Walking Tour: Edgar Allan Poe's Publishers Row in New York City
"Man is now only more active—not more happy—nor
more wise, than he was 6000 years ago."
—E.A. Poe to James Russell Lowell, July 2, 1844
Starting Point: Nevelson Plaza
In the 1840s, this triangle formed by the convergence of Maiden Lane with Liberty and William Streets bordered New York’s busy publishing and newspaper quarter. Edgar Allan Poe worked in the same area during the years 1844 and 1845, leaving an intricate trail that biographers have picked out from letters, reminiscences, and newspaper files. Our walk will follow some of the ins and outs of the trail. Before starting, we should first look at the circumstances which brought Poe to this city and those he would face.
He arrived in 1844 at the age of 35, broke, looking for a job (hoping to borrow some money to tide him over), and planning to reestablish his career as a "magazinist." For unknown reasons, he had left a successful career as editor for Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia. He had tried and failed to raise capital for a literary journal of his own, hoping to escape bondage to magazines of "nambypamby character" like the popular Graham’s. They featured "contemptible pictures, fashion-plates, music and love-tales" and unfortunately were the only kind that paid salaries. His journal would express "an honest and a fearless opinion" and carry out the "general interests of the Republic of Letters." (Until the end of his life, Poe would try to raise money for his dream magazine.)
Rumors of drunken, irresponsible conduct had preceded him to New York and would dog him even during a period of sobriety throughout 1844 and 1845. As for his drinking, a friend declared Poe to be "one of those temperaments whose only safety is in total abstinence." One drink would make him drunk. "Eddie was not himself," Poe’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, would explain when she found him so. After arriving in New York, he wrote to her: "I feel in excellent spirits and haven’t drank a drop—I hope so to get out of trouble."
New York was baited with trouble for Poe. He would come into direct confrontation with an adversary, Lewis Gaylord Clark, Editor of The Knickerbocker Magazine, a powerful, vindictive man of genial reputation. Some years before, Poe had dared challenge Clark over the issue of puffing. Clark sometimes would puff a new book as a favor to the author or publisher, and had admitted that this approval didn’t signify that he had read the book. Puffing was common practice in the l840s before the advent of commercial book advertising. Clark probably had shrugged it off as a harmless system of institutional trade-offs. But the results warranted Poe’s charge of corruption. Following Clark’s lead, a coterie of fellow Whig newspapers would reprint the puff and it would circulate throughout the country. A Knickerbocker puff was thought to sell out an edition in several weeks time. Using the Knickerbocker’s prestige and reprint potential as a weapon, Clark had also demonstrated that he could "kill" a book if he disliked its author.
Poe waged war on puffing—and on Clark. He could sharpen his prose into a death-dealing sting as one victim—one of Clark’s overrated (puffed) protégés—could testify. If Clark was vindictive, Poe was unrelenting. One journalist (probably Horace Greeley) said Poe, like an Indian, "cannot realize that an enemy is conquered till he is scalped." Clark, unequal to responding to Poe on the same level, retreated into flinging personal abuses at him.
Clark couldn’t damage the authenticity of Poe’s literary reputation, based on publication of stories such as "The Gold Bug" —winner of a $100 national prize—and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," now regarded as classics. Poe was also respected as a literary critic, although feared because of his caustic pen. His poetry was less known. Poe believed that poverty had shut him out from realizing himself fully as a poet. "Events not to be controlled have prevented me from making, at any time, any serious effort in which, under happier circumstances would have been my field of choice," he wrote, and called his poems "trifles." In New York there was some consciousness of Poe’s worth as an artist, but it did not help him-nor was he equipped-to cope with challenges he regarded as irresistible. An image of Poe’s struggles once came to Walt Whitman in a dream:
In a dream I once had, I saw a vessel on the sea, at midnight, in a storm. It was no great full-rigg’d ship, nor majestic steamer, steering firmly through the gale, but seemed one of those superb little schooner yachts I had often seen lying anchor’d, rocking so jauntily, in the waters around New York, or up Long Island Sound-now flying uncontroll’d with torn sails and broken spars through the wild sleet and winds and waves of the night. On the deck was a slender, slight, beautiful figure, a dim man, apparently enjoying all thc terror, the murk, and the dislocation of which he was the centre and the victim. That figure of my lurid dream might stand for Edgar Poe, his spirit, his fortunes, and his poems-themselves all lurid dreams.
