Edgar Allan Poe in Daguerreotypes
Daguerreotype by William Hartshorn, 1848
Brown University Library
Anonymous daguerreotype, May-June 1849
J. Paul Getty Museum
The familiar image of Edgar Allan Poe is vouchsafed us almost entirely through the medium of daguerreotypy. The pioneering American author sat for several portraits in his later life, which coincided with the dominance of Daguerre’s process. The Brown daguerreotype was made at the end of “a tumultuous week which included an overdose of laudanum and a bout of heavy drinking.” Poe died in 1849, just four months after the Getty daguerreotype was taken. Poe was not only the first great American author to attempt to live by writing alone, but the first whose photographic representation made him a visual as well as a literary icon.