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.


CJ said...

Twain's trip to Hawaii (then the Sandwich Islands) is remarkable in that, while Twain was there, a boatload of survivors from a sunken ship had been rescued and had been taken to Hawaii. He got their story and stayed up all night to write it. First thing in the morning, he delivered that story to a ship leaving for San Francisco, thus scooping everyone else on the survivors' story. This is one of several incidents that brought him to the public's attention and helped him on his way to fame.

On my blog, I have several Mark Twain posts which might interest some of your readers:
Twain: Things You Might Not Know
Twain: 2009 Conference, Elmira
Why do I study Mark Twain?
Twain on April Fools' Day
Twain on Travel

Brent M. Colley said...

Thanks CJ. That's a great addition and story! I'll link up your blog posts to the blog shortly.