Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy Birthday H. P. Lovecraft

Today is 20th of August and H P Lovecraft’s birthday.  He was born in Providence, RI on 20 August 1890 and died 15 March 1937.  His life was short but his writings are a major influence on writers, readers, and fans for decades.  Here’s a card.

Here’s a link to the complete works of HPL via The Arkham Archivist in several e-formats

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Canyons of Madness -- The Grand Canyon Hoax of 1909

Well known to my readers is H. P. Lovecraft’s story, The Mountains of Madness (pub 1931) which features an expedition and a huge ancient city in an inaccessible mountain range at the bottom of the world, but lesser known is the story about another expedition and a gigantic city, but this time underground, beneath the Grand Canyon dating from 1909. 

Years ago, I had read a reference to a “lost city” in the Grand Canyon in a magazine, but in those pre-internet days some 40 years ago, doing follow-up research was difficult.  Recently, I ran across references to the Grand Canyon Hoax online and could finally follow it up.  The information was so interesting, I had to share it with those of you who hadn’t already found this interesting hoax previously.  Of course, I did a bit of digging and a ended up with a little bit of interesting digression in this post.

The main body of the hoax was published in a local newspaper, the Arizona Gazette, on 5 April 1909.  A preceding hoax article was published on 12 March 1909 as a setup for The Big One.  Fortunately, I have managed to glean scans of the original articles as well as have clearer text of the articles as the scans are not very clear.  I’ll take these two articles out of order and run straight into the body of the hoax itself and then return back to the shorter and earlier article at the end of the post along with some observations.

Much like H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional work of horror, The Mountains of Madness, this hoax featured an entirely fictional protagonists, G. E. Kincaid and Prof S. A. Jordan, but linked to a very real and well known organization, the Smithsonian Institute of Washington DC.  I did a lot of searching and couldn’t find any reference to these fictional characters, even though there are some interesting biographical tips present in the article (see the 5 April article text, but alas, these worthies doesn’t exist outside of the body of the hoax. 

Of course, the best way to create believability is to embed the fantastic into verifiable facts and then give the hoax “facts” as having a plausible explanation as to why they can’t be verified.  See also H. P. Lovecraft’s essay, Notes on Writing Weird Fiction. [1]  This newspaper hoax is excellent fodder for writing scenarios and background for role playing games.
Now without further ado, here is a scan of the actual article.  As it’s hard to read, the text copy is available below from page one and the second half.
   From the Arizona Gazette, April 5, 1909
- Mysteries of Immense Rich Cavern Being Brought to Light
- Jordan is enthused
- Remarkable Finds Indicate Ancient People Migrated From Orient

The latest news of the progress of the explorations of what is now regarded by scientists as not only the oldest archeological discovery in the United States, but one of the most valuable in the world, which was mentioned some time ago in the Gazette, was brought to the city yesterday by G.E. Kinkaid, the explorer who found the great underground citadel of the Grand Canyon during a trip from Green River, Wyoming, down the Colorado, in a wooden boat, to Yuma, several months ago.
According to the story related to the Gazette by Mr. Kinkaid, the archeologists of the Smithsonian Institute, which is financing the expeditions, have made discoveries which almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of oriental origin, possibly from Egypt, tracing back to Ramses. If their theories are borne out by the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved. Egypt and the Nile, and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages which staggers the wildest fancy of the fictionist.

 A Thorough Examination
Under the direction of Prof. S. A. Jordan, the Smithsonian Institute is now prosecuting the most thorough explorations, which will be continued until the last link in the chain is forged. Nearly a mile underground, about 1480 feet below the surface, the long main passage has been delved into, to find another mammoth chamber from which radiates scores of passageways, like the spokes of a wheel.

Several hundred rooms have been discovered, reached by passageways running from the main passage, one of them having been explored for 854 feet and another 634 feet. The recent finds include articles which have never been known as native to this country, and doubtless they had their origin in the orient. War weapons, copper instruments, sharp-edged and hard as steel, indicate the high state of civilization reached by these strange people. So interested have the scientists become that preparations are being made to equip the camp for extensive studies, and the force will be increased to thirty or forty persons.

 Mr. Kinkaid's Report
Mr. Kinkaid was the first white child born in Idaho and has been an explorer and hunter all his life, thirty years having been in the service of the Smithsonian Institute. Even briefly recounted, his history sounds fabulous, almost grotesque.

