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.

Monday, March 29

Interesting Facts about Mark Twain

Back in 2002, Ken Burns' documentary film 'Mark Twain' kindled my interest in Mark Twain's life. Hopefully these interesting Mark Twain facts will have a similar effect on you. 2010 is the year of Twain!
-Brent M. Colley

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 a very young age Twain ran away from home- My Dear Mother: you'll doubtless be a little surprised, & somewhat angry when you receive this:

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 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 works 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. His brother 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? "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 book.

13. Twain enjoyed Baseball & had a very good understanding of the game. Mark Twain's scorecard from baseball game between Hartford and Boston: I like the SLC logo on the right side!

14. Twain wrote constantly! View his 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."
-Mark Twain

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 here's some video links of the episode:

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. Mark Twain never visited Ireland. He did write a very short story: Party Cries in Ireland.

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.

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 had 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."
-Mark Twain

22. The April 2010 issue of Knowledge, published by the BBC, features Mark Twain on the front cover!

23. Mark Twain didn't have a positive view of "big" Government: Read the last sentences closely.

"The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities & citizens is likely to cause endless trouble."
-Mark Twain

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!

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. Architect, Cass Gilbert, who is best known for the Woolworth Building in NYC, also owned the Keeler Tavern in Ridgefield Connecticut was a close friend of Twain's.

34. Twain was a founding member of The Players club in NYC.

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.

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.

Two years later Clara wrote him to express her approval of his efforts.

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

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."

40. Mark Twain's books were published at a time when international copyright did not exist. Many were released first in England to obtain the British copyright, then in the United States.

Thursday, March 25

Visit to the Mark Twain House

Bust of Mark Twain in the entry way of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut. This section of the house is very dark so I had to open the lens real wide to capture the image. The Twain House used gas lights back when Twain owned it and in the present day they do their best to emulate the look....Dark! The other interesting item in this photo is the Louis C. Tiffany & Co. wall stenciling.

This was something that I never noticed before- the gas "extension cord" from the ceiling gas light to the bedside gas lamp, next to... the smoking paraphernalia. How he lived to 74 is amazing!

The butler's area. This where the cook would bring the food to the butler. From here, the butler would plate it and bring it into the family.

Mahogany Room. This room is currently under renovation.

Mark Twain's Billiard Room. The most important room in the house! His writing area is in the far right corner.

Mark Twain as a Lego figure.

The Mark Twain Lego House from the Billiard Room side.

Mark Twain Lego House from the Front Entry side. This is a very cool exhibit in the cafe area of the Visitor Center. This was done in 1985 without the help of computers. How long did it take?? 700 hours!

How the Mark Twain House looks when you arrive.

The Mark Twain Carriage House from the Parking Lot. If you follow the Twain House on Twitter, the Tweets come from the far right corner of this building.

Entrance to the Mark Twain Exhibit inside the Visitor Center. The "Man in White" welcomes you.

Map of Mark Twain's Travels. The more you learn of these travels, the louder you'll hear Johnny Cash singing "I've been everywhere, man, I've been everywhere!" in your head.

Rare view of the Carriage House from the "off-limits" Billiard Room porch area.

The living room area. It is here where the family gathered around the fire to hear Twain's latest stories and I'm sure share their opinions of them.

The Redding/Hartford connection in this room is the mantle piece you can see a section of on the left hand side of the photo. This hand-carved piece from Scotland was made for the Hartford house but traveled with the family from there on after. It eventually ended up in Stormfield and was thought to have been lost in the fire of wasn't, it was in a locals barn and eventually made it back home to Hartford again when that Redding gentleman learned of it's history & importance.

Full View of the fireplace and mantle.

Twain visited New Haven in 1885 and befriended Warner McGuinn, an African-American student who was struggling to remain in school. Twain paid the young man's expenses at Yale and McGuinn went on to become a respected lawyer who would later mentor Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The 1887 model of the Paige Typesetter. This is the only one left. The 1894 model was donated to Cornell University and was later donated to a scrap metal drive during World War II. Read the history of the Paige Typesetter.

Wednesday, March 24

Mark Twain News Articles of Interest

Twain's been a hot topic...apparently the Reports of his Death were an exaggeration, he gets more press than most modern day writers!