—from Specimen Days
Think of Poe at 35 years of age on the verge of entering New York, full of verve and determination. Because he was an arresting-looking person, contemporary descriptions of him abound. A Philadelphia writer described him as—
. . . somewhat slender, about five feet eight inches tall, and well proportioned; his complexion is rather fair, his eyes are grey and restless, exhibiting a marked nervousness. . . his hair is nearly black and curling.
—and another remarked on his "fine face. . . well gifted with intellectual beauty." No one mentioned how Poe loved to swim and hike and that in college he had excelled as a long-distance swimmer. In Poe’s verse the rhyme scheme reveals a speech and ear still tuned to his native Virginia: he linked "ha’nted" with "enchanted" and "sister" with "vista." His appearance was gentlemanly—Mrs. Clemm and his wife, Virginia, kept him mended and brushed-but his clothes were poor. Whenever he could afford a plug, he chewed tobacco—in the l840s not thought incompatible with gentlemanly behavior.
April 6, 1844—the day Poe arrived in New York with his frail wife, Virginia, he had to act quickly: first, to find a boarding-house, then after paying the landlady her installment, to borrow or earn enough cash to keep going. Finally he had to find a stable job that would allow the family to reunite, for his mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, and the cat, Catterina, were temporarily left behind in Philadelphia. ‘ He found a boarding house at Cedar and Greenwich Streets (almost directly west of Nevelson Square) within walking distance of potential jobs in the publishing quarter. He reported to Mrs. Clemm:
The house is old and looks buggy. . . The landlady a nice, chatty old soul—gave us the back room on the third floor—night & day attendance—for 7$—the cheapest board I ever knew, taking into the consideration the central situation and the living. I wish Kate [the cat, Catterina] could see it—she would faint. Last night, for supper, we had the nicest tea you ever drank, strong & hot,—wheat & rye bread—cheese—tea—cakes (elegant), a great dish (2 dishes) of elegant ham, and 2 of cold veal. . . .
With Mr. and Mrs. Poe established in the first of the many boarding houses they would tryout, our walk now starts west along Liberty Street. Go to the corner of Liberty and Nassau Streets.
Liberty and Nassau Streets
Gowan’s Antiquarian Bookstore, William Gowan, Proprietor and Dealer in Historical Americana
Poe and other writers enjoyed dropping by this book store to talk to Gowan. Here is Gowan’s account of what it was like to share a boarding house with Mr. and Mrs. Poe:
For eight months or more ‘one house contained us, one table fed.’ During that time I saw much of him, and had opportunity of conversing with him, and I must say I never saw him the least affected with liquor. . . . while he was one of the most courteous, gentlemanly, and intelligent companions I have met. . . Besides he had an extra inducement to be a good man as well as a good husband, for he had a wife of matchless beauty and loveliness. . . much devoted to him and his every interest.
Look westward toward Broadway and Liberty Streets, where skyscrapers now loom. Poe would have seen a row of four-story brick-and-frame buildings, with shops on the ground floor, offices above. At 161 Broadway hung the shingle of Wiley & Putnam, a cornerstone in New York publishing, at whose famous ground-floor bookstore writers gathered. Here Poe saw Bryant thumbing through the books and in the "den" may have heard James Fenimore Cooper holding forth. (He made the back room his headquarters when in New York.) Rumor has Poe dashing in late one afternoon, borrowing pen and paper, and settling down to write until the night porter begged him to leave.
In 1845 Wiley & Putnam brought out two volumes of Poe’s works: one of tales and one of poems.
Turn right on Nassau Street. Now we can pick up Poe’s trail as he set about job-hunting, following his arrival in the city.
107 Nassau Street
Sunday Times and Weekly Newspaper, Major Mordecai Noah, Editor and Proprietor
Here Poe found his first job after arrival in April, probably as a "mechanical paragraphist" with the kindly Major Noah, who became and remained Poe’s friend.
As we proceed up Nassau toward Fulton Street, have in mind that we are still in the month of April, 1844, and following Poe as he tried to raise immediate cash. His solution was to concoct and sell a fantastic "news" story to the one newspaper in New York that would pay ready money.
124 Fulton Streetcorner Nassau,
The Sun: Moses Y. Beach, Editor and Proprietor
The Sun, New York’s biggest penny daily, would print or invent any kind of "news" to keep up its circulation, and bought Poe’s report of a trans-Atlantic balloon flight. In the forties hoaxing was acceptable journalism and Poe’s hoax was written carefully and "factually." It came out as a Sun "Extra" on April 13, 1844, and reappeared the following day in Noah’s Sunday Times. The Sun’s headlines proclaimed:
ASTOUNDED BY NEWS OF EXPRESS, VIA NORFOLK. THE ATLANTIC CROSSED IN THREE DAYS... ARRIVAL. . . NEAR CHARLESTON S.C.—AFTER PASSAGE OF SEVENTY-FIVE HOURS, ETC.