"First, I would impress that the cavern is nearly inaccessible. The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall. It is located on government land and no visitor will be allowed there under penalty of trespass. The scientists wish to work unmolested, without fear of archeological discoveries being disturbed by curio or relic hunters. A trip there would be fruitless, and the visitor would be sent on his way. The story of how I found the cavern has been related, but in a paragraph: I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral. Some forty-two miles up the river from the El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation about 2,000 feet above the river bed. There was no trail to this point, but I finally reached it with great difficulty. Above a shelf which hid it from view from the river, was the mouth of the cave. There are steps leading from this entrance some thirty yards to what was, at the time the cavern was inhabited, the level of the river. When I saw the chisel marks on the wall inside the entrance, I became interested, securing my gun and went in. During that trip I went back several hundred feet along the main passage till I came to the crypt in which I discovered the mummies. One of these I stood up and photographed by flashlight. I gathered a number of relics, which I carried down the Colorado to Yuma, from whence I shipped them to Washington with details of the discovery. Following this, the explorations were undertaken.

 The Passages
"The main passageway is about 12 feet wide, narrowing to nine feet toward the farther end. About 57 feet from the entrance, the first side-passages branch off to the right and left, along which, on both sides, are a number of rooms about the size of ordinary living rooms of today, though some are 30 by 40 feet square. These are entered by oval-shaped doors and are ventilated by round air spaces through the walls into the passages. The walls are about three feet six inches in thickness. The passages are chiseled or hewn as straight as could be laid out by an engineer. The ceilings of many of the rooms converge to a center. The side-passages near the entrance run at a sharp angle from the main hall, but toward the rear they gradually reach a right angle in direction.

 The Shrine
"Over a hundred feet from the entrance is the cross-hall, several hundred feet long, in which are found the idol, or image, of the people's god, sitting cross-legged, with a lotus flower or lily in each hand. The cast of the
 Explorations in Grand Canyon 
(from page one, following text)
face is oriental, and the carving this cavern. The idol almost resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that this worship most resembles the ancient people of Tibet. Surrounding this idol are smaller images, some very beautiful in form; others crooked-necked and distorted shapes, symbolical, probably, of good and evil. There are two large cactus with protruding arms, one on each side of the dais on which the god squats. All this is carved out of hard rock resembling marble. In the opposite corner of this cross-hall were found tools of all descriptions, made of copper. These people undoubtedly knew the lost art of hardening this metal, which has been sought by chemicals for centuries without result. On a bench running around the workroom was some charcoal and other material probably used in the process. There is also slag and stuff similar to matte, showing that these ancients smelted ores, but so far no trace of where or how this was done has been discovered, nor the origin of the ore.
"Among the other finds are vases or urns and cups of copper and gold, made very artistic in design. The pottery work includes enameled ware and glazed vessels. Another passageway leads to granaries such as are found in the oriental temples. They contain seeds of various kinds. One very large storehouse has not yet been entered, as it is twelve feet high and can be reached only from above. Two copper hooks extend on the edge, which indicates that some sort of ladder was attached. These granaries are rounded, as the materials of which they are constructed, I think, is a very hard cement. A gray metal is also found in this cavern, which puzzles the scientists, for its identity has not been established. It resembles platinum. Strewn promiscuously over the floor everywhere are what people call 'cats eyes,' a yellow stone of no great value. Each one is engraved with the head of the Malay type.

 The Hieroglyphics
"On all the urns, or walls over doorways , and tablets of stone which were found by the image are the mysterious hieroglyphics, the key to which the Smithsonian Institute hopes yet to discover. The engraving on the tables probably has something to do with the religion of the people. Similar hieroglyphics have been found in southern Arizona. Among the pictorial writings, only two animals are found. One is of prehistoric type.

 The Crypt
"The tomb or crypt in which the mummies were found is one of the largest of the chambers, the walls slanting back at an angle of about 35 degrees. On these are tiers of mummies, each one occupying a separate hewn shelf. At the head of each is a small bench, on which is found copper cups and pieces of broken swords. Some of the mummies are covered with clay, and all are wrapped in a bark fabric. The urns or cups on the lower tiers are crude, while as the higher shelves are reached, the urns are finer in design, showing a later stage of civilization. It is worthy of note that all the mummies examined so far have proved to be male, no children or females being buried here. This leads to the belief that this exterior section was the warriors' barracks.

"Among the discoveries no bones of animals have been found, no skins, no clothing, no bedding. Many of the rooms are bare but for water vessels. One room, about 40 by 700 feet, was probably the main dining hall, for cooking utensils are found here. What these people lived on is a problem, though it is presumed that they came south in the winter and farmed in the valleys, going back north in the summer. Upwards of 50,000 people could have lived in the caverns comfortably. One theory is that the present Indian tribes found in Arizona are descendants of the serfs or slaves of the people which inhabited the cave. Undoubtedly a good many thousands of years before the Christian era, a people lived here which reached a high stage of civilization. The chronology of human history is full of gaps. Professor Jordan is much enthused over the discoveries and believes that the find will prove of incalculable value in archeological work.