Here are some of the most recent articles that I've found interesting enough to share:

1. From the Buffalo News, A Tour of Twain's Summer Home in Elmira New York

2. From the New York Times, Mark Twain the Baseball Fan

3. From the Los Angeles Times, A Review of the latest Mark Twain book, Mark Twain's Other Woman

4. From the Redding Pilot, History of Boy Scouts is rooted in Redding, Connecticut

5. From the Christian Science Review, Their Review of Man in White, A close look at the last four years of Mark Twain's life

6. From Daily-Record in Wooster, Ohio, Mark Twain Scholarship Alive and Well

Tuesday, March 23

The Countdown to April 21st Begins

We're finally within a month of the Centennial. As mentioned in the previous post, Susan B. Durkee, will be talking about Mark Twain and Isabel Lyon this weekend in Sharon CT.

Susan has a special connection with Twain and Isabel as she lives in the Lobster Pot, which is the first property Twain purchased in Redding, Connecticut and the location of the house Isabel lived in and so lovingly restored.

In other Twain news- there has been increasing interest in Mark Twain's life in Connecticut with the Centennial just around the corner and many local newspapers and magazines have run stories recently. The Redding Pilot just ran a nice little piece on Twain, Dan Beard and the Boy Scouts connection to Redding.

The Associated Press has visited Redding recently and is planning an article on Twain's final writings.

Friday, Newsweek is meeting us at the Mark Twain House in Hartford to view their archives and take a special tour of the house and grounds. Later this month we hope to have them down to Redding to showcase what we have to offer as well. The hope is that with the Nationwide attention we can spur local interest in our Twain-themed tourism project.

On the events calendar..."Tom Sawyer" -- The Opera? Yep. At Mark Twain House in Hartford. "Tom Sawyer," the chamber opera by Phillip Marton will receive its world premiere April 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 18 at 2 p.m. at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Other than that...I've been using Twitter to spread the news on #Twain2010. You can follow me at: -Personal account w/ Twain events and news. -Twain tweets from Heaven. So much fun! -Twain tweets from Hell. Why not?

Oh and before I forget, if you're in or near NYC: 2 hour NYC Mark Twain tours on Saturdays and Sundays all through April. Call 917-620-5371 or send an email to $15 donation. All tours have a 1pm start.

Friday, March 19

Susan B. Durkee to talk about Mark Twain’s Final Years in Connecticut

Sharon, CT: On Saturday, March 27th beginning at 9:30am, the Sharon Historical Society will hold its annual meeting, featuring a short business meeting and election of Trustees.

The meeting will be followed by a lecture by noted artist and amateur historian Susan B. Durkee, beginning at 10:30am.

A highlight of her talk, “Mark Twain’s Final Years in Connecticut” will be the presentation of excerpts from the documentary film, Dangerous Intimacy.

Dangerous Intimacy tells the story of how, shortly after his wife’s death in 1904, Mark Twain enjoyed the attentions of Isabel Lyon, his flirtatious – and calculating – secretary.

Dangerous Intimacy: The Untold Story of Mark Twain’s Final Years shows how Twain extricated himself from the lies, prejudice and self-delusion that almost turned him into an American Lear.

Thanks to Karen Lystra’s research, which liberates the author’s last years from a century of popular misunderstanding, we see how, late in life, this American icon discovered a deep kinship with his youngest child and experienced the interplay of love and pain that is one of the hallmarks of his work. Dangerous Intimacy was begun in February of 2007, and recently completed in the fall of 2009.

The film was produced by History Film Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1987 to create film and video works on cultural and historical subjects. Richard Altomonte, the organization’s founder, graduated from Boston University’s College of Communications with a B.S. in Filmmaking and has been a fundraiser, screenwriter and documentary producer/director for many years.

Many of the movie scenes were filmed at The Lobster Pot, the home and studio of Ms. Durkee, as well as in and around Redding, CT, and such spots as Twain’s property, “Stormfield.” Ms. Durkee may be seen in the film in the part of Jean, Twain’s daughter.

The annual meeting and lecture will take place at the Sharon Historical Society museum located at 18 Main Street in Sharon, just north of the intersection of Routes 4 and 41.

For more information call the Sharon Historical Society at (860) 364-5688 or email to Liz Shapiro at

Thursday, March 18

Talkin' Mark Twain Project on Cablevision

Next Tuesday March 30th on Cablevision's Channel 88 at 9:30pm. The show is called "Christina". Brent Colley, Susan B. Durkee and Heather Morgan discuss their efforts to promote Mark Twain's time in Connecticut during the Twain Centennial year of 2010.

