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, June 30

Celebrating a Century :: 1908-2008

The Mark Twain Library's 100th Anniversary is just around the corner and in celebration a new sculpture recently arrived on the grounds of the library. It's a very fitting sculpture because as John Cooley notes in his introduction to Mark Twain's Aquarium: "Clemens devoted his career to writing about children, including important childhood characters and themes in novels, several novelettes, and a host of stories, essays and sketches. For Clemens, childhood was the most important time -the central experience- of life."

Thursday, June 26

Rare Stormfield Photos Released

This summer's Mark Twain Journal is now available and it showcases Stormfield! Kevin MacDonnell's amazing collection of Stormfield photos are the highlight of the journal, it also contains a great deal of information on the house and house events. Kevin explained in a recent Mark Twain Forum post:

"You will indeed get a good sense of the interior, and I describe the concert as well. There were 525 people there, but only 160 got inside the house. Ticket prices varied according to the room, from $1.50 down to 50 cents. I list about 40 sources on Stormfield (book, newspaper and magazine articles) including Bispham's 1920 memoir."

"I hope my article makes for fun and informative reading for thoseexcited by the 100th anniversay of Stormfield. It's a "virtual tour" created by using forty-one photos from my own archives (most of them previously unpublished), as well as the original floorplans and plate map of the house and grounds. I also include a guessing game at the end using twelve more photos (some previosuly unpublished) from the Mark Twain Papers at Berkeley.

I plotted the location and field of vision for each photo on the original architect's floorplans and plat maps so that the reader can trace them in sequence and gain a sense of the physical feel of Stormfield. I also describe the physical structure and construction of Stormfield in more detail than ever before, as part of my effort to create the physical presence of the place. My goal was not to retell the story of events that took place at Stormfield but instead to present the physical presence of this home now long lost, so that readers of Ham Hill and Karen Lystra can now visualize where all of those events at the end of Twain's life actually took place. I am extremely grateful to the ever-helpful folks at the Mark
Twain Papers, Hartford, Hannibal, and elsewhere who assisted me in my research, and special thanks to Tom Tenney who will happily sell anyone a copy of the MTJ to anyone who contacts him."

The journal is available by subscription.

Monday, June 23

Mark Twain's 100th a Success!

The Mark Twain Library's 100th anniversary party was quite a success. There was standing room only in the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building for the 100th annual meeting. After a short but eventful meeting, the 2008 Wit and Wisdom Award was a awarded for "Mark Twain as a Young Playwright" (which was amazing) and then the floor was turned over to me to present (gulp) 100 years of Redding history.

Just as a side story, as I'm sitting in the entry way (that was the only place left to sit) and awaiting my turn at the podium my mind began to wander a bit as I thought about how Mr. Clemens must have felt as he made his way to the new house. I thought of Louise Paine and her excitment, imagine being a young girl and experiencing such a grand occasion first hand. I also thought of Isabelle Lyon, his private secretary, and the anxiety she much have been feeling- hoping and praying (perhaps) that the decisions she had made would meet Sam's approval. Just then a thunder clap sounded outside and I thought "how fitting... a storm for Stormfield's 100th I just hope its not too big of a storm and we keep power!"

We kept power and I kept my composure weaving through a short history of Twain's time in Redding, the founding of the library and onto 100 years of Redding history. 100 years is extensive and a lot happened so I didn't get to cover everything but I highlighted the important areas and focused quite a bit on what makes Redding space. Redding's rural character is a huge asset and we all need to continue to work to keep it. In the coming weeks I'll be adding photos and information to the that highlights Redding's history from 1908 to 2008, I'll also be adding more photos of Twain, his house and the library.

So stay tuned...oh, almost forgot...the 100th anniversary vodka has arrived. Jay Harmon of Nantucket's Cisco Brewers shipped it out last week, it's his cranberry vodka which I'm told is mighty tasty. I only ordered a case (6 bottles) so at the moment I'm trying to decide if they will go up for auction or be used to thank volunteers.

Friday, June 13

100 Year Anniversary of Clemens Arrival in Redding

It's almost here, June 18th is the 100th anniversary of Twain's arrival in Redding. This is a date I've been looking forward to for quite sometime and it's now less than a week away. In celebration of the anniversary the library has invited me to present a slideshow on 100 years of Redding history. I'm thrilled to be a part of their historic 100th annual meeting and have been working on my presentation for weeks. The task of consolidating 100 years of town history and Twain's time on Redding into a 30-40 minute slideshow is daunting but I have complete confidence that a mixture of wit & wisdom, not to mention some pretty amazing photos will buy me an extra 15 minutes or least that's the plan at the moment!

If you live in Fairfield County or close to it, come on down to Redding on Wednesday night. The Annual Meeting begins at 7pm and the slideshow will start around 7:30pm. I have never presented my photos of Redding and I'm not sure when I'll get the chance to show them again so if you love history and Mark Twain this is an event you'll want to attend. Hope to see you there!