"One thing I have not spoken of, may be of interest. There is one chamber of the passageway to which is not ventilated, and when we approached it a deadly, snaky smell struck us. Our light would not penetrate the gloom, and until stronger ones are available we will not know what the chamber contains. Some say snakes, but others boo-hoo this idea and think it may contain a deadly gas or chemicals used by the ancients. No sounds are heard, but it smells snaky just the same. The whole underground installation gives one of shaky nerves the creeps. The gloom is like a weight on one's shoulders, and our flashlights and candles only make the darkness blacker. Imagination can revel in conjectures and ungodly daydreams back through the ages that have elapsed till the mind reels dizzily in space."

 An Indian Legend
In connection with this story, it is notable that among the Hopi Indians the tradition is told that their ancestors once lived in an underworld in the Grand Canyon till dissension arose between the good and the bad, the people of one heart and the people of two hearts. Machetto, who was their chief, counseled them to leave the underworld, but there was no way out. The chief then caused a tree to grow up and pierce the roof of the underworld, and then the people of one heart climbed out. They tarried by Paisisvai, which is the Colorado, and grew grain and corn.

They sent out a message to the Temple of the Sun, asking the blessing of peace, good will and rain for people of one heart. That messenger never returned, but today at the Hopi villages at sundown can be seen the old men of the tribe out on the housetops gazing toward the sun, looking for the messenger. When he returns, their lands and ancient dwelling place will be restored to them. That is the tradition.

Among the engravings of animals in the cave is seen the image of a heart over the spot where it is located. The legend was learned by W.E. Rollins, the artist, during a year spent with the Hopi Indians.

There are two theories of the origin of the Egyptians. One is that they came from Asia; another that the racial cradle was in the upper Nile region. Heeren, an Egyptologist, believed in the Indian origin of the Egyptians. The discoveries in the Grand Canyon may throw further light on human evolution and prehistoric ages.
Who is this Egyptologist, Heeren?  The closest I can find is an Arnold Heeren, a German historian who died in 1842 in obscurity and who could have had no connection with the 1909 article or even the Powell Expedition. In any case, he doesn't appear to have been an Egyptologist. 

Who is W. E. Rollins, the southwestern artist of Hopi fame?  I did find Warren Eliphalet. Rollins born in Carson City, Nevada in 1861, raised in Northern California and studied at the San Francisco School of Design.  Rollins indeed traveled throughout the southwest, living with a number of native tribes. He lived and painted in Pasadena, California and moved to Arizona around 1917, making Arizona his home. Later, was also central to the Santa Fe and Taos Art colonies and died in 1962. So he is actually contemporary and lived in the region.  I wonder how he felt about being named in the hoax article.
Interestingly, this particular lost city hoax sits broadly upon the back of an earlier famous hoax, the Mobertly Montana Lost City Hoax of 1885.  That earlier lost city hoax appears in the pages of the Evening Chronicle of St Louis Mo, on 8 April 1885.  On April 9, the Evening Chronicle had a follow up article.  Let’s also keep in mind that the whole Lost Civilization/Lost City modern literary genre was pretty much made up whole cloth by H. Ryder Haggard starting with his classic, King Solomon’s Mines [2], published in September 1885 with a huge publicity campaign prior to release.

The Hoaxter found?
Soon after the Grand Canyon story hit, the Coconino Sun published a headline on 16 April 1909, Vol 20, No 2, “Looks like a Mulhattan Story” which is pretty much the only acknowledgement of the story in the press.  It basically indicates that the Grand Canyon story was viewed as an hoax, because Joseph Mulhattan’s name [3]  was well associated with southwestern hoaxes in the late 19th century, whether he authored the story or not.. 

In support of his possible authorship, an article from The Ol’ Pioneer,Summer 2009, which is a publication of the Grand Canyon Historical Society, sheds some light on Mulhattan and his possible association to the story.  This article (available as PDF at the link above) links the Grand Canyon story to well-known late Victorian hoaxter Joe Mulhattan.  The infamous Mulhattan also appears in the pages of Hoaxipedia as Joseph Mulhattan, as well as in the book Hoaxes, by Curis D. MacDougall, pub by Macmillan NY, 1940 (although I don’t have copy of the latter).   Ultimately, though there is no absolute proof that Mulhattan had anything to do with this whopper, although it’s certainly in his league. 
A bio of Mulhattan is here

Now we come to the cream of the jest, which was actually presented first in the press.  It gives all the appropriate clues to the local, period readers that this was all a farce.  First the photocopy of the original article and then a text copy for clarity.

Arizona Gazette, March 12, 1909

G. E. Kincaid Reaches Yuma
G. E. Kincaid of Lewiston, Idaho, arrived in Yuma after a trip from Green River, Wyoming, down the entire course of the Colorado River. He is the second man to make this journey and came alone in a small skiff, stopping at his pleasure to investigate the surrounding country. He left Green River in October having a small covered boat with oars, and carrying a fine camera, with which he secured over 700 views of the river and canyons which were unsurpassed. Mr. Kincaid says one of the most interesting features of the trip was passing through the sluiceways at Laguna dam. He made this perilous passage with only the loss of an oar.