Poe next reported on the hoax’s sensational reception in New York for an out-of-town newspaper for which he was correspondent, thereby collecting on it again.
. . .the whole square surrounding the ‘Sun’ building was literally besieged, blocked-up—ingress and egress being alike impossible. . . I never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper.
A fellow journalist found this extravaganza hilarious. He was Charles Briggs, a humorist, and he was to choose Poe as co-editor of his magazine, The Broadway Journal.
Turn left on Fulton Street; go to Broadway. Turn right and proceed to Ann Street; again turn right.
4 Ann Street
Mrs. Foster’s boarding house
Throughout 1844 the Poes moved from boarding-house to boarding-house forever in search of cheap comfort for the ailing Virginia Poe. This must have been one of the worst places they tried out. The house was on a business street, probably in the rear, since double building made profitable use of commercial real estate. Around the corner at Ann and Broadway, Barnum’s Museum kept a brass band playing six days out of the week. The intersection was one of the noisiest in New York, probably noisier than it is today, with a constant traffic of iron-rimmed stagecoach wheels clattering on cobble-stones.
. . . the amount of general annoyance wrought by street noises is incalculable. . . The din of vehicles, however, is even more thoroughly, and more intolerably a nuisance. Are we never to have done with these unmeaning round stones?—than which a more ingenious contrivance for driving men mad through sheer noise was undoubtedly ever invented—It is difficult to foresee what mode of street pavement will come. . . but we should have some change. . .
Poe didn’t complain of smells, but imagine the odors borne on updrafts from the street—a street in which garbage and effluvia mingled in open gutters, fed upon by pigs. Piles of manure would fester in the center, pushed there from the livery stables for traffic to beat down.
The walk will proceed up Ann Street but the next stop will take us back in time to 1839 in order to introduce Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who would playa crucial part in Poe’s life.
26 Ann Street
The New World, Park Benjamin, Publisher; Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Editor
This was a pirating operation that engaged Poe’s future literary executor, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, in a brief partnership with the publisher, Park Benjamin. They invented "mammoth" weeklies—which sometimes could be four feet long.
The team of Griswold and Benjamin set out to beat the American book publishers engaged in pirating English writings for the home market. Pirating took advantage of the lack of American participation in the international copyright agreement. American publishers had the freedom to reprint any foreign author without paying royalties. (The English pirated Poe’s "The Gold Bug.") Griswold and Benjamin rushed new English novels into print in cheap "mammoth" format and had newsboys sell them on the streets for 10 cents each. They nearly ruined the book publishers, who charged $1.00 per book and were slower at printing.
Cheap foreign reprints undercut the market for American authors, who had a hard time getting books published and more difficulty getting paid for them. Poe wrote on the subject:
The want of an international copy-right law renders it impossible for our men of genius to obtain remuneration for their labors. Now since, as a body, men of genius are proverbially poor, the want of the international law represses their efforts altogether.
The habit of pirating seemed ingrained in Griswold’s character. Adding a few more poems and some prefatory notes to an English anthology, he would reprint it as entirely his own. As Poe’s literary executor, Griswold would sometimes appropriate critical analyses from the dead man’s writings, possibly unaware of the difference between Poe’s superior style and his own. An indefatigable anthologist, he was (as Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote) "a kind of naturalist whose subjects are authors, whose memory is a perfect fauna of all flying and creeping things that feed on ink." Poe may have chosen him as a literary executor because Griswold compiled an anthology of American poetry, The Poets and Poetry of America, which included Poe. The work enhanced Griswold’s reputation. In 1844, Griswold took over Poe’s former job in Philadelphia on Graham’s Magazine.
Proceed up Ann Street to the northwest corner of Ann and Nassau Streets.
The Evening Mirror and The Weekly Mirror, George Pope Morris and Nathaniel Parker Willis, Editors & Publishers
Here Poe worked from October, 1844, to February, 1845. It was probably his most stable period.
