The purpose of this project is to celebrate Samuel L. Clemens' life in Redding, Connecticut by documenting and showcasing his time here in multiple formats both online and offline. Your donations & site sponsorships will help me dedicate more time to these projects and allow me to get them online sooner.

Wednesday, December 30

Mark Twain's Time in Redding

With the Centennial year just a couple days away I put together a slideshow presentation that highlights his final home, Stormfield, and the Mark Twain Library which he funded and founded for his "fellow farmers" in Redding.

Many, many rare photos included.

"Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."
- Mark Twain

Need daily Twain updates?

A special Thank You to all those that made this PowerPoint Presentation possible.

Thank you to Barbara Schmidt and her amazing Twain resource site.

Thank you to David Thompson and his collection of Twain photos and montages.

Thank you to Kevin Mac Donnell for his knowledge, insights, rare photos and books.

Thank you to Susan Boone Durkee for her knowledge, photos, artwork and parties.

Thank you to The Mark Twain House, for their truly amazing museum, and priceless photos. Thank you to Patti Phillippon for access and usage.

Thank you to Heather Morgan and her staff at the Mark Twain Library for access and usage to their collections. The MTL is a treasure trove of new information on Twain's Final years and I am amazed by its contents on each and every visit.

Thank you to The Mark Twain Forum and all its members for sharing their knowledge and bringing Twainiacs together.

Thank you to The Mark Twain Journal, for promoting Stormfield and Redding in Volume 44.

Thank you to The Mark Twain Project, for access to Sam's letters. Your work has allowed for the research that fuels us all to keep searching and sharing.

Blog about Work From Home Ideas.

Wednesday, December 23

The Stormfield Christmas Elephant

Albert Bigelow Paine
Mark Twain: A Biography

Mark Twain’s second present came at Christmas-time. About ten days earlier, a letter came from Robert J. Collier, saying that he had bought a baby elephant which he intended to present to Mark Twain as a Christmas gift. He added that it would be sent as soon as he could get a car for it, and the loan of a keeper from Barnum & Bailey’s headquarters at Bridgeport.

The news created a disturbance in Stormfield. One could not refuse, discourteously and abruptly, a costly present like that; but it seemed a disaster to accept it. An elephant would require a roomy and warm place, also a variety of attention which Stormfield was not prepared to supply. The telephone was set going and certain timid excuses were offered by the secretary. There was no good place to put an elephant in Stormfield, but Mr. Collier said, quite confidently:

“Oh, put him in the garage.”

“But there’s no heat in the garage.”

“Well, put him in the loggia, then. That’s closed in, isn’t it, for the winter? Plenty of sunlight—just the place for a young elephant.”

“But we play cards in the loggia. We use it for a sort of sun-parlor.”

“But that wouldn’t matter. He’s a kindly, playful little thing. He’ll be just like a kitten. I’ll send the man up to look over the place and tell you just how to take care of him, and I’ll send up several bales of hay in advance. It isn’t a large elephant, you know: just a little one— a regular plaything.”

There was nothing further to be done; only to wait and dread until the Christmas present’s arrival.

A few days before Christmas ten bales of hay arrived and several bushels of carrots. This store of provender aroused no enthusiasm at Stormfield. It would seem there was no escape now.

On Christmas morning Mr. Lounsbury telephoned up that there was a man at the station who said he was an elephant-trainer from Barnum & Bailey’s, sent by Mr. Collier to look at the elephant’s quarters and get him settled when he should arrive. Orders were given to bring the man over. The day of doom was at hand.

But Lounsbury’s detective instinct came once more into play. He had seen a good many elephant-trainers at Bridgeport, and he thought this one had a doubtful look.

“Where is the elephant?” he asked, as they drove along.

“He will arrive at noon.”

“Where are you going to put him?”

“In the loggia.”

“How big is he?”

“About the size of a cow.”

“How long have you been with Barnum and Bailey?”

“Six years.”

“Then you must know some friends of mine” (naming two that had no existence until that moment).

“Oh yes, indeed. I know them well.”

Lounsbury didn’t say any more just then, but he had a feeling that perhaps the dread at Stormfield had grown unnecessarily large. Something told him that this man seemed rather more like a butler, or a valet, than an elephant-trainer. They drove to Stormfield, and the trainer looked over the place. It would do perfectly, he said. He gave a few instructions as to the care of this new household feature, and was driven back to the station to bring it.

Lounsbury came back by and by, bringing the elephant but not the trainer. It didn’t need a trainer. It was a beautiful specimen, with soft, smooth coat and handsome trappings, perfectly quiet, well-behaved and small— suited to the loggia, as Collier had said—for it was only two feet long and beautifully made of cloth and cotton—one of the fairest toy elephants ever seen anywhere.

It was a good joke, such as Mark Twain loved—a carefully prepared, harmless bit of foolery. He wrote Robert Collier, threatening him with all sorts of revenge, declaring that the elephant was devastating Stormfield.