Some interesting archaeological discoveries were unearthed and altogether the trip was of such interest that he will repeat it next winter in the company of friends.

An amusing bio for the phantom explorer, Mr from the 5 April article and worth recounting:
“Mr. Kinkaid was the first white child born in Idaho and has been an explorer and hunter all his life, thirty years having been in the service of the Smithsonian Institute. Even briefly recounted, his history sounds fabulous, almost grotesque.”  The 12 March article claims he was the second person to make a solo descent of the Colorado river.  Who was the first?  Even John Wesley Powell didn’t try it solo in his 1869 or 1871 trips. 

Notice the nod to the one-armed Grand Canyon explorer, John Wesley Powell who had previously lost his right arm at the battle of Shiloh, who noted some interesting things in his notebook, later printed in his books about the Colorado.[4]  If you followed the footnote, you will see that Powell’s notes from his book are the jumping off point for this little hoax.

The spillway today
The other clue that this is just a big josh is the fact that Kinkaid made a great deal out of the descent through the Laguna Diversion Damspillway at the end of his solo adventure down the Colorado Rive.  That particular drop is an easily graded 10 foot slide, which would be well known to the reader of the newspaper especially since the dam and the spillway was very recently completed.  Note that this picture was made after a renovation much later.  Certainly claiming the spillway drop was somehow more treacherous that the whole of the Colorado River rapids, pretty much lets the knowledgeable in on the joke. I leave it to modern white water rafters to chuckle over that one.

In summary:
Lately the Grand Canyon hoax has been seized upon once again.  The proof?  That nobody at the Smithsonian ever heard of G. E. Kincaid.  Want more proof?  It was published in print!  I now have a most excellent bridge across the Hudson for sale if you wish to purchase …

I've tried to keep a good sense of humor while working on this article and I learned a few things, I didn't know before.  I hope that you have enjoyed the article and the links. Thanks for reading,

King Tut Saloon, far away from the Grand Canyon
[1] From his HPLs essay: Inconceivable events and conditions have a special handicap to overcome, and this can be accomplished only through the maintenance of a careful realism in every phase of the story except that touching on the one given marvel. This marvel must be treated very impressively and deliberately—with a careful emotional “build-up”—else it will seem flat and unconvincing. Being the principal thing in the story, its mere existence should overshadow the characters and events. But the characters and events must be consistent and natural except where they touch the single marvel.”

In building hoax legitimacy, the use of very specific measurements are used to legitimize but also to cordon off explorers so the hoax can’t be easily exploded.  Yeah, go looking 1,500 feet down a sheer cliff on some random wall of the Grand Canyon.  Consider this quote, “First, I would impress that the cavern is nearly inaccessible.  The entrance is 1,486 feet down the sheer canyon wall.  It is located on government land and no visitor will be allowed there under penalty of trespass.”

[2] See also charges of plagiarism by James Runciman, King Plagiarism and His Court, Pub in The Literary News, Vol 11 April 1890, but that’s another story

[3] Variant spellings of his name appear, including Mulhatten, Mulhatton, and Mulholland. Curtis MacDougall, author of the 1940 book Hoaxes, referred to him as "Mulholland." However, sources from the late nineteenth century most consistently wrote his last name as "Mulhattan."

[4] Quotes from Powell’s book, Canyons of the Colorado
August 11 -- We remain at this point to-day for the purpose of determining the latitude and longitude, measuring the height of the falls, drying our rations, and repairing our boats.

Captain Powell early in the morning takes a barometer and goes out to cimb a point between the two rivers. I walk down the gorge to the left at the foot of the cliff, climb to a bench, and discover a trail, deeply worn in the rock. Where it crosses the side gulches in some places steps have been cut. I can see no evidence of its having been traveled for a long time. It was doubtless a path used by the people who inhabited this country anterior to the present Indian races--the people who built the communal houses of which mention has been made.

I return to camp about three o'clock and find that some of the men have discovered ruins and many fragments of pottery; also etchings and hieroglyphics on the rocks.

It's easy to see how somebody who is either sloppy or ignorant might misread the above quotes.  The people previous to the present Indians were other Indians, going back some 10 to 30 thousand years, not Egyptians.  Also, the term "hieroglyphics" does not automatically mean Egyptian, it's just the most common known to the average person.  Other cultures have used logograms as well.

Some Additional Links of Interest
List of lost cities, some real and some are fantasies

Another reference to the Montana lost city

Caribbean city hoax, but much more recent  

The city that was not so lost and no hoax, Tanis 

Hoaxipedia, the website of the Museum of Hoaxes.  see the entry

See book, Hoaxes, by Curis D. MacDougall, pub by Macmillan NY, 1940

See also Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology, by Keenneth L. Feder (PhD), October 2010, pub by Greenwood.  Some bio info on Feder

Download digital versions of King Solomon’s Mines

Finally for your listening pleasure:  Walk Like the Egyptians and  King Tut 
G. E. Kinkaid -- ruler of the Grand Canyon

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Message 2016

This holiday is always a somber one for me.  This history of Memorial Day is interesting as well.

