The John H.B. Latrobe House is the only surviving site associated with the "Saturday Morning Visiter" writing contest that launched Edgar Allan Poe's literary career. On an evening in October 1833, Latrobe, along with John Pendleton Kennedy and James H. Miller, read Poe's "Ms. Found in a Bottle" and unanimously declared him the winner. Poe, who was at the time a penniless unknown author, received a $50 cash prize. Perhaps more importantly, Poe struck up a friendship with Kennedy who would help jump-start his literary career.
John Pendleton Kennedy was already a moderately successful author when he met Poe. His first major romance about the agrarian South, "Swallow Barn," was published a year before and helped established the Southern gentleman archetype we have today. In 1838, Kennedy published "Rob of the Bowl"—a tale about religious and political rivalries in seventeenth century Maryland. Kennedy gave up writing when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives later that year. The peak of his political career was in 1852 when served as Secretary of the Navy.
Poe got his job at "The Southern Literary Messenger" because of a reference from Kennedy; a job Poe was fired from only weeks later when he was caught drinking on the job. Despite Poe's missteps, Kennedy believed in the young writer. Poe would often write to him for favors, money, and reassurance and considered Kennedy to be his friend when no one else was. The relationship became strained once Kennedy got into politics. The loans and favors stopped coming, leaving Poe feeling abandoned by his old friend.
For many years, the Latrobe House held the offices of furniture manufacturing company Fallon & Hellen. Today, it is a private residence and signifies a milestone in Poe's career as an author.