My interest in Mark Twain was kindled by the 2002 Ken Burns documentary, “Mark Twain”.
It was the volume of requests for information about his time in Redding, following the documentary’s release that initiated my interest in his life. People were shocked to find out he lived and died in Redding, Connecticut and wanted to know more. In answering questions about the twilight years of Twain’s life, I discovered not only that his time in Redding was a significant period in his life, but, that he *lived* an amazing life, period!
This list below is just a taste of what I’ve come across over the past eight years; the man was one of a kind.
“I–well I was an exception, you understand–my kind don’t turn up every day. We are very rare. We are a sort of human century plant, and we don’t blossom in everybody’s front yard.”
– Letter from Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) to Olivia Langdon, 09/08/1869
Interesting Mark Twain Facts:
1. Mark Twain was born in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835. Last perihelion of Halley’s comet, Nov. 10, 1835.
“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.”
– Mark Twain, a Biography
2. Before he was 13 he had to be rescued from drowning 9 times — 3 times from the Mississippi and 6 times from Bear Creek.
3. At the very young age of 18 Twain ran away from home- “My Dear Mother: you’ll doubtless be a little surprised, & somewhat angry when you receive this..” He traveled from Missouri to New York City to view the World’s Fair. He’d stay in New York and work in the printing industry for a spell until moving on to Philadelphia.
4. Before the age of 20, Twain had visited and lived in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, St. Louis, Muscatine & Keokuk Iowa and Cincinnati!
5. Early in his life he didn’t really care for Irish Catholics.
6. Twain gave his first public speech at a printers banquet in Keokuk, Iowa in 1856.
7. In February of 1857 Twain left Cincinnati for New Orleans with the intent to embark for the Amazon River. He was going to seek his fortune in the thriving coca trade. Luckily, on his way south he met pilot Horace Bixby. Bixby was a steamboat captain and Twain’s childhood dream became a higher priority than the Amazon venture.
8. Twain earned his steamboat pilot license in 1859 and worked steadily as a river pilot on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and New Orleans until 1861. The Civil War ended that career.
9. Twain headed West to the Nevada territory in August 1861 with his brother Orion, who was appointed Secretary of Nevada territory by Abraham Lincoln.
10. He adopted the pen name “Mark Twain,” an old riverboat term which means “the line between safe water and dangerous water” in 1863 while working for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada. His first pen name was “Josh”
11. In 1866, Twain traveled to Hawaii writing for the Sacramento Union. When he returned to California, he delivered his first travel experience related lecture on the topic.
12. From June 8 to November 19, 1867 he was commissioned to report on an excursion to the Mediterranean and Holy Land. This trip would lead to the travel letters that become his first successful book The Innocents Abroad, The New Pilgrims’ Progress.
13. Twain enjoyed Baseball & had a very good understanding of the game. Mark Twain’s scorecard from baseball game between Hartford and Boston is in the resources section.
14. Twain wrote constantly. To view his journals Google “Terry Ballard+Twain Journals”
Be sure to check out the Google map of Mark Twain’s America at the bottom. Very cool!
“If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment upon a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.”
15. The Ghost Hunters visited Mark Twain’s house in Hartford in December 2009. If you missed the Ghost Hunters visit to the Mark Twain House the video link of the episode is in the resources.
16. The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut maintains a collection of 16,000 museum objects and artifacts, including an archive of more than 6,000 documents and 5,280 photographic images.
17. In his first Harper’s Monthly article they mistakenly credited MacSwain as the author.
“I was a Literary Person, but that was all-a buried one; buried alive.” -Mark Twain, My Debut as a Literary Person.
18. Twain wrote a large number of short stories over the course of his lifetime. The Death of Jean is the last one I’m aware of and it was written in Redding, Connecticut late December 1909.
19. Twain considered himself neither a Republican nor a Democrat:
“I had been accustomed to vote for Republicans more frequently than for Democrats, but I was never a Republican and never a Democrat. In the community, I was regarded as a Republican, but I had never so regarded myself.” – Autobiographical dictation, January 24, 1906
20. Twain was an inventor and held several patents. An adjustable garment strap & a history memorization game are examples. His most successful invention was a scrap book.
21. Mark Twain’s “Aquarium Club” was not his first organization of female correspondents. Prior to 1902 he had formed “The Juggernaut Club“.
“I have built this house (in Redding, CT) largely, indeed almost chiefly, for the comfort & accommodation of the Aquarium. Its members will always be welcome under its roof.”