As sub-editor and critic, Poe earned about $20 a week. Willis probably took three times that much as editor and co-owner of the Mirror. Both writers "moonlighted," writing stories at home to supplement their Mirror incomes—Poe to earn more than boarding-house costs and Willis to support an extravagant style of living. The highly-paid Willis was one of the most popular writers in the forties. He supplied three magazines with light sketches, stories and poems about fashionable life, for which he received $1,500 a year. Poe may have received a third of that amount. Poe was paid $5 a page by the popular magazines, while Willis got $11. It is little wonder that the sub-editor of the Mirror wrote on the economic plight of the American author. (His contributions were unsigned but the style identifies them.)
Willis liked and admired Poe as a writer and lived to see his former employee’s fame grow and become international. (His own declined and he died in obscurity.) On January 29, 1845, Willis published "The Raven," after Poe had left the Mirror to join Charles Briggs as co-editor at The Broadway Journal. Overnight "The Raven" made Poe famous and boosted his fee, enabling him to command Longfellow’s price of $50 a poem. Poe wrote jubilantly to his good friend, Thomas, about his success:
‘The Raven’ has had a great ‘run,’ Thomas—but I wrote it for the express purpose of running—just as I did the ‘Gold-Bug,’ you know. The bird beat the bug, though, all hollow.
After Poe’s death, Willis wrote an account of Poe’s working habits at the Mirror to offset some of the stories circulating about his drunken behavior.
. . . Mr. Poe was employed by us, for several months as critic and sub-editor. . . He resided with his wife and mother at Fordham, a few miles out of town, but was at his desk in the office from nine in the morning till the evening paper went to press. . . We were led by common report to expect a very capricious attention to his duties. . . Time went on, however, and he was invariably punctual and industrious. With his pale, beautiful, and intellectual face, as a reminder of what genius was in him, it was impossible not to treat him always with deferential courtesy, and to our occasional request that he would not probe too deep in criticism, or that he would erase a passage colored too highly with his resentments against society and mankind, he readily and courteously assented, —far more yielding than most men, we thought, on points so excusably sensitive.
Turn left on Nassau Street and proceed up the block.
133 Ann Street
Fowler’s Phrenological Cabinet
Thou hast a noble cranium; what remains
To make thee a great genius? Only brains.
—The Knickerbocker, 1857
Like Bryant, Whitman and all the writers of the day, Poe probably dropped in here to have the bumps on his head analyzed. Phrenology was a popular pseudo-science which discovered indications of intelligence, genius, or bent according to the shape of head and forehead. Poe found its "most direct and, perhaps most salutary" use to be "that of self-examination and self-knowledge." Indulging in some phrenology himself, he wrote that William Cullen Bryant’s forehead "is broad, with prominent organs of ideality." And playfully about Willis: "Neither his nose nor his forehead can be defended; the latter would puzzle phrenology."
Turning left into Nassau Street we come into a block which in the l840s was lined with newspaper and magazine offices, some Whig, some Democrat. These close neighbors generated copy out of their disagreements, which their subscription networks relayed up and down the coast and to such western points as Cincinnati. The quarrel between Clark and Poe—working on Nassau Street within a stone’s throw of each other—reverberated throughout the nation. When Poe alluded to Clark in Godey’s—
Mr. Clark once did me the honor to review my poems and-I forgive him. . . He is noticeable for nothing in the world except for the markedness by which he is noticeable for nothing.
—this opinion traveled a large subscription list. Clark’s onslaughts against Poe reached even more readers since a network of Whig newspapers and magazines reprinted them.
While on the Mirror, Poe had furnished Nassau Street with some fresh copy by starting his "Little Longfellow War." He had accused Longfellow, the popular idol, of misusing his talent by imitating foreign poems instead of creating original work. Any scandal touching Longfellow excited the public, and the Mirror’s circulation rose. Nassau Street was alerted to Poe as a new source of copy.
When on February 3, 1845, Poe lectured on American poets at New York’s Historical Society, he satisfied expectation that he would again attack Longfellow. A barrage of comment arose: Willis of the Mirror complimented Poe; Greeley of the Tribune objected to his "broad assertion that Longfellow is a plagiarist," but found in his lecture "acute and fearless criticism." Clark of the Knickerbocker ran a cheap parody of "The Raven." The Democratic Review applauded the emphasis upon the "necessity of just and independent criticism" and said Poe
had made unmitigated war upon the prevalent Puffery and dragged several idols from their pedestals.
Poe was making news, which caused Charles Briggs to ruminate over whether to offer him a job on his Broadway Journal, also on Nassau Street. Briggs argued the case in a letter to J ames Russell Lowell, pointing out that Poe’s name "is of some authority" and his plagiarism hunt, if transferred to the Broadway Journal, might enlarge its subscription lists. A further attraction was that "Wiley and Putnam are going to publish a new edition of his tales and sketches" and "everybody has been raven-mad about his last poem and his lectures."
