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.

Tuesday, August 27

The Mark Twain Book Fair

The Annual Mark Twain Book Fair is Labor Day Weekend, August 30 – September 2. Daily from 9am to 5pm. Redding Community Center, Lonetown Road (Route 107) Redding CT. Free parking, no admission fee, bargains abound, air-conditioned comfort, handicapped accessible, refreshments sold.

The Mark Twain Library Book Fair is the oldest – and one of the largest – in New England. The library was founded by Samuel Clemens, - a.k.a. Mark Twain – in 1908. And the Book Fair is still one of the library's principal fundraisers.

This fund raising concept goes back to the very beginning.

Coley Taylor described the early days of the fair in 1985:

"Mark Twain donated a large number of books from his own collection to the library. They were housed in the seldom used old chapel facing the ancient but still used Umpawaug Cemetery. A librarian was on hand Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Twain secured donations from many friends, including Andrew Carnegie, and publishers. At a meeting to promote the library on October 7, 1908, he read a statement that he had composed for the occasion.

There was a woman's group that met fairly often to sew clean strips of rags of all colors and fabrics for making braided rugs to sell at an annual fair for the library building fund. We children went to the meetings too; there were no baby-sitters then; we could roll the long strips into balls. It was my job to turn the ice-cream freezer for the cake-and-ice cream binge later.

The annual fair was held in August to attract the summer people, who would leave for their homes by Labor Day. There were not many in Redding but the lake resorts near Danbury and a noted summer colony in nearby Ridgefield provided the necessary crowds, together with local residents. All kinds of things were sold at the fair: cakes, pies, jellies, pickles, canned fruits in glass jars, salads, the rag rugs, and second hand furniture, which was grabbed up as antiques. A long picnic table under a tent was loaded with food, provided luncheon for the guests- at a price, of course."

Sunday, April 21

Mark Twain Dies in Redding, April 21st, 1910

"The report of my death was an exaggeration."

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835 and died in Redding, Connecticut on April 21, 1910.

His legacy stills lives, his popularity continues to grow, his writings are still being published and his quotes still ring true... I'd say it was an exaggeration too.

The Last Day at Stormfield
By Bliss Carman, Collier's Weekly

At Redding, Connecticut,
The April sunrise pours
Over the hardwood ridges
Softening and greening now
In the first magic of Spring.

The wild cherry-trees are in bloom,
The bloodroot is white underfoot,
The serene early light flows on,
Touching with glory the world,
And flooding the large upper room
Where a sick man sleeps.
Slowly he opens his eyes,
After long weariness, smiles,
And stretches arms overhead,
While those about him take heart.

With his awakening strength,
(Morning and spring in the air,
The strong clean scents of earth,
The call of the golden shaft,
Ringing across the hills)
He takes up his heartening book,
Opens the volume and reads,
A page of old rugged Carlyle,
The dour philosopher
Who looked askance upon life,
Lurid, ironical, grim,
Yet sound at the core.
But weariness returns;
He lays the book aside
With his glasses upon the bed,
And gladly sleeps. Sleep,
Blessed abundant sleep,
Is all that he needs.

And when the close of day
Reddens upon the hills
And washes the room with rose,
In the twilight hush
The Summoner comes to him
Ever so gently, unseen,
Touches him on the shoulder;
And with the departing sun
Our great funning friend is gone.

How he has made us laugh!
A whole generation of men
Smiled in the joy of his wit.
But who knows whether he was not
Like those deep jesters of old
Who dwelt at the courts of Kings,
Arthur's, Pendragon's, Lear's,
Plying the wise fool's trade,
Making men merry at will,
Hiding their deeper thoughts
Under a motley array,--
Keen-eyed, serious men,
Watching the sorry world,
The gaudy pageant of life,
With pity and wisdom and love?

Fearless, extravagant, wild,
His caustic merciless mirth
Was leveled at pompous shams.
Doubt not behind that mask
There dwelt the soul of a man,
Resolute, sorrowing, sage,
As sure a champion of good
As ever rode forth to fray.

Haply--who knows?--somewhere
In Avalon, Isle of Dreams,
In vast contentment at last,
With every grief done away,
While Chaucer and Shakespeare wait,
And Moliere hangs on his words,
And Cervantes not far off
Listens and smiles apart,
With that incomparable drawl
He is jesting with Dagonet now.

[Copyright, 1910, by Collier's Weekly.]

Wednesday, August 29 Recaps Mark Twain Conference in Redding

Be sure to read David Shellenberger's recap of our Twain Conference on August 18th in Redding, Connecticut.

