Padihershef on the Road

Map of the travels of Padihershef.

Padihershef continued to be the chief attraction of Doggett’s Repository until the fall of 1823. Padihershef’s  attraction value had dimmed in the wake of such other interesting exhibitions advertised in the Columbian Centinal between 23 August and 17 September 1823 such as “Peale’s Court of Death,” a painting being shown at Doggett’s; the remarkable dwarf, Joseph M. Stevens, who was appearing at the New England Museum, a hippopotamus being displayed at the Tontine Coffeehouse, the painting “The Dinner Party” by Col. Sargent which was at Mr. Brown’s Rooms in the city and the several sightings of a “sea serpent” off of Cape Anne.

Hoping that a change of venue would rekindle interest in the mummy, the trustees of the Massachusetts General Hospital decided to embark on a much more ambitious undertaking.  At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees on 16 September, 1823, a proposal was made to “hire the mummy for the purposes of  exhibition in the southern cities.” 

Doggett & Co. would be the agents and exhibitors. The mummy would travel by water, as the hospital did not want to trust their delicate money-maker to the vicissitudes of inland travel.

 By the middle of October 1823, the mummy and his wooden cases were installed in the passageway leading to the Academy of Arts, in New York City. According to the New York Christian Journal and Literary Register for November of 1823, the mummy had been moved to a new location at the Lyceum of Natural History. They further reported:

"Having had the curiosity to examine this rare specimen of Egyptian art and mythology, we were agreeably surprised to find that it presented none of those disgusting features, which accompany specimens of preserved human bodies that are to be seen in some of our museums. The present mummy is the only entire one ever exhibited in the United States. And it may be viewed by the most delicate female without exciting the smallest disagreeable feeling."

Edgar Allen Poe.

Padihershef next traveled a great ways down the east coast to Richmond, Virginia. The 25 December 1823 issue of the Boston Daily Advertiser reported:

”The Egyptian mummy presented to the Massachusetts Hospital, is now exhibiting for the benefit of the hospital in Richmond.”

According to Agnes Bondurant's book Poe's Richmond, the mummy may have been viewed by the author and inspired him to write his short story "Some Words With a Mummy."

The next port of call was Charleston, South Carolina as recorded in the City Gazette and Commercial Daily Advertiser for 24 January 1824. After leaving Charleston, Doggett & Co. moved the mummy show to Augusta, Georgia. The arrival was noted in the 6 March 1824 issue of the Augusta Chronicle. Next stop was Savannah. The Savannah Georgian of 25 March 1824 announced that the Council Chamber in the Exchange had been “liberally appropriated” for the purpose of the mummy exhibition, and that the room would be illuminated at night so that the exhibition could be open both in the day and evening. The Georgian announced “Last day!” on 27 March 1824 and Padihershef headed off to Philadelphia.

Advertising woodcut for Padihershef. Peale's Museum (The Arcade, Baltimore)

An advertisement in Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser for 19 April 1824  respectfully informs the public that the mummy would be exhibited at Earle & Sully's Gallery for a few days. From there Padihershef would head for Baltimore, and Rubens Peale's Museum as reported in the Baltimore of 28 May 1824. Peale would host the mummy exclusively for three months, when once again it would be on the move.

The 13 August 1824 issue of the Albany Argus noted the mummy had arrived the previous Tuesday, the 10th. It would not remain long in the city, for it was destined to be heading back down the coast to Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island American noted on 31 August 1824:

“Among the curiosities of commencement, we notice the exhibition of an Egyptian mummy, at the Court-House … A similar curiosity is also exhibiting at the Museum, opened by Mr. Greenwood, in this town.” (This was Turner's mummy.)

Greenwood's mummy exhibition would put an end to Padihershef's uniqueness and return him to Boston and the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital where he now lies in state with his inner coffin, the formerly erect coffins and mummy having been conserved and redisplayed horizontally.

Padihersehef's outer coffins are at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts where they were "discoverd" in the 1980's and matched to the mummy. The mummy and it's coffins had been on loan the the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, but only the mummy and the innermost coffin were returned to the Massachusetts General Hospital. The MFA had no record of whence they had come and so sold them to George Walter Vincent Smith for his art museum.

Note: The outer coffins at the GWVSAM were the beginning of my interest in mummies almost 60 years ago.