22. Mark Twain fully understood life: “What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head and is known to none but himself. All day long, and every day, the mill of his brain is grinding and his thoughts, not those other things are his history….The mass of him is hidden–it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night nor day.”
23. Mark Twain didn’t have a positive view of “big” Government:
“The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities & citizens is likely to cause endless trouble.”
24. Mark Twain’s 1870 Lecture Tour had at least 49 engagements, the topic – “Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands”
“Mark Twain is a very good looking man. He is of medium height and moderately slender build, has light brown hair, a reddish brown moustache, regular features and a fresh complexion; and he has a queer way of wrinkling up his nose and half closing his eyes when he speaks. The expression of his face is as calm and imperturbable as that of a sphinx. Looking at him you feel it to be an impossibility that he should ever hurry or be out of temper, and you might suppose him to be incapable of a joke, if it were not for the peculiar twinkle in his merry eyes. His voice is remarkably light and remarkably dry–like some German wines–and it seems to be modulated to only two keys. His style of speaking is unique to the last degree. It is all of a piece with the quality of his humor, and fits him like a glove.”
-Newspaper Review of November 30, 1870 Thompsonville, Connecticut tour stop. November 30th is his Birthday, must have been a good show!
25. Interesting fact about Clara Clemens (Twain’s daughter) in 1909 she asked Rev. Joseph Twichell to omit ‘Obey’ from her marriage vows. 1909! Clara was the only daughter who would marry.
26. Twain researched and wrote “Life on the Mississippi” in one year, 1882-83.
27. From 07/1895 to 07/1896 Twain toured the US, Canada, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa…140 engagements!
28. Before he began his 1895/96 World Tour Mark Twain was deep in debt.
29. Twain’s Short Story “A Curious Experience” begins:
“This is the story which the Major told me, as nearly as I can recall it:– In the winter of 1862-3, I was commandant of Fort Trumbull, at New London, Conn.”
There is now an exhibit at Fort Trumbull where you can sit and hear this story.
30. Mark Twain lived in Hartford, Connecticut for 20+ years and lived in Redding, Connecticut for 2 years. Redding is where he died on April 21st 1910.
31. 161 of the original 340 Redding, Connecticut acres once owned by Mark Twain are open to the public in the present day. In 1974, eight years of negotiations resulted in the “installment purchase” of Stormfield from then owner, Doreen Danks.
There are four miles of trails off of Fox Run Road available to those that wish to hike the Stormfield trail system in Redding.
67 acres of Twain’s Redding, CT property remain in private ownership.
32. Twain was a big fan of Bermuda. Elizabeth Wallace published “Mark Twain and the Happy Island” in 1913. The book explores Twain’s many visits to Bermuda.
33. Twain and Helen Keller were close friends and he played an active role in her education and life.
“Blindness is an exciting business, I tell you; if you don’t believe it get up some dark night on the wrong side of your bed when the house is on fire and try to find the door.”
– Twain quoted by Helen Keller in her book Midstream
34. Twain was a founding member of The Players club in New York City.
35. Twain was a naturalist and greatly enjoyed nature’s beauty.
“The foliage at Stormfield “was heaven and hell and sunset and rainbows and the aurora, all fused into one divine harmony, and you couldn’t look at it and keep the tears back.”
-Twain in Redding Fall 1909
36. One of Twain’s final acts was approving a $6,000 check for the Library Building Fund. He dedicated the Library in the memory of his daughter Jean in Redding, Connecticut. The Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut is the only library in the World that founded, funded and filled with books by Mark Twain himself.
37. In 1960, Reddingite, Brad Kelly, discovered that the Russians were very enthusiastic about Mark Twain and most of his books and stories had been translated into their language. 1960 was the 50th Anniversary of his passing. Kelly discovered 11 million copies of Mark Twain works had been translated in the 25 Russian languages. Nine(9) of these Russian books are cataloged at the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut.
38. In 1917, Emily Grant Hutchins published a book “Jap Herron,” that she claimed Mark Twain had written from the grave via a Ouija board. “after several messages had been spelled out the pointer of the planchette traced the words ‘Samuel M. [sic] Clemens, Lazy Sam,’ “and the story as printed was then told.”
39. Mark Twain died, April 21, 1910. The Perihelion of Halley’s Comet, was on April 20, 1910. “Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
– Mark Twain, a Biography
Now, I could go on and on with this topic, I tend to follow the Twain logic “to keep on talking until I get the audience cowed.” But I think I’ve made it very clear that Mark Twain was an amazing man, who led an amazing life that is certainly worth exploring.
“An average American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person, he generally selects Mark Twain.
– Thomas Edison