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March 30, 2012

Oldest known photograph of the inside of an American museum

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Taken during the winter of 1842-43 at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, this daguerrotype includes none other than Edgar Allan Poe (seated), who spent time at the Academy doing research on mollusks.

[via the New York Times]

March 30, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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Well how about that. I guess what looks at first glance to be a Lincoln-esque beard is actually the dark top of his neckwear, but I was thrown by the look of the hairline, which has to be (or be caused by) a hat. Very interesting.

Posted by: Flautist | Mar 30, 2012 4:01:13 PM

Flautist, I had the same thought upon initially looking at the photo in the dead tree iteration of the Times.

I just had my Crack Research Team®™© look into the matter for us and they report the following:

1. In an October 14, 2010 Philly.com article by Inquirer staff writer Faye Flam [sic] (http://articles.philly.com/2010-10-14/news/24982793_1_edgar-allan-poe-science-hoax), the same photo appears with the following caption: "At least two experts believe Edgar Allan Poe is sitting on the right in an 1840s photo."

2. In an undated post (http://www.ansp.org/explore/online-exhibits/stories/edgar-allan-poe-at-the-academy/) on the website of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the same photograph appears. The second paragraph of the caption:

"This daguerreotype, taken by Academy member [Paul Beck] Goddard himself, features a teenage Joseph Leidy (center), who would later become one of the leading American scientists of his time. The young man seated on the right — known for his keen interest in natural history, chemistry, and phrenology (not to mention his writing talent) — is Edgar Allan Poe."

Posted by: bookofjoe | Mar 30, 2012 3:00:32 PM

I wonder if that picture could've gotten flipped somewhere along the way... When I first saw it (having not yet read the title of the post or the text), looking at the standing figure on the left I thought, wow, that's Edgar Allan Poe! Checking out the link to the NY Times picture, it describes "Edgar Allan Poe (right)...John Leidy (center)...and Samuel George Morton" - but it doesn't describe Poe as being the one seated. The seated figure appears to have a beard (no mustache? I can't tell) and either a full head of hair with a normal hairline or some kind of cap), and a face more oval and elongated than seen in portraits of Poe. The standing figure with the stovepipe hat seems to have the rounder head, and the Poe-like straighter eyebrows, squared-off chin, and penetrating gaze. Plus, strictly my opinion, the seated guy has the aura of someone with his shit together and the stovepipe guy looks a little crazed. But I'm probably totally wrong.

Posted by: Flautist | Mar 30, 2012 2:43:00 PM

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