“To send an elephant in a trance, under pretense that it was dead or stuffed!” he said. “The animal came to life, as you knew it would, and began to observe Christmas, and we now have no furniture left and no servants and no visitors, no friends, no photographs, no burglars— nothing but the elephant. Be kind, be merciful, be generous; take him away and send us what is left of the earthquake.”

Collier wrote that he thought it unkind of him to look a gift-elephant in the trunk. And with such chaffing and gaiety the year came to an end.

Friday, December 11

Mark Twain Library Archive Treasures

In deep need of "de-stressing" I traveled down to Redding this week to see what I could find in the archives that... I had not found before! Mission accomplished, I found some amazing items. Here are several I thought others may enjoy.

Experimental photo negative engraving plates of Sam and George Eastman. These portraits, which Eastman developed, were given to Eastman's chauffeur, William Carter. They became the property of George Hollett in 1946. Hollett donated them to the Mark Twain Library in 2005.

Handcarved replica of the Mississippi River Boat, Eclipse. This was carved by one of the Stormfield burglars and donated to the library by Clara Clemens.

Hal Foster not only created artwork of Twain, he also served as the Library's President.

Mark Twain and his Characters Display at the Mark Twain Library.

Close up of the "characters" display.

Interesting find in the archives...four (4) Hiawatha Heirloom Needle Paintings of Mark Twain's Birthplace. These were sent to the library in the 1960's by William A. Romkey of New York. Romkey inquired about the use of these needle paintings for the Library's fund raising efforts.

Brad Kelly Discovers Russians Enthusiastic Over Mark Twain. Many articles in the archives about Kelly's efforts and the books that were donated to the library. The library has the books and at the present a Redding resident is working on translating this Russian book collection.

February 1962

Dear Mr. Kelly,

I think it is a superb idea to harmonize the Russians and Americans through their authors or any other possible means.

It is dreadful to live in a World of enmity towards anyone, and of course I sympathize most particularly with your plans, as I am sure Father would.

That would be a reason for authorship that the whole world must respect and give its heart to.

I wish to thank you and Mrs. Kelley most cordially for your good wishes, and also to give you our, Mr. Samossoud and mine.

I must wish you tremendous success with your undertaking, and I offer my heartfelt sympathy with your great plan.

Sincerely yours,
Clara Clemens Samossoud

Paul Newman Stained Glass art on display at the 2009 Art Show this week.

View the Connecticut Twain Connections

The Elmira Study Move from East Hill to Campus

Sunday, December 6

New Article: Stormfield Burns

Thank you to Hilda Rhodes for forwarding...

Neighbor Mark Twain
June/July 1985 Volume 36, Issue 4

Coley Taylor, the author of “Our Neighbor, Mark Twain” (February/March 1985), was luckier than I by about eight years. My uncle and aunt, John and Mabel German, bought eighty acres of Connecticut rocks and a 1740 Dutch home on Diamond Hill Road in West Redding in 1917. The house belonged to Albert Bigelow Paine, who was then living in “The Lobster Pot,” a rambling house adjoining Samuel Clemens’s property.

Clemens was gone by the time I, as a twelve-year-old, had my first visit to Stormfield, his former residence. I recall it well. It was a gray, ominous, windy day in November. A group of us drove to the entrance of Stormfield and walked through the overgrown fields, filled—as Mr. Taylor recalls—with small cedar trees.

Being the smallest of the group, I was delegated to slip through an open window in the basement of the house, find my way through the eerie darkness, climb the main stairs to ground level, and unlock the front door. An illegal but reverent and respectful tour of the house took place with bated breath, so as not to disturb the ghosts.

Every weekend, every holiday, and every summer vacation was spent at Redvale (my uncle’s name for his farm) for many years until, late in World War II, the place was sold. I met Mr. Paine frequently, and, as a matter of fact, my cousin is named for him. He was a tall, stately man; so tall, in fact, that he repeatedly hit his head on the old New England ceiling beams in his home, until he had them hand-axed to half their thickness. This allowed him to proceed up and down a step or two from room to room usually without bodily harm.

One rainy summer night in 1923, the phone rang at 1:00 A.M. The operator spoke with a great sense of urgency. “All men, hurry! Stormfield is on fire!”

I was there at the end. Water was too far away for the hoses, so chemicals were used (for the first time that I can recall). No use, sadly. The blaze was almost controlled when the chemicals ran out. The fire picked up again, and we lay in the wet grass as rifle and shotgun ammunition exploded over our heads.

The house had been sold some months before to a family of four, and they had been more or less camping out as they did repairs, modernization, and painting. It was said that the fire was caused by paint rags. Be that as it may, the family never came back to rebuild. There was nothing left but the foundation.

Before the fire got out of control, some items were saved. 1 recall helping to get out the billiard table and a tremendous hand-carved mantelpiece that had surrounded the fireplace.

Mr. Taylor was luckier than I. He knew the great author face-to-face. I knew him only secondhand.

Daniel S. Klinger
Park Forest, Ill.

View Photos of Stormfield in this post: Stormfield Photos

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Saturday, December 5

Connecticut Twain Connection #54

Made a connection to Pomfret over the weekend...that makes 54.

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