Promoting “General” Poe

The law student named David Poe, Jr. was the oldest son in a large Baltimore family of seven children. By the time he was born in 1784, the Poes were third generation Americans who had established themselves in the New World as merchants, patriots, and landowners.

Poe's great-grandparents, John Poe and his wife Jane McBride Poe, emigrated from Ireland to America (with their son, David) and were living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania by 1750. David, who was Edgar's grandfather, was the oldest of ten children, and only one of three to have children of his own. By 1755, John and Jane Poe had moved their family to Baltimore.

Edgar's paternal grandfather, David Poe, Sr. was a patriot, in fact, a zealot in the cause of the colonies’ independence from England. It was a passion the Baltimore wheelwright and dry goods merchant backed with the dizzying amount of $40,000—a fortune in those days.

How much was David Poe's gift in today's dollars?

To give you a sense of just how extravagantly David Poe, Sr. put his money where his mouth was, in today's dollars, his gift of $40,000 to the cause of American independence is roughly equivalent to $475,000.

David Poe, Sr. was instrumental in pushing the Tories—British sympathizers—out of Baltimore. His chief function in the nascent American army was that of quartermaster, providing patriot soldiers with military supplies. Even his wife, Elizabeth, mother of ten children, contributed to the cause by sewing uniforms. It was life lived in service to a glorious cause. For his work as quartermaster, Poe Sr. received the honorary title of “General.” And “General” he would remain to his ambitious young grandson, Edgar, whose vast romantic imagination discovered an interest in the military.

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