126 Nassau Street
The Democratic Review: Editor, John O’Sullivan
The literary nationalist, O’Sullivan, believed that Poe’s reformist inclinations would help the cause of American letters. He published four installments of Poe’s "Marginalia," which added Poe’s name to the Review’s illustrious roster of American authors.
133 Nassau Street
The Knickerbocker Magazine, Lewis Gaylord Clark, Editor
The literary tone of the Knickerbocker reflected the complacent mercantilism of New York in the 1840s. A clique of merchant-essayists wrote on connoisseurship (in the style of Charles Lamb) and the editor avoided anything intellectually taxing. Clark didn’t need to pay his merchant writers nor felt it necessary to pay more needy contributors (except Longfellow and a few others) because publication in the Knickerbocker was an award in itself. His puffing and his indifference to professional values were enough to infuriate the artist that Poe was. But Poe was more concerned about conditions that prohibited professional writers from making a decent living and nurtured the dilettantism of a Knickerbocker.
. . . Our sole writers, in consequence, are from the class of dilettanti; and although among this class are unquestionably many gifted men, still as a class—as men of wealth and leisure—they are imbued with a spirit of conservatism which is merely a mood of the imitative spirit.
A visiting Southerner reported a near confrontation between Clark and Poe in late 1845. This was when Poe’s wife was very ill, his affairs in bad shape, and he had begun to drink.
. . . Poe approached Clark, giving him his hand. As Clark responded to Poe’s offer of his hand, he exclaimed, "Why, Poe! is this you?’ ‘Yes, by G-d! this is Poe! . . . what business had you to abuse me in the last Number of your Magazine?’ ‘Why, by G-d Poe!’ exclaimed Clark, sidling off towards the curbstone of the pavement, ‘how did I know the Article referred to was yours? You had always attached your name to all your articles before, and how in H--l, did I know it was yours?’
By this time, Clark had completely bowed himself away from the middle of Nassau street, on his way to his office.
Poe, then, turning suddenly round to me, and locking his arm in mine, and pulling me impetuously along, with him, in a self-consciousness of his triumph exclaimed in an indignant chuckle—’A d--d coward! by G-d!’ and went on his way rejoicing.
When Poe died, Clark seized his chance for the last word by excoriating his memory in successive issues of the Knickerbocker. In the next decade, as Poe’s posthumous fame grew, the Knickerbocker’s popularity waned. The embittered Clark may have then realized that posterity had given Poe the last word.
138 Nassau Street
The Broadway Journal, Editor, Charles Briggs
On Lowell’s recommendation Briggs had decided to hire Poe, and he wrote Lowell: "I like Poe exceedingly well." There were "some shocking stories about him" relayed by Griswold, but never mind. On February 22, 1845, The Broadway Journal announced Poe as sole editor. Briggs was out. Poe wrote his good friend, Thomas, about the change:
And yet, Thomas, I have made no money. I am as poor now as ever I was in my life—except in hope, which is by no means bankable. I have taken a 3d pecuniary interest in the ‘Broadway Journal’ and for everything I have written for it have been, of course, so much out of pocket. In the end, however, it will pay me well-at least the prospects are good. . .
And to another friend Poe wrote:
—and if! can hold it for one month I am quite safe-as you shall see. I have exhausted all my immediate resources in the purchase-and now I write to ask you for a small loan—say $50. I will punctually return it in three months.
After raising capital from a number of small donations ($50 from Horace Greeley and $25 from Rufus Wilmot Griswold were among them), Poe paid a fourth of the amount due to the publisher with the remainder promised in three months time.
During those three months, the Journal moved twice—to Beekman Street and to 304 Broadway. Walt Whitman dropped by the Broadway office to collect payment for his article on music to be published in the Journal. Whitman found Poe "very kindly and human, but subdued, perhaps a little jaded." Poe was exhausted most of the time. He sometimes wrote entire issues himself and for variety signed "Littleton Barry" to some of the pieces.
In December Poe sold one half of his interest, but this could not rectify the under-financing of the magazine. On January 3, 1846, Poe wrote a farewell in the final issue of the Journal.
Unexpected engagements demanding my whole attention, and the objects being fulfilled, so far as regards myself personally, for which ‘The Broadway Journal’ was established, I now, as its Editor, bid farewell as cordially to foes as to friends.