My suggestion for this Memorial Day is to learn how to make a cord bracelet in the memory of someone you know/knew … and then give it away.  This is much in the same mood as the Vietnam era metal POW-MIA remembrance bracelets, which I remember from when I was younger.  Let’s remember all the people who served as well those who are serving now including their spouses and children.  We can make Memorial Day one of remembrance and healing.  

Bracelets go a way back in the military, with wrist dog tag bracelets being issued as early as the Spanish American War and then later into WWI.  The tradition of knotted cord bracelets in the Navy goes back a good deal farther.  Sailors made knotted items in their spare time and one of the things they made to show their skill were bracelets.  Those earlier type bracelets didn’t necessarily have a military association and they were generally nautical work.

My father, Iwo Jima
WWII saw jewelry makers produce men’s ID bracelets in sterling and they were very popular.  Many had the owner’s name engraved on the front and the back and possibly branch of service or a specialty insignia, such as pilot’s wings or the Marine Corps logo.  They were popular gifts to from women and from men as well.  Sterling ID bracelets continued to be popular after WWII and were very commonly worn up until the late 1960s.  The military forms powerful bonds of brotherhood and military members gave tokens to each other such as a dog tag exchange, or personalized gifts such as sterling ID bracelets in WWII

The Vietnam War saw implementation of the original POW/MIAmetal bracelets I referred to previously, with the missing or prisoner’s name on the bracelet.  The idea was to remember the person until they were released or their remains identified. See also

More recently, parachute cord bracelets may have been around early as WWII because the cord was available to many military members, not just those in paratrooper units and aviators.  The cord had many uses and GIs scrounged the cord for a multitude of uses.  The Vietnam War perhaps also saw the modest use of parachute cord bracelets, but I have not been successful in finding any examples.
I've always liked this image of Winston enjoying a Tommy Gun moment

Certainly parachute cord bracelets, in the form we have become familiar with begins to appear about 1980, although I personally can’t date exactly when I saw the first one.  Originally they were buddy bracelets and were woven permanently on a person’s arm by their buddy and were not removable.   Later ones, used a BDU button to make it removable, probably because some commands didn’t allow the bracelet for a number of reasons, some of which might have been safety.

By the late 1980s I began to see parachute cord bracelets that had a plastic latch buckle, a miniature version of the type used on military combat belts.  Now paracord bracelets are in a variety of colors, for a variety of causes and are not always associated with the military.  The utility of having 8 to 10 feet of 550 pound test nylon multistrand cord handily around your wrist appealed to survivalists, hikers and folks who just liked being prepared. 

A fairly good-sized cottage industry has grown up making and selling paracord bracelets at flea markets, gun shows, and through the internet for a variety of causes in a variety of colors.  Rather than be a fashion accessory, let it be a symbol of caring.  It doesn’t matter if you have never been in the military yourself, make one and give it to somebody who was or is in the military or their spouse or children.  The gesture of giving something you have personally made means far more than you think.   Let’s put the memory back into Memorial Day.  This isn’t about supporting war or being against war, it’s about supporting people.

Here are some guides on making a paracord bracelet for yourself or for others:

Washington Navy Yard Museum (National Museum of the US Navy) in Washington DC has perhaps the earliest bracelet as from the sinking of the Maine.

How to make turkshead knot work bracelet 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Free Comic Book Day 2016

This Saturday, 7 May 2016 was yet again another Free Comic Book Day, hosted here by Three Alarm Comics.   

For those of you who are new to this,  FCBD has three stated purposes:
  1. To introduce the public to the joys of reading comics.
  2. To call back former comic book readers.
  3. To thank current comic book buyers for their continued support.

The web home of FCBD is here.  

FCBD has a long history and you can read the Wikipedia article here:  Free Comic Book Day

Three Alarm Comics of D’Iberville hosted Free Comic Book Day for this local area and the turn out was pretty good.  There were guest artists to be seen, costumes to be worn and comic books to be had by all.  This time around, there seemed to be a good deal of interest in Harley Quinn character with a fair number images and a several costumers.

I was especially pleased to see the younger crowd interested in comic books and in costuming.  The future of fandom lives in our ability to interest our young fans.

The great thing about comic books and graphic novels is their ability to gain the interest of some who may initially find reading a chore.  Kids who love to read and are around adults to love to read generally become good students and are more successful, at least in my opinion.  So let’s do some reading ourselves and also get kids reading. 

This year again was a successful FCBD and in no small part due to the efforts of the organizers, participation of the artists, and the turnout of eager fans.  Thanks to everybody for supporting and attending your local FCBD.

