National Archives at Philadelphia

Petition in Bankruptcy

This document is a petition in bankruptcy filed by Edgar Allan Poe in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on December 19, 1842.

Much has been written about Edgar Allan Poe’s financial woes as a writer and editor, but Poe scholars were surprised when an archivist at NARA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office found this bankruptcy filing in 2003. Poe filed under the Bankruptcy Act of 1841 (which did not go into effect until 1842), which allowed voluntary bankruptcy to all debtors, but limited involuntary bankruptcy to merchants, bankers, brokers, and traders. Poe, like all other filers under the act, submitted Schedule A to his petition, indicating the names of creditors and the nature of his debts. Poe’s debts amounted to $2,071.41 (roughly $73,000 in today’s dollars) and included mostly book debt and money lent. 

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Petition in bankruptcy filed by Edgar Allan Poe, dated December 19, 1842. National Archives Identifier: 12089326

View and download the Petition in Bankruptcy on the National Archives Catalog. You can explore more records held in the National Archives at Philadelphia through the National Archives Catalog or by visiting the National Archives at Philadelphia. These records are located in Record Group 21: Records of the District Court of the United States, Series: Bankruptcy Act of 1841 Case Files.