It will also play on channel 88 in April at 8:30pm April 6th, April 13, and and April 20th.

Friday, March 12

Mark Twain Library

If you come to Redding, Connecticut to do some research on Mark Twain's time here, these are the doors you'll be walking through.

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.

To Charles T. Lark, New York:
HAMILTON, BERMUDA. April 6, 1910

DEAR MR. LARK,–I have told Paine that I want the money derived from the sale of the farm, which I had given, but not conveyed, to my daughter Jean, to be used to erect a building for the Mark Twain Library of Redding, the building to be called the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building.

I wish to place the money $6,000.00 in the hands of three trustees,– Paine and two others: H. A. Lounsbury and William E. Hazen, all of Redding, these trustees to form a building Committee to decide on the size and plan of the building needed and to arrange for and supervise the work in such a manner that the fund shall amply provide for the building complete, with necessary furnishings, leaving, if possible, a balance remaining, sufficient for such repairs and additional furnishings as may be required for two years from the time of completion.

Will you please draw a document covering these requirements and have it ready by the time I reach New York (April 14th).

Very sincerely,

The Mark Twain Library officially opened at its present location on February 18, 1911.

This is the entry of the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building.

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."
-S.L.C. 1909

Wednesday, March 10

Redding, Connecticut: Mark Twain's Last Residence

On April 15th, Brent M. Colley will present a slideshow in Watertown, Connecticut that highlights a period in Samuel L. Clemens' life which many have never seen & some never knew existed.

Colley's passion for Twain was kindled by the 2002 Ken Burns documentary, Mark Twain:

"Burns opened the flood gates so-to-speak. 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."

In answering questions about the twilight years of Samuel L. Clemens' life, Colley discovered that his time in Redding was a significant period in his life:

"It was just 1 year and 6 months, if you subtract the time he spent in Bermuda, and yet so much happened. The problem is that his years in Redding have not been properly documented, and as a result there are many questions, conflicting theories & opinions that need to be clarified."

Books that explore Twain's time in Redding are coming out left and right and yet not one author has spend a significant amount of time in Redding to research their subject's final destination. That's vexatious to Mr. Colley:

"If you are going to write about his time in Redding, thoroughly research Redding. There are archives in Redding's Mark Twain Library that no one has seen. I mean that. There are things I have not seen and I've been in the archives quite a bit. These authors do a "drive-by" and think they know all there is to know."

The slideshow Mr. Colley will present at Walker Hall: "Celebrating Twain's Redding" covers everything you ever wanted to know about the great author's final home, with many interesting facts, stories and rare photos to illustrate the timeline:

"It was a very short time period but a very eventful one that many find enthralling. It's a fun presentation to give."

The Watertown Historical Society talk is April 15th, 7pm at Walker Hall. Walker Hall is a stone building across the street from the Town Hall in Watertown, Connecticut.


Additional Speaking Engagements in Connecticut:

Easton, Connecticut Historical Society
Topic: Mark Twain & Helen Keller. Thursday, April 8, 2010.
Open to the Public.

Cheney Hall in Manchester, Connecticut
Topic: The 55 Connecticut Towns & Cities Connected to Mark Twain
The Association for the Study of Connecticut History (ASCH), Manchester Historical Society and Little Theatre of Manchester will co-sponsor the spring 2010 ASCH meeting on Saturday, April 10 at Cheney Hall in Manchester, CT.
Open to the Public. Registration & Fees required.

Monday, March 8

Connecticut Twain-Themed Tourism Project

We have launched the new web site. It's a mini-site really but it will serve as an example of what we can do and where people can access information on Mark Twain's Connecticut.

Featured on the homepage are four of our favorite Mark Twain tourist attractions: The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Fort Trumbull in New London, Gillette Castle in East Haddam and the Mark Twain Library in Redding.

1. "(Our House) had a heart, and a soul...we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace..." -Mark Twain 1896. Clemens and his family lived in this 19-room mansion in the Nook Farm neighborhood of Hartford, Connecticut for 20+ years.

2. Clemens and his wife loaned Will Gillette the three thousand dollars which tided him through his period of dramatic education. Their faith in his ability was justified.

3. 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."

4. Clemens' most important legacy to Redding remains, in the Mark Twain Library Association that he founded shortly after he moved to town.

This project is all about increasing awareness of Mark Twain's time in Connecticut by showcasing the people and places connected to him across the State.

Support the effort by spreading the word. Together we can build a Twain-themed tourism trail.