  Links to my previous FCBD posts

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe’s Older Brother: William Poe the Sailor

I bet you didn’t know Edgar Allan Poe had an older brother in the US Navy and that he also wrote poetry and stories.  His name was William Henry Leonard Poe and not much is commonly known about him or his poetry.  In fact there has only been one book of his works published that was the only collection of his works ever printed in 1926 and only in one edition and only a thousand copies were printed [1].  The internet has opened up a window on this obscure Poe, allowing access to articles and information only available to a few researchers just a couple of decades ago.  With that said, stand by for my typical digressions and an interesting back-story.

Last year for Veteran’s Day I posted about Edgar Allan Poe’smilitary service in the Virginia militia and later in the US Army as an artillery sergeant and his service connection to his writing.  Now I want to revisit the subject with another Poe family member, William Henry Leonard Poe, who went by his second name Henry to his friends.
Now, what brings up the reason for this post is some serendipity and the fact that I visited Old Spanish Fort in Pascagoula, Mississippi late last year.  I went there by appointment, with a friend to take photographs of this famous structure for the 2016 Gulf Coast Spring Pilgrimage booklet.  The structure of this nearly 300 year old structure been badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and restoration was in progress.  I hadn’t visited the site since the mid 1970s and it brought back a lot of memories.  There are two cannons flanking the house, but I didn’t pay much attention to them back then, as they were not original to the 1730 structure.
This time when I visited Pascagoula’s Old Spanish Fort some forty years later, I actually bothered to look more closely at these iron cannons and was intrigued to find the royal cipher of King George and a broadarrow mark on the breech of the guns.  That piqued my interest and I looked further into their origin once I got back home.   They were two cannons from the British frigate, HMS Macedonian.  According to the plaques mounted on the guns, they were given to Old Spanish Fort by the US Naval Academy in 1957.  I was intrigued as to why two cannons from a famous British War of 1812 warship would be at an obscure, but architecturally important building on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  In fact Old Spanish Fort the oldest standing structure in the Mississippi Valley, but that’s another story.  The story here is actually about these overlooked cannons and their link to history and the Poe family.

William Poe was generally known as Henry, so I’ll  use that name throughout this post.  Henry was born in Boston on 30 January 1807, and died prematurely on 1 August 1831 – possibly of tuberculosis and complications of alcohol.  He was Edgar’s older brother by several years.  It may be of note that Edgar and Henry’s mother, Eliza Poe [2] also died of TB herself on 8 December 1811. Henry was at her deathbed and received a parting lock of hair. 

Henry himself was buried 1 August 1831 in the family plot at the Westminster Burying Ground, Baltimore and the cemetery  would receive his more famous younger brother Edgar 20 years later, but Henry’s grave unfortunately unmarked.  To heap even more indignity on Henry, in the obituary notice in one newspaper, his name was misspelled as “Hope” rather than Poe. [3].  Their famous grandfather and Revolutionary war hero, General David Poe Sr had a lot in Westminster where the David Poe Sr, Henry, and Edgar are all buried.  I discussed Gen Poe in my previous Poe article, so I won’t go into it here.   BTW the actor, David Poe Jr, is Henry, Edgar, and Rosalie’s father and little is known about him.  Here is a link to the purported gravesite of Henry, but it’s a lot more complex than that.

As a child, Henry Poe was separated from his younger brother Edgar and sister Rosalie and lived with his grandparents, the famous General David Poe Sr, of Revolutionary War fame until the death of the general in 1816.  Henry was then shuttled off to live with his maternal grandmother, aunt and cousin of the Clemm family.  So far this Poe narrative has proven a meandering path, forking and turning back on itself, years later Edgar would marry his cousin Virginia Clemm, but before that he would live briefly with Henry in the Clemm residence, where he would meet Virginia.

Exactly when Henry became a seafaring man is somewhat obscure but we know that in 1825 he was in the navy or merchant marine because he was “in the uniform of a midshipman” as reported by his younger brother Edgar.  However Henry Poe does not appear in the Naval Register for 1826 which was reported to Congress 9 Jan 1826, listing USN officers and midshipmen active in 1825, so he may have only been a seaman and not a midshipman after all.  Since the Naval Academy was not founded until 1845, there is no hope of finding any Poe midshipman records there.  It is possible that he was in the uniform of a civilian ship service.  It’s one of the many mysteries surrounding Henry Poe.  At the end of this post are some links that might be worth following up for a Poe scholar.  

We do know that later in 1826 Henry served on board the US Navy frigate, the USS Macedonian [4], which had a long and colorful history well worth reading [5].  In 1826 Macedonian cruised the West Indies to suppress pirate activity.  The USS Macedonian cruised to the Mediterranean visiting Europe and the near East and possibly Russia as well.  More importantly he cruised South America and certainly stopped in at Montevideo, which we know because of an article he wrote and published in the Baltimore Minerva and Saturday Evening Post in February 1827.  Sorry I don’t have a link to the Post article.  If I turn one up or a reader has one, I’ll post it here.

