John Hay Library

The John Hay library was opened in 1910 and serves as one of five separate libraries that make up the Brown University Library. It was named after John Hay, who was a dear friend of Helen’s, whom she mentored as a young man. Hay later became a government official, serving as private secretary to Abraham Lincoln. He was a biographer, poet, and author his whole life, undoubtedly influenced by his early teachings from Sarah Helen Whitman. 

The library’s special collections are home to numerous images of Helen including a daguerreotype and an 1869 oil portrait by John Nelson Arnold. Here you will also find endless manuscripts in Helen’s hand including poetry, journals, essays, articles, letters, and even her last will and testament. Among Helen’s belongings that are kept by the library are a daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe and a lock of his hair. These materials can be viewed by registering online through Aeon and reserving the specific pieces you wish to see. More information on that here:

Although this library was never visited or even seen by Poe or Helen during their time in Providence, its significance today lies in its collection of rare and extensive materials that tell the story of the couple’s romance in Providence.