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.

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.

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

Our Fourth Speaker is:

Susan B. Durkee
Portrait Artist/Historian

Susan's Powerpoint presentation will walk us through her latest portrait of Isabel V. Lyon, Mark Twain's personal secretary. 

An award winning artist, Susan works out of her spacious West Redding, Connecticut studio,
The Lobster Pot, that sits on Mark Twain's initial property purchase in Redding. This property was the home of Isabel Lyon from 1907 to 1909, which is a special tie-in to the portrait.

Susan graduated from Greens Farms Academy, attended one year at the School of Fine Arts at Boston University and received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Vermont.
Her work is displayed in private collections throughout the country and she has been featured on 4 Cable Television Shows, appeared in several publications as well as a Portrait Artist in the Spring 2004 National Geographic article on Greenwich, Connecticut.
Susan has also been invited to participate in many prestigious Juried National Art Shows including: The Oil Painters of America, American Women Artists, and the Salmagundi Club in New York.
Susan specializes in traditional grand manner style portraiture. She has been commissioned to paint individual, civic and corporate portraits.
Among her corporate clients are U.S. Tobacco, the Cancer Research Institute, and Baylor University Medical Center.
Although her concentration is focused mainly on formal portraiture, Susan has also been successful in painting seascapes, landscapes, and still lifes.

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

Our Third Speaker is:

Brent M. Colley

Brent's presentation is a visual Top Ten List of why Mark Twain's time in Redding is of importance.

84 slides filled with rare photos and commentary on everything you ever wanted to know about Twain's time in Redding.

You have to be there to see and hear it. :)

The 1st Annual Mark Twain Conference at Redding, Connecticut is Saturday, August 18th from 1pm to 5pm.

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

Our Second Speaker is:

James Nicoloro

James will be speaking about Albert Bigelow Paine and sharing a sneak preview of his latest documentary:

The Redding Mark Twain- Twains last 22 months of life at his home in Redding, Connecticut

"What little I knew of Mark Twain came from a vague recollection of reading Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in high school. To a high school student like myself, the books seemed remote, the dialogue difficult. But no matter, Twain seemed to be part of my dna and there was nothing I could do about it. Who didn't known the name Mark Twain. At the turn into the 20th century he was one of the most famous people in the world. You could not overestimate his popularity. Time magazine recently called him our first super star. Author and critic, William Dean Howells, his literary confidant and friend of 40 years, gave him a more measured appraisal, calling him the Lincoln of our literature."

Below is a look at James' impressive career:

Morton and Luise Kaish Century Masters Video Profiles

Nicoloro Productions

April 2012Present (5 months) The Century Association exhibition room
In production on two short profiles of the work of Morton Kaish, painter and Luise Kasih, sculptor, for The Century Association exhibit, Luise & Morton Kaish Kx2:II. (7 West 33rd Street, New York, New York.).



Nicoloro Productions

June 2009Present (3 years 3 months)
Research/Fundraising: Alice Austen A photographic Life
Research, pre-production: The Redding Mark Twain
Production: Art Deco New York with Barry Lewis



Roger Wilco

January 2011June 2011 (6 months)
Produced and Directed a 13-part series on the high-end collector car market for Discovery Network. "What's My Car Worth" was shot on location in Scottsdale, AZ, Ft Lauderdale and Amelia Island, Florida, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte NC.




Nonprofit; 201-500 employees; Broadcast Media industry
April 1998January 2010 (11 years 10 months)
WNET/Thirteen, New York
Producer/Director 1998-2010, Walking Tour Series, New York Voices, Reel New York,Jonathan Pond Specials, Health Specials

Walking Tour Series with David Hartman and Historian Barry Lewis

A Walk Down 42nd Street (Emmy nominated)
A Walk Up Broadway, A Walk Through Harlem (Emmy nominated), A Walk Around Brooklyn (Emmy nominated), A Walk Through Greenwich Village
A Walk Through Central Park, A Walk Through Newark,A Walk Through Hoboken
A Walk Through Queens, A Walk Through the Bronx (Cine Golden Eagle)