On 11 June 1826 the USS Macedonian left Gosport (later renamed Norfolk) Virginia for a cruise in the Pacific, returning 30 October 1828 from its final voyage as the ship was decommissioned later that year at Gosport as its timbers were in terrible shape.   The Macedonian was broken up and the keel and figurehead were recycled into the rebuilt USS Macedonian.  See the footnotes at the end of the article to find out the history and final fate of this ship.   We know that two of the cannon ended up at Old Spanish Fort and the catalyst of this post.

Henry Poe mustered out in 1829 and took a job as a clerk with Henry Didier, his godfather, who owned a counting house in Baltimore.  Henry by this time is in frail health due to tuberculosis and also the weakening effects of drink.  Henry lives with Maria Clemm, his aunt along with his grandmother, Mrs Elizabeth Cairnes Poe and Maria’s 10 year old son Henry Clemm on Mechanics Row, Wilks Street (later called Eastern Ave) in Baltimore until his death in 1831 or so it would appear.

However a perplexing gap which shows up as in the 1830 Baltimore census, as Henry Poe is not shown in the domicile, for he was possibly at sea again, despite bad health.  Then again he may have made himself scarce due to large debts he had run up.  These debts were an embarrassment to Edgar who tried to pay them off later.  Edgar wrote to Allan about these debts in a letter dated 18 November 1831, after Henry had died.   Edgar himself would be plagued by debts for much of his life.

Henry had literary influence on younger Edgar, but this article is running long, so I’ll just give some links for those who are interested.  For you Poe fans, it’s well worth investigating.

Some of the slurs against Edgar in his later years and after his death, may have been in part due to confusion with his older brother Henry’s alcoholism and sickly consumptive constitution.  For that matter, David Poe Jr, Edgar & Henry’s father, had a bad life and the belief that “blood will out” may have also tainted Edgar’s reputation.   Since Henry’s biography has become somewhat tangled up with Edgar’s bio, it’s not beyond debate to think that both of them has been muddled by journalists and researchers.

Then again, Edgar’s sense of humor and need to hoax caused him to pen a silly and over-the-top pseudoautobiography, which he sent (I don’t have a date) to Rufus Griswold for an anthology he was putting together, The Poets and Poetry of America, first published in 1842, which ran through several editions over the years, probably didn’t help things either.  Interestingly, the section about fighting for Greek independence in for the memory of Lord Byron ended up in Edgar’s obituary as factual and more oddly, ended up attached back to his brother Henry in later years, muddying the water even further.  A copy of this “biography” document can be seen here

I’d give this a little more personal historical background about my interest in cannons and the HMS/USS Macedonian.  Starting in the mid 1970s, I became an avid wargamer and played naval engagements with the old Avalon Hill boardgame, WoodenShips and Iron Men, with HMS Macedonian in one of the scenarios.  Who would have known then that two cannon from that famous ship would reside nearby. 

In conclusion, the cool thing is that the two cannons from the HMS/USS Macedonian were very close to Henry Poe during his period on the ship.  That makes these cannons at Old Spanish Fort a possible place to visit for Poe family fans, if not for the War of 1812 connection.  There’s not another possible Poe attraction in a thousand miles of Pascagoula   Actually that’s an exaggeration as Richmond VA (894 miles) and  Sullivan’s Island, SC (672 miles) are closer to Pascagoula MS than a thousand miles .  This meandering post has finally come to a conclusion.  Hopefully this will make up for missing Henry’s grave while visiting his famous brother’s monument just yards away on a visit to Baltimore ten years ago.  I’d sure like to see Henry’s grave properly located and marked.[6].  If you are in the neighborhood of Pascagoula MS, drop on in and see Old Spanish Fort and those cannon. 
Good reading,


[1] Poe’s Brother: The Poems of William Henry Leonard Poe, etc. New York: George H. Doran Co. 1926, edited by Allen, Hervey and Thomas O. Mabbott.
William Henry Leonard Poe 1807-1831   wikipedia article

[2] Rosalie Poe was born 20 December 1810 (questionable) and died 21 July 1874.  Here’s some links to Rosalie Poe’s story   and
Strangely enough her grave stone shows her being born in 1812, a year after her mother Elisabeth Poe died.  Some suggest that 1812 was the year of her christening rather than birth.

[3] About ten years ago I visited Baltimore and of course went to the place(s) where Edgar was buried, not ever dreaming that his lesser known brother was buried nearby.  It’s a shame really, but this article might make up for that oversight.  I said places where EAP was buried because there are two burial sites for Edgar there.  Henry Poe’s date of death and burial site it unknown at this time.  If any enterprising reader could find proof of Henry’s Poe’s date of death and location of his grave, I am sure that Poe scholars would love that information.   Incidentally, there is no known original surviving letter written by Henry Poe – were you to find one, it would be unique.

