantly from beneath a wide, furrowed brow. The plate itself is unusually large, measuring nearly twice the size of an average sixth-plate daguerreotype. Skillfully toned with gold chloride to increase the brilliance of the image, it is a masterful example of the daguerreotypist's art. Yet Annie L. Richmond, for whom the daguerreotype is named, was sharply critical of the likeness. In 1876 she wrote: “[It] does not do him justice — indeed, I have never seen a picture that did — his face was thin ... [here] he looks very stout, & his features heavy, which makes it seem almost like a caricature — yet, he certainly sat for it, & the artist (if he deserves the title) is still living here, who had the privilege of taking it.”(93)

Daguerreotype of Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 20) The Annie Daguerreotype
[Illustration on page 49]

In a sense, much of the confusion that now obscures the origin of the daguerreotype can be linked to Mrs. Richmond. She and Poe first met in July 1848, when he arrived in Lowell to deliver a lecture on “The Poets and Poetry of America.” Mrs. Richmond was twenty-eight at the time, the wife of a well-to-do manufacturer and, by her own admission, a spirited and impulsive woman. Shortly after meeting Poe, she invited him to remain in Lowell as a guest in her home. The invitation was accepted, and Mrs. Richmond quickly proved herself a warm and unpretentious hostess — a far cry from the quarrelsome literary ladies with whom Poe surrounded himself in New York. For Poe, Annie Richmond was a soothing, graceful presence, and his affection for her soon blossomed into what biographers generally acknowledge as the most serious love affair of Poe's final years. He was to return to Lowell as Mrs. Richmond's guest on at least two other occasions before his death in 1849, and during one of these visits posed for the daguerreotypes reproduced here as figures 20 and 21. Although Mrs. Richmond outlived Poe by nearly fifty years, in the decades following his death she remained hesitant to discuss her relationship with him. During the 1870s she began to assist two of his earliest biographers, William Fearing Gill and John Henry Ingram, but later regretted having associated with either man — especially Ingram, who in 1878 violated her trust by publishing unexpurgated versions of Poe's letters to her. Ingram's insensitivity drove Mrs. Richmond into semi-seclusion, and she thereafter remained unavailable to anyone seeking information ­[page 48:] about Edgar Allan Poe. Hence, the record concerning the early history of the “Annie” daguerreotype is fragmented, although a close reading of Mrs. Richmond's extant statements does yield some information about the picture's origin.

Perhaps the most significant document pertaining to the “Annie” daguerreotype is an albumen copy photograph of the image (circa 1880?), now preserved at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. The verso of the photograph carries an inscription in Mrs. Richmond's hand: “From a daguerreotype taken in Nov. 1848 of the late E. A. Poe — while on a visit to Lowell.”(94) As will be seen, Mrs. Richmond's dating of the daguerreotype appears to be in error, but her note remains of primary importance for providing a definite link between figure 20 and a sitting held in Lowell. Moreover, it lays to rest various claims, such as those made by Gabriel Harrison, that the “Annie” and “Stella” images were taken elsewhere at an earlier date.(95)

In October 1876 Mrs. Richmond sent a copy photograph of the “Annie” daguerreotype to John Henry Ingram in London. It was soon followed by a note: “The Photo I sent you, was copied from a daguerreotype Mr. Poe had taken the last time he visited me & the artist who took it is still living in this city. It is a poor picture, I know, but it was the best I could do at the time — the art [of photography] was then in its infancy, & this man was the only one here, who took them so I had no other alternative. Mr. Poe promised to send me a better one, as soon as he arrived in New York — but it never came.”(96) This passage, vague though it is, remains Mrs. Richmond's most detailed statement concerning her daguerreotype's origin. Her remark “it was the best I could do at the time” implies that the sitting was held at her expense — a circumstance not surprising if one considers the woeful state of Poe's finances at the time of his visits to Lowell. But Mrs. Richmond's comment that the picture was “taken the last time [Poe] visited me” is of even greater importance, for it directly contradicts the inscription on the Pratt Library photograph and suggests that the Lowell daguerreotypes were taken at a considerably later date than has been previously assumed.

