The Purloined Poe Daguerreotype

Who stole the original "Ultima Thule" daguerreotype of Poe? And where might it be today? The first answer is actually fairly clear: the thief was one Ossian Euclid Dodge, a singer of comic songs, unsuccessful music store proprietor, and scam artist, who on several occasions in the last two decades of his life showed the photograph to others, claiming to have been given it by Poe himself. Dodge, shown here on a sheet music cover (the collection included a ditty about mesmerism -- thus the creepy engraving), rose and fell from fame rather quickly as a singer, and decided to try his fortunes further west, opening a music shop on Euclid Avenue (how the name must have pleased him!)  in Cleveland, Ohio. There, in 1860, he lent his daguerreotype to a local portrait painter, whose depiction of Poe does not survive. His fortunes failing there, he moved still further west, ending up in St. Paul, Minnesota. At some point along the way he was married, and had two children, who were still quite young when he packed up and left for London in 1875, taking his wife's inheritance with him and leaving his family penniless. The local paper indicated that he would not be missed:
"Ossian E. Dodge, long notorious for his machine poetry and domestic jars, especially while living at St. Paul. is reported to be editing a paper in London. It will be remembered that he departed not long since with a little fortune, said to belong to his wife, who was left behind."
Dodge, whose journalism consisted of only a few desultory travel pieces, nevertheless took up expensive rooms at the Savoy Hotel, and it was here that John Henry Ingram, Poe's first important biographer, caught up with him. Ingram had let it be known that he was looking for portraits of Poe, and received word that Dodge had a daguerreotype that he'd be happy to show him.  They met, and Ingram on examining the photograph recognized it as the original of the "Ultima Thule" portrait. It was only after writing to Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe's last beau and the original owner of the daguerreotype, that Ingram learned it had been stolen; intrigued, he arranged to meet Dodge again at his rooms at the Savoy. That meeting, alas, never took place, as Dodge died in his bed before he could keep the appointment.

As a foreigner who died with a complicated will in Britain, Dodge's estate was of course taken up by the notorious Court of Chancery. His wife and children made various attempts to represent their interests, and were eventually sent a small box of his possessions; the Poe daguerreotype was evidently not among them. And yet, in the 'unclaimed property' office of Chancery, there still remained a box of materials related to Dodge's estate -- indeed, it may remain there still, somewhere in the National Archives at Kew. How I should like to have a look at that box!  For, although famous today, the image would have stirred little recognition in London in the 1870's, and it may simply never have been noticed, lying among the scattered papers of a notorious reprobate like Dodge.

P.S. those interested in the story will want to visit the E.A. Poe Society of Baltimore's page on the "Dodge" daguerreotype.