Short Subjects

Designed for Pleasure (Asia Society), Asa Ames (American Folk Art Museum),Tibetan Art (Rubin Museum)
Take me out to the Ballgame (NYPL), Art of Empire (New York Historical Society, Chagall (Museum of Biblical Art)
Seduction of Light (American Folk Art Museum), Twixt Art and Nature (Bard Graduate Center), Protecting the Word (Morgan Library)
The Glass House of Phillip Johnson, Gehry’s IAC building, Dutch Water Colors, DNA barcode (New York Botanical Garden)

Producer/Director - Series, Producer/Director - Documentary
Producer - Live and live on tape, Producer – Fund Raising
Manager Broadcast Operations, Graphic Designer (print and video)
Photographer, Offline Editor - Avid, Final Cut/Final Cut X
Effects - Photoshop/After Effects, Line Producer, Camera


Senior Producer

KCTS Television

Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Broadcast Media industry
April 1983December 1998 (15 years 9 months)
Manager of Broadcast Operations, Pledge Producer, Senior Producer 

The 1st Annual Mark Twain Conference at Redding, Connecticut is August 18th 1pm to 5pm at the Mark Twain Library. Space limited to 80 people.

Tuesday, August 14

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

In the Lead-off Spot...

Steve Courtney
Publicist and Publications Editor

Mark Twain House & Museum Publicist and Publications Editor Steve Courtney won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend (University of Georgia Press, 2008). His most recent book, published to acclaim in the fall of 2011, is ‘The Loveliest Home That Ever Was’: The Story of the Mark Twain House in Hartford (Dover), with a Foreword by Hal Holbrook and photographs by John Groo.

In the past decade, Courtney has frequently written and spoken on Samuel Clemens’ friend Twichell and his role in literary and social history. He co-edited, with Peter Messent, The Civil War Letters of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: A Chaplain's Story (University of Georgia Press, 2006). He founded and leads an annual eight-mile walk in the Hartford area commemorating similar autumn and spring walks Twichell and Clemens took.

Courtney is also a freelance editor and researcher, having worked in this capacity on a major new biography of William Gillette, the American stage portrayer of Sherlock Holmes; a work on the ethical basis of American political philosophy; a history of the Ensign Bickford corporation; and a major biography of inventor and industrialist Joseph Gerber.

He has been a journalist for 36 years, more than twenty of them at The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Connecticut. There he was a bureau chief, copy editor, book reviewer, interviewer and writer on scientific, historical and literary subjects, including an acclaimed series on the then-little-known work of Yale biologist Thomas Steitz, the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry. Courtney was Deputy Editor of Northeast, the Courant's Sunday magazine, for five years, and served as President of Sunmag, the national organization of Sunday magazine editors.

Courtney received his Bachelor of Science degree in History from Charter Oak State College in 1997.

Saturday, August 11

Bringing Mark Twain To Life!

Fundraising Dinner Party and Performance by Alan Kitty (famed Mark Twain impersonator)

DATE: August 18, 2012, Saturday  TIME: 6:30-10 pm

PLACE: The Mark Twain Room
Redding Roadhouse
406 Redding Road
Redding, CT
PRICE: $125
Please make checks payable to Unicorn Writers’ Conference, Inc.
Seating is Limited for this magical event so sign up now!

CONTACT: Jan Kardys

DETAILS: Unicorn Writers’ Conference  is thrilled to host a private dinner party in the Mark Twain Room of the Redding Roadhouse,and performance of “Mark Twain’s Last Stand,” starring famed Twain impersonator, actor, and playwright, Alan Kitty.

Menu includes:

Salads:  (choice of one)
  • Mixed Green
  • Caesar or 
  • Roadhouse Clam Chowder
Entrees:  (Choice of One)

  • Chicken Breast with Scallion Mashed Potatoes & Sauteed Spinach 
  • Atlantic Salmon with Rice and Grilled Asparagus 
  • Bone In Pork Chop with Scallion Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans 
  • Wild Mushroom Fusili with Cream, Herbs & Parmesan 
  • Seared Filet Mignon with Herb Butter, Roasted Potatoes & Spinach
Desserts:  Chef’s Choice

Books, Mark Twain gifts, and paintings by famed artist Susan B. Durkee ( available for sale.

Nationally acclaimed Mark Twain impersonator, Alan Kitty, has been interpreting the nineteenth century iconic author for more than thirty years.  During that time, he has shared Twain’s style and humor in an original theatrical monologue, through corporate dinner speeches, and in original works that convey the author’s presence in minute detail.