Traditionally, both the “Annie” and “Stella” daguerreotypes have been published with an ascribed date of Autumn 1848 — the period of Poe's second visit to Mrs. Richmond in Lowell. But Poe is known to have made at least three visits to Lowell, the “last time” undoubtedly being during the final week of May through the first week of June 1849. Firm evidence of this visit was not made available until 1942, when a letter from Annie Richmond's brother, Bardwell Heywood, was discovered and subsequently published in the New England Quarterly.(97) By this time the Pratt Library photograph had been in print for more than four decades, and its apparently erroneous inscription had gained wide acceptance among writers on Poe.(98) This circumstance, in and of itself, is not sufficient to prompt rejection of the daguerreotypes’ traditional date of November 1848, but additional evidence of a sitting in May or June 1849 can be found in independent statements made by the poet Stella Lewis. Although Mrs. Lewis was not present when the Lowell daguerreotypes were taken, she did see Poe shortly afterwards, when he returned to New York and left the “Stella” variant with her, presumably as a gift. On several occasions during the 1870s, Mrs. Lewis emphasized that her daguerreotype had been taken within six months of Poe's death.(99) Internal evidence tends to corroborate Mrs. Lewis's assertion. Compared with the “Ultima Thule” and “Whitman” daguerreotypes, taken in Providence in November 1848 (fig. 14 and fig. 17), the Lowell daguerreotypes show a visibly older, more haggard Poe: the lines of the face are more deeply etched, the effects of ­[page 50:] time and dissipation far more evident than in the Providence photographs. The disparity between these two groups of portraits, coupled with the statements of Stella Lewis, makes it highly improbable that all four daguerreotypes could have been taken within the same month. Thus, the Lowell daguerreotypes’ traditionally ascribed date of Autumn 1848 must be rejected in favor of a sitting in late May or early June 1849.

Equally convoluted but far less resolvable is the identity of the Lowell daguerreotypist who took the “Annie” and “Stella” plates. Neither image bears a discernible trademark, and none of Mrs. Richmond's known letters mention the photographer by name. Her memory was obviously at fault when she wrote John Ingram that “this man was the only [daguerreotypist] here, who took them” — a cursory search of the Lowell city directories shows that no less than eight daguerreotypists were active there during or shortly before Poe's visits in 1848-49.(100) Four of these men — George C. Gilchrest, Samuel P. Howes, James M. Pearson, and Andrew J. Simpson — were still residing in Lowell in 1876, when Mrs. Richmond commented that “the artist who took [the images of Poe] is still living in this city.” But which of these daguerreotypists, if any, actually “had the privilege” of the sitting remains uncertain.(101)

The history of the “Annie” daguerreotype following its completion is somewhat checkered. During the early 1850s Mrs. Richmond permitted a duplicate plate to be made for Poe's mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, who was then residing in Lowell as Mrs. Richmond's guest. The existence of this copy, the so-called “Painter” image, would later give rise to the widespread misapprehension that a total of not two but three original daguerreotypes had been taken during Poe's sojourn in Lowell (see commentary on the “Painter” daguerreotype, fig. 70).

About 1856 the “Annie” daguerreotype disappeared, supposedly in a theft, and Mrs. Richmond lamented the loss with a long, rambling letter to Maria Clemm:

Muddie I have something sad to tell you — some one has stolen my Daguereotype of him — Since we came to this house I have kept it in a drawer of a little table, in the parlor. ... About six months ago I missed it, & for a long time supposed some one must have taken it to have copied & would bring it back, but now that I have asked everybody I can think of & can get no clue to it, I am perfectly wretched ... oh Muddie do put yours [the “Painter” daguerreotype] under lock & key & keep it always safe. ... [My] picture used to be but I had to go for it so often, that I finally left it down stairs for a few weeks never once dreaming but it would be safe — oh Muddie if you did but realize how unhappy it makes me, I am sure you would promise that if I outlive you, yours shall be mine. ... So many of his admirers have wanted to borrow mine to have it copied but I never once lent it — I was so fearful some accident might befall it. ... it may yet be returned, I cannot but hope.(102)

Whether the daguerreotype was actually stolen or simply misplaced is not clear. But at some point Mrs. Richmond must have recovered the plate, for by the 1870s she was able to furnish photographic copies to both John Henry Ingram and William Fearing Gill. The whereabouts of the daguerreotype after 1876 are unknown, although it seems likely the plate remained in Mrs. Richmond's hands until her death in 1898. By June 1919 the daguerreotype had entered the collection of a Mrs. George Howard Pierce of Brooklyn, New York. A year later Mrs. Pierce, “an extremely pleasant & refined woman, in a little hard financial luck,” sold the likeness to a Chicago collector and ­[page 51:] lumber magnate named David Gage Joyce.(103) From Joyce the plate passed to his daughter, Mrs. Beatrice Kean, after whose death in the early 1970s it was consigned for public auction at Chicago's Hanzel Galleries.(104) Bound in a plush, handmade case of crimson morocco, the daguerreotype was purchased by photography dealer George Rinhart in September 1973 for $9,250 — an unprecedented price for a single photograph sold at auction. The daguerreotype quickly changed hands and by early 1975 was in the collection of Mr. Arnold Crane of Chicago, who reportedly acquired it for a sum in excess of $30,000.(105) In 1978 the plate was loaned to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, where it remained on exhibition for the next six years. In June 1984 the daguerreotype was purchased by its present owner, the Getty Museum.






[S:1 - PDEAP, 1989] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (M. J. Deas) (The 'Annie' Daguerreotype)