First Annual Mark Twain Conference in Redding

Tuesday, August 28

Mark Twain Lego House and Lego Mark Twain

I'm hoping we get to host this amazing lego magic down in Redding soon:

Thursday, August 23

Highlights from Our 1st Annual Mark Twain Conference at Redding

My Top Ten Reasons Twain's time in Redding is of Importance...

1. The Mark Twain Library
To the best of my knowledge- The Mark Twain Library is the only library in the World that Mark Twain personally founded, funded and filled with books.

2. Clara's Wedding and Nina's Birthday
Clara Clemens was the only of Twain's daughter to wed and give birth. Both of these events took place at Stormfield in Redding. Clara wed on October 6th, 1909 and Nina was born on August 19th, 1910.

3. Albert Bigelow Paine and Twain's Biography
Paine was the one who let Twain know of a 75 acre farm for sale just over the hill from his own home in Redding in the Winter of 1906. Twain's secretary, Isabel Lyon, voiced her approval of the "country home" idea and in March of 1906 the purchase was made. Additional properties were purchased and under the watchful eyes of both Paine and Lyon, Stormfield was completed in June of 1908. Twain arrived soon after and would remain in Redding until his passing in April of 1910. In 1912 Bigelow Paine published Twain's biography (which was written in Redding) and in essence from 1906 until Paine's passing in 1937, he (along with Clara Clemens) pretty much controlled how the World viewed Twain as the literary executors of his pages and manuscripts.

4. Twain put Redding on the Map

" I am keeping a hotel, and no train comes or goes without bringing me a guest or robbing me of one."
-Twain's own entry in Stormfield's Guestbook

During his time in Redding many of his closest friends and associates visited his Redding estate and the press Worldwide reported on him and his visitors just about every day. William D. Howells, Laura Hawkins Frazer, Billy Burke and Helen Keller are a few of the individuals that visited.

5. The Open Space his estate Preserved
From 1906 to 1909, Twain purchased roughly 320 acres in Redding which eventually whittled down to 268.21 acres. Of those 268+ acres, 160 acres were preserved as Open Space and hiking trails. 

6. Jean's Return
Jean L. Clemens had suffered with Epilepsy since she was 15 years of age. Following her mother's death in 1904, her condition worsened and in 1906 she left the family for remote treatment. In April of 1909 she returned to live in Redding.

7. The Lyon-Ashcroft Scandal
One of the most intriguing mysteries from Twain's time in Redding involves Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft. Were they plotting to steal Twain's fortune or did Clara hold a grudge against them? This continues to be debated.

8. Twain's passing at Stormfield
Because Twain's funeral was held in New York City and Twain had lived in New York City prior to moving to Redding, many presumed he had lived in NYC the entire time. He died in Redding at 6:22pm on April 21, 1910.

9. Little Known Redding Tie-ins to Redding
Did you know Mark Twain's Estate was annually settled here in Redding until 1964? Or that his last will and testament begins... "I, Samuel L. Clemens, of Redding, Connecticut..." Or that the "scottish mantel" at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford was found in Redding in the mid 1950's and returned? There's a lot of neat connections to his life via Redding.

10. Redding was Twain's Final Residence and he loved it here.

New York Times: "Do you like it here at Stormfield?"

Samuel L. Clemens: "Yes, it is the most out of the world and peaceful and tranquil and in every way satisfactory home I have had experience of in my life."

"Give me a breath of Redding air once more and this will pass."
-Twain on his final trip home to Redding in mid-April 1910

To see the full slideshow (84 slides) with photos and additional information on the list above, download my Powerpoint "Mark Twain's Redding"

Tuesday, August 21

Highlights from the Mark Twain Conference in Redding, CT

After our conference on Saturday August 18th, 2012, PBS Director Producer James Nicoloro interviewed Mark Twain Scholar and Pitzer College President, Laura Skandera Trombley, in the Mark Twain Room at The Lobster Pot for his upcoming Documentary, "Redding's Mark Twain." 

Following the interview, I took Laura and Dr. Ann Ryan up to see (new) Stormfield; The original Stormfield burned down in 1923, but the (new) Stormfield is very similar and they loved it. Then it was down to the Redding Roadhouse. < Shocker, huh?


Thursday, August 16

Meet the Speakers at our 1st Annual Mark Twain Conference in Redding

Our Featured Speaker is:

Laura S. Trombley
Author and President of Pitzer College

Laura is an internationally renowned Mark Twain scholar, authoring several books and dozens of scholarly articles on Twain. She appeared in Ken Burns's Mark Twain documentary and, as a graduate student, discovered the largest known cache of Mark Twain letters.

She will speak on her latest book:  Mark Twain's Other Woman

In addition to Mark Twain's Other Woman, Laura's other works on Twain include Mark Twain in the Company of Women and Constructing Mark Twain: New Directions in Scholarship.