On August 18, 2012, Kitty will take the stage to deliver “Mark Twain’s Last Stand” - a portrait of Twain the author, speaker and social critic known to all; and husband and father, Samuel Clemens, known only to close friends and associates.

So eat, drink, and enjoy this private performance in Twain’s last
hometown of Redding, CT.

Please send your checks to:   

Unicorn Writers’ Conference, Inc.
PO Box 176, Redding, CT 06876Please include your Entree and Salad selection along with your check.

Additional questions: Contact Jan Kardys, Chairman, Unicorn Writers’ Conference, Inc.  

Monday, August 6

Mark Twain Event- Saturday, August 18th

Saturday, August 18th, starting at around 1:00 at The Mark Twain Library a wonderful free to the public Mark Twain Immersion.

  • Steve Courtney from The Mark Twain House will talk about his book, 
  • James Nicoloro director/Producer will talk about and show his Film Trailer of his upcoming Documentary, "Mark Twain and Redding". 
  • Brent Colley Redding/Twain Historian will give another wonderful talk about Twain/Redding History,
  • A Mark Twain Scholar from Elmira College will talk,
  • Pitzer College President, Laura Twombley is coming all the way from California to give a talk about her book "Mark Twain's Other Woman" and 
  • Susan Boone Durkee will share her knowledge of Isabel Lyon.

Then after the Library the evening, The Redding Road House will be having its Mark Twain Room in full Twainiac decoration...with a dinner and guest speaker Mark Twain himself, (famed Mark Twain interpreter Alan Kitty).

Space is limited to only 70 for the Road House dinner event so make your reservations Jan Kardys, President Unicorn Writers Conference:

This event is a fundraiser for the Unicorn Writer Conference, a 501 non-profit

Monday, June 11 Radio Discussion- Twain & Keller

Left to Right- Lisa Burghardt, Dolly Curtis, Brent M. Colley

On Sunday, June 10th I traveled down to Bridgeport with the Easton Historical Society's Lisa Burghardt to discuss the Twain & Keller Exhibit (currently on display at Easton Public Library) with Dolly Curtis and Dave Schwartz of WPKN 89.6 FM.

We were scheduled for 30 minutes, but as it turned out, we ended up needing a little more time and stretched it to 45 minutes. The Twain & Keller topic has a knack for inducing extensive conversation.  :)

We had a great time. Dave and Dolly are a lot of fun to work with and we look forward to future shows on WPKN 89.6 FM.

If you would like to listen to the show, you can do so here:
Twain & Keller > Easton and Redding, Connecticut's Special Connection on WPKN 89.5 FM

Friday, June 8

Why did Helen Keller move to Easton, CT?

After World War I, Helen Keller became active in relief efforts on behalf of those blinded in the war. This effort marked the start of the work that occupied Keller for the rest of her long career.

Keller worked concurrently with two organizations, the American Foundation for the Overseas Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind. Besides serving as a director of both, she held many different staff positions and, over forty years of extensive and near-constant travel, became the most prominent and recognizable spokesperson for the blind and the deaf-blind.

In 1929 Keller began a fund-raising drive to provide an endowment for the American Foundation for the Blind. She wrote thousands of letters soliciting funds, including one to Gustuv Pfeiffer, who contributed $500. He followed with further contributions and, after Keller visited him in 1931, he gave the foundation 150 shares of preferred stock in his pharmaceuticals corporation. In 1932 Pfeiffer accepted an invitation to serve on the foundation's board of trustees and became one of its most active members, heading both the budget and executive committees.

In 1938, Pfeiffer convinced Keller to move her small household (including a secretary and a helper) from Forest Hills, New York, to Aspetuck. He provided the land, donated much of the building cost, and helped to raise the rest. Keller named the home Arcan Ridge, after a cottage in Scotland. Although Keller was a citizen of the world, and her extraordinary contributions to humanity are associated with many other locales, Arcan Ridge was her home and her retreat. If not central in her work, it was central in her life, as she expressed in a letter to the Pfeiffers:

"How wonderful it all is! You, Mr. and Mrs. Pfeiffer, have so taken me by surprise with your delightful plotting and planning, I can hardly speak... There is no counting the treasures to which the key symbolically opens the door. It means a home in New England to which affection and memory have ever bound me, a place nearer Heaven where Teacher is, a sanctuary where rural solitude will again sweeten my days."

