Text: Michael J. Deas, “The Players Club Daguerreotype,” The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe (1989), pp. 164-165 (This material is protected by copyright)


­[page 164:]

The Players Club Daguerreotype

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 75)
The Players Club Daguerreotype
[Illustration on page 165]

This often-reproduced daguerreotype (fig. 75) is a reversed copy of the “Thompson” daguerreotype of 1849, now owned by Columbia University. The copy was made five years after Poe's death, at the request of a St. Louis journalist named Thomas Dimmock. In a reminiscence published in 1895, Dimmock explained:

During the Christmas holidays of 1854-55, I was walking down Main street, Richmond, when my attention was attracted by a picture in the show-case of a daguerreotyper [William Abbott Pratt], bearing this inscription: “Edgar Allan Poe — taken three weeks before his death.” I immediately climbed to the studio, and asked for further information, which was cheerfully given by Mr. Pratt. ... I at once offered to buy it; but naturally enough he declined to sell what, even then, was of considerable value. He told me, however, that he ... would make me [a copy] if I so desired. He did so, and this copy is now in my possession, in perfect preservation, after forty years. It is in every respect, so far as I am capable of judging, quite as good as was the original.(31)

Dimmock, who admitted being “deeply interested in everything pertaining to Poe,” kept the copy until 1895, when he presented it as a gift to the Players Club in New York City. A short time later Dimmock was asked by a reporter why he had chosen to present the daguerreotype to the Players, an organization devoted to the theatrical arts. He replied: “While, of course, it is a fact, that all truly literary people appreciate Poe, and that any club of such people would have been glad to have the picture, and prized it, still I felt that the Players’ would perhaps value it a little more than any other, for the reason Poe's mother was an actress and his memory has always been dear to members of that profession.”(32) Except for a recent and highly noticeable abrasion across the face of the image, the daguerreotype is in superb condition, handsomely preserved in a gilt-edged case lined with amber-colored velvet.



Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe [thumbnail]

(fig. 75a)
The Players Club Daguerreotype
[Additional illustration]

Sometime between 1981 and 2003 Dimmock's daguerreotype of Poe vanished from The Players Club's collection, where it had been housed for almost a century, the victim of an apparent theft. The precise date of its disappearance is unknown. All that can be said with certainty is that by 2003 the plate was in the possession of a daguerreotype collector named Sally Guest, who stated that she had purchased the plate in an antiques store in Walnut, Iowa, for $96. In July 2004 Mrs. Guest displayed the daguerreotype, its covers now broken at the hinge, on the PBS television program “Antiques Roadshow.” There the image was appraised by noted auctioneer Wes Cowan with an estimated value of $30,000 to $50,000. (For a video and transcript, see http://­www.­pbs.­org/­wgbh/­roadshow/­archive/­200402A06.­html.) Mrs. Guest later consigned the daguerreotype for potential auction with Mr. Cowan.

At the request of the present writer, however, the FBI's Stolen Art Division, led by Special Agent Johanna Loonie, intervened in the matter and subsequently took possession of the daguerreotype, eventually returning it to its original owners, The Players Club, in November 2005. (For details about the apparent theft and its aftermath, see http://­www.­pbs.­org/­wgbh/­roadshow/­fts/­omaha_­200402A06.­html.) Less than a year later The Players consigned the daguerreotype for auction to raise funds for the Hampden-Booth Theatre Library. It was sold at Sotheby's, New York, on October 17, 2006, where it fetched $150,000. The daguerreotype is currently in the Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane. — MJD (02/01/2011)






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