Mysterious Figure to Appear at Poe's Birthday Observance
WHEN: 3 pm on Saturday, January 16, 2016
WHERE: Westminster Hall & Burying Ground, 515 W Fayette St, Baltimore
In honor of the 207th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (January, 19 1809 - October 7, 1849), Westminster Hall & Burying Ground is hosting Edgar Allan Poe's Birthday Observance. The capstone event will be the first and only publicly accessible appearance of the new "Poe Toaster."
The event includes theatrical readings by costumed actors of "The Cask of Amontillado," "Annabel Lee," "Eldorado," "Alone," "The Conqueror Worm" and many others. In addition to Poe's works, tributes from around the world, dating to 1934, will be read from countries including Persia, Siam, Chile, Yugoslavia, Brazil and others. The event will be hosted by Curator Emeritus Jeff Jerome. The appearance of the "Poe Toaster," who will "Toast" Poe at the Poe Monument, will conclude the event.
"Baltimore holds a special place in its heart for Edgar Allan Poe," says Maryland Historical Society Director of Programs & Strategic Initiatives Katie Caljean. "We are proud to be involved in this event."
About The New "Poe Toaster"
In November, an audience of more than 100 witnessed performances from finalists at The Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore (201 W. Monument Street), and selected the new "Poe Toaster" through a secret ballot.
Applications were submitted from artists from around the country. Each of the finalists performed their tributes to Poe anonymously. Their true identity, like the original "Poe Toaster", remains a mystery.
The Maryland Historical Society partnered with Poe Baltimore, Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, and The Mesmeric Revelations! Of Edgar Allan Poe to issue a call for submissions from artists to perform as their own original vision and interpretation of the "Poe Toaster".
About The Original "Poe Toaster"
An infrared image of the Original "Poe Toaster", taken by Bill Ballenberg, which appeared in Life Magazine
Beginning in the 1940s, a mysterious individual began visiting Edgar Allan Poe's original gravesite at Westminster Hall every year on the author's birthday, January 19th. Later dubbed the "Poe Toaster," the man began a tradition in which he would sneak into the cemetery at night while dressed in black clothing, a hat, and a white scarf.
Upon arriving at Poe's grave, the toaster would place 3 roses beside it with a bottle of cognac. The roses are believed to be in memory of the three individuals buried at the site of the Poe Monument: Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm. After toasting Poe, the man would then place the bottle next to the grave before disappearing into the night. The original "Poe Toaster" has not appeared since 2009.
About Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe, not dated, Cased Photograph Collection, CSPH 277, Maryland Historical Society
Edgar Allan Poe may have been born in Boston in 1809, but he died in Baltimore, under mysterious circumstances, on October 7, 1849. And it was in Baltimore that Poe found his first critical success, by winning a short story contest sponsored by the Baltimore Sunday Visiter in 1833. Baltimore was also where Poe was living when he published his first horror story, "Berenice," in 1835.
Now on view outside the Maryland Historical Society's H. Furlong Baldwin Library is a rare daguerreotype of Poe, known as the "Painter" Daguerreotype (pictured above) that was once owned by Poe's mother-in-law, Maria Clemm.
About The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore.
The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." Visit www.mdhs.org.