[4] The name Macedonian is a reference to Alexander the Great and the ship had a figurehead of Alexander as well.  The ship was decommissioned in 1828 and the keel and ribs were reused to make another USS Macedonian.  The famous figurehead was also used in the new ship.

[5]  The US Naval Academy, Annapolis has a USS Macedonian monument as well as the original figurehead.  The USS Macedonian has a really interesting history and I meticulously tracked down the ultimate fate of the bones of the HMS/USS Macedonian and that was practically a post of it’s own.

[6] The Poe graves and a mystery:  Were Edgar’s remains really moved and where is his brother really buried?  This link with a map only adds to the mystery.   and
The find a grave link to William Henry Poe, but who knows for sure if it is correct.

Below is more (probably far more information than you wanted) about the HMS/USS Macedonian and Henry’s association with the ship.  Since I researched it out of curiosity, here are the fruits of that search.

For those of you with special access and a deep interest in the USS Macedonian and/or in the naval career of Henry Poe, here are journals kept by officers from 1818 through 1829.  They are a possible goldmine for Henry Poe researchers and are held by the Naval History and Heritage Command listed here below                 
     Item 38. Journals Kept by Lt. Charles Gaunt on Board the USS Macedonian, Commanded by Comdr. John Downes and Capt. James Biddle, and the U.S. Sloop of War Warren, Commanded by Comdr. Lawrence Kearney.    July 29, 1818-June 5, 1829. 2 vols. 2 in.  The first volume contains, in addition to the journal, a list of officers of the Macedonian, a table of latitude and longitude and a thermometrical table kept during the cruise, and a newspaper clipping concerning Lima, Peru. It has been reproduced as NARA Microfilm Publication M875, Journal of Lt. Charles Gauntt Aboard the U.S.S. Macedonian, 1818-1821.    The second volume contains the journal kept on board the Macedonian during another cruise, March 21-June 20, 1822, and a journal kept during a cruise of the Warren, December 13, 1826-June 5, 1829.
Item 39. Journal Kept by Captain's Clerk Charles J. Deblois on Board the USS Macedonian, Commanded by Comdr. John Downes.    Nov. 10, 1818-July 8, 1819. 1 vol. 1 in.   The journal was sent to the Office of Library and Naval War Records for review in 1888 by a Mr. Saltonstall and was presented to the Office of Naval Records and Library by Miss Louisa Huntington, May 1932.   The volume containing the journal also contains newspaper clippings giving accounts of the hurricane of September 27, 1818, in which the Macedonian suffered extensive damages. The journal has been reproduced as NARA Microfilm Publication M876, Journal of Charles J. Deblois, Captain's Clerk Aboard the USS Macedonian, 1818-1819.
Also US Govt Archives has copies of US Navy Muster rolls, T829: Misc Records of the US Navy, 1789-1925, which might turn up Henry Poe.  Check out the muster and pay rolls for the Macedonian which run from 1813 to 1829, which are on microfilm.
Note: Poe DOES NOT appear in the naval Register for 1826 which was reported to Congress 9 Jan 1826 a giving an accounting of US Navy officers and midshipmen, so he may have only been a common seaman and not a midshipman.

An article about Macedonian  and a book worth exploring for you Macedonian/Poe researchers is Chronicles of the Frigate Macedonian, 1809-1922 by James Tertius de Kay, 336 pgs pub NY WW Norton & Co August 2000

HMS Macedonian was a Lively class frigate of the British Navy.  The keel and figurehead were retained for the building of the USS Macedonian during the years 1832-1836, a ship that accompanied Commodore Perry to Japan.  The figurehead is at the US Naval Academy museum donated in 1875, Annapolis MD atop the monument   and    In 2014 the figurehead on the monument was replaced with a new mahogany one and the original placed in the museum.

For you Civil War fans and historians interested in Gulf Coast history here is another link is the USS Macedonian was sent to Pensacola in 1861 later stayed in the West Indies to hunt for Confederate ships

Here is information about the illusive Macedonian Hotel and the final fate of the USS Macedonian which is mentioned in the period book, The Story of the Bronx, pub 1912 by Stephen Jenkins pgs 431-432 with an illustration of the hotel on the facing (unnumbered page) across from page 430 download the PDF of The Story of the Bronx here --

Even more links of interest associated with this article
Poe’s brother Henry and his poetry

Downloadable PDF of the rule book for Avalon Hill’s wargame Wooden Ships and Iron Men

Complete poems of EAP for free at this link

Download a PDF of Griswold’s The Poets and Poetry of America, 1855 edition

An early Poe biographer Susan Archer Talley Weiss was a fountain of baseless tales, anecdotes and errors, all pretty much made up whole cloth and uncorroborated in "The Home Life of Poe”  pub 1907, see

Download a PDF copy of the classic board game Wooden Ships and Iron Men  
©  2015 text by CoastConFan aka William Murphy.  Photos are copyright their respective copyright owner (if any).