The year 1845 had carried Poe to triumph. "The Raven" had created a sensation comparable nowadays to the effect of a Broadway hit, and it had made Poe famous overnight. His Tales and The Raven and Other Poems were published. His reputation as a critic had grown. He had taken over his own magazine—but on impossibly speculative terms. By the beginning of 1846 Poe had lost the magazine; a month later his consumptive wife died, and with her death, his grip on himself. He was broke and unemployed. His career as aNew York "magazinist" was over.
Continue walking up Nassau Street.
154 Nassau Street
The New-York Tribune, Horace Greeley, Editor
Poe’s posthumous career in New York began with a venomous obituary in the Tribune. Upon public outcry its author disclosed himself. He was Rufus Wilmot Griswold, the anthologist, whom Poe had chosen to be his literary executor. Griswold had inserted a villainous characterization seemingly of Poe but lifted from the fiction of the English novelist, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The quotation marks vanished in subsequent reprints. Why Griswold hated Poe can’t be traced to any specific reason other than he was Clark’s friend and a Whig. Poe’s and Griswold’s former employer, George Graham of Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia gave this analysis:
Mr. Griswold. . . has allowed old prejudices and old enmities to steal. . . into the coloring of his pictures. . . [Poe had] in the exercise of his functions as critic, put to death, summarily, the literary reputations of some of Mr. Griswold’s best friends; and their ghosts cried in vain for him to avenge them during Poe’s lifetime-and it almost seems, as if the present hacking of the cold remains of him who struck them down, is a sort of compensation for duty long delayed-for reprisal long desired. . .
Griswold persisted in his campaign to discredit Poe’s character. He published sections of Poe’s letters that he had subtly altered, thus guiding the dead man’s hand into self-incriminations. Griswold even accused Poe of "criminal relations" with hard-working, bumbling Mrs. Clemm. Poe’s friends protested the calumnies but apparently never doubted Griswold’s veracity. Public demand for Poe’s writings rose and the publisher reissued his stories and poems with Griswold as editor. Whether—and how much—he was paid cannot be ascertained, but the posthumous sales brought a better return than the books had earned for the author in his lifetime.
In his recollections, Walt Whitman mused over Poe’s strange life:
There is an indescribable magnetism about the poet’s life and reminiscences, as well as the poems. To one who could work out their subtle retracing and retrospect, the latter would make a close tally no doubt between the author’s birth and antecedents, his studies and associates, the literary and social. . . New York, of those times—not only places and circumstances in themselves, but often, very often, in a strange spurning of, and reaction from them all.
Whitman was the only poet to make the journey to Baltimore to attend the unveiling of Poe’s monument in November, 1875. Swinburne sent a letter and Stéphan Mallarmé a sonnet, and letters were read from Longfellow, Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Tennyson.
Now follow Beekman, Gold and Fulton Streets to the South Street Seaport Historical District to view New York as it appeared in 1844. Poe would row across the East River to Blackwell’s Island to swim and knew the Manhattan shores of the river very well. Here is his view of them and of the future:
. . . I procured a light skiff, and with the aid of a pair of sculls (as they here term oars, or paddles) made my way. . . on a voyage of discovery and exploration. The chief interest of the adventure lay in the scenery of the Manhattan shore, which is here particularly picturesque. The houses are, without exception, frame, and antique. Nothing very modern has been attempted—a necessary result of the subdivision of the whole island into streets and town-lots. I could not look on the magnificent cliffs, and stately trees, which at every moment met my view, without a sigh for their inevitable doom—inevitable and swift. In twenty years or thirty at farthest, we shall see here nothing more romantic than shipping, warehouses, and wharves.
The following books have been the main sources of information for the construction of the Poe walk:
Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography by Arthur H. Quinn, New York, 1941
The Raven and the Whale by Perry Miller, New York, 1956.
Poe’s Literary Battles by Sidney P. Moss, Carbondale & Edwardsville, 1963.
The History of the American Magazine, 1741-1850, by Frank Luther Mott, Cambridge, 1938.
The research and printing for the original guide (1981) were made possible by the New York Council for the Humanities, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, Inc., the Anne S. Richardson Fund, Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc., and Exxon Corporation. Special thanks to Gigi Bradford, Henri Cole, and John Drury.
The updating and reproduction of the current guide (2006) were made possible, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Special thanks for research and photography to Stephanie Anderson, Jocelyn (Josie) Casey-Whiteman, C.J. Evans, and Billy Merrell.