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.

Sunday, January 9

The Mark Twain Library Building

In February of 2011 we will be celebrating the completion and dedication of the Jean L Clemens Memorial Building.

Almost immediately after his arrival, Mark Twain took interest in founding a public library for the residents of Redding.

Why was this of interest to him? Perhaps it was in his genes…John Marshall Clemens, Twain’s father, is said to have been instrumental in founding the first Hannibal, Missouri Library.

“The first effort to establish a library for use of Hannibal citizens was in 1844. The organizers were Judge John M. Clemens, Zachariah Draper, Dr. Hugh Meredith and Sam Cross.”

In the image below you see similarities between Hannibal and Redding. Note the windows, fireplace and portrait above the mantle. After seeing this photo, I'm almost positive someone from Redding either visited Hannibal when planning the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building or requested photos of it's interior. The look is far too similar to be coincidental.

Hannibal Public Library, Hannibal Missouri

To create Redding’s first public library, Twain donated books from his own collection and asked others to do the same. Next Twain went into fundraising mode, a role he greatly enjoyed. Male visitors to Stormfield were “taxed” $1 dollar, concerts were held, and friends and associates were urged to contribute to the cause. He was very successful. Large contributions of books were sent to Redding by Collier's Weekly, Harper & Brothers, and by Page & Company.

From 1908 to 1910, the library was a focal point for Twain. In fact one of his final acts was approving a check for the library building fund.

To Charles T. Lark, in New York:

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,

And thus, what began as a service to the residents of Redding, became a memorial to his daughter Jean. From this point forward it was up to the residents of Redding to return the favor and build a memorial to not only fulfill the great author’s wishes, but exceed them.

Redding, residents wasted little time in securing a building lot at the corner of Diamond Hill and Redding Road, quickly erecting the building, which opening on February 18 of 1911, less than a year after his passing. As he had wished, it was named the Jean L Clemens Memorial Building, and to no one’s surprise the library itself named the Mark Twain Library.

Since that time, the Mark Twain Library has grown and it has evolved but what it has remained is a tribute to Mark Twain’s legacy. Visitors of the Mark Twain Library are surrounded by photos, paintings, quotations, artwork and sculptures… there is little doubt that you have entered the “Mark Twain” library. But, more importantly, the Mark Twain Library keeps Mark Twain alive and that is a very significant point to remember, especially when you are made aware of the following:

“It's noble to be good, and it's nobler to teach others to be good and less trouble.”
- Mark Twain’s remarks at the opening of the Mark Twain Library, Redding, CT

It was very noble of Mark Twain to found our public library and so we must now be nobler and promote his life and works to others.

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