To friend Keller wrote:

"We have never loved a place more than Arcan Ridge. It is a Colonial house surrounded by meadows, woods, brooks, and the old New England stone walls you will remember. I am especially delighted with my study which has spacious bookshelves, thirty-five cubbyholes and windows hospitable to the sun."

In 1946, while Keller was in Europe championing the plight of wounded soldiers and civilian victims of World War II, her cherished house burned to the ground. When she returned, Pfeiffer provided lodging in one of his other nearby houses and, with contributions from other neighbors and friends of Keller, began to build another house on the same site. This 1946 house, 163 Redding Road, was Keller's home for the rest of her life.

She produced her later writings, notably the 1955 biography, Teacher, during sojourns in Easton. After a stroke curtailed her activities in 1961, she spent all her time in Easton, until her long and productive ended in June of 1968. 

Thursday, May 31

Radio Discussion: Twain & Keller – Easton & Redding’s Special Connection on WPKN 89.5 FM 10pm Sunday, June 10th, 2012

 WPKN 89.5 FM 10pm Sunday, June 10th, 2012
There has been so much interest in the Twain & Keller Exhibit currently on display at Easton Public Library, that a radio program has been planned for June 10 to discuss Twain & Keller’s relationship, their friendship and the interesting life parallels they shared on WPKN 89.5 FM.

The show will be produced by David Schwartz and hosted by Dolly Curtis with guests Brent M. Colley and Lisa Burghardt sharing more about these two world-renowned individuals who just happened to select Easton and Redding, Connecticut as their final residences.

You can hear this program on your radio on WPKN 89.5 FM or on the internet at Sunday, June 10th at 10pm. After the program airs, the show will remain on  for the remainder of June under “current shows/David Schwartz” and “June 10.”

About the Guests:

In an effort to encourage a re-awakened interest in Mark Twain related research and tourism here in Connecticut, Brent Colley has been uncovering Connecticut's Twain 'Connections' in towns and cities across the State since 2008; This summer’s focus is: Redding and Easton. More of these Twain ‘Connections’ can be seen at his blog: To date he has connected 57 towns and cities to Twain.

Lisa Burghardt, who co-curated the Twain & Keller Exhibit with Colley and Heather Morgan, is President of the Historical Society of Easton, a historical researcher and genealogist.

WPKN located on the campus of UB is listener supported and has been on the air for the last 30 years with daily 24 hour programming. The program is produced and engineered by David Schwartz as a public service.  For further information please contact Dolly Curtis at or Brent Colley at or Lisa Burghardt and HSE at

Tuesday, May 29

About the Stormfield Project

The Mark Twain Tourism Project:

This project showcases the towns and cities across Connecticut that have Twain 'Connections.'

Stamford, Connecticut- Edward Quintard, M.D. (1867-1936) was born in Stamford, CT, the son of Edward Augustus and Mary (Skiddy) Quintard.

During his storied career, Edward was an outstanding medical practitioner and educator, but also was the personal physician to many celebrities. Perhaps the best known was Samuel Langhorne Clemens -- better known as the best-selling author Mark Twain -- Quintard was the physician of the entire Clemens family and in was at Twain's deathbed in Redding on April 21st, 1910.

Stamford Connection #2 is:
Henry  and Samuel Ferguson of Stamford- who helped Mark Twain write his newspaper article on the Clipper Ship Hornet. On their return voyage to California, Clemens (Twain) further interviewed the Ferguson brothers and Captain Mitchell. They let him examine their diaries, excerpts of which he incorporated into an article titled “Forty-three Days in an Open Boat. Compiled from Personal Diaries.” Submitted to Harper's New Monthly Magazine, they published it in December 1866. Thirty-three years later he reworked portions of it, gave the story a new title, My Debut as a Literary Person and handed it in to The Century Magazine, where the article appeared in November 1889.

In this work, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) stated it was not the Jumping Frog story that launched his literary career, but the saga of the survivors of the clipper ship Hornet.

See more stories from more towns:

List of Towns and Cities that have Twain 'Connections'

Thursday, May 17

Now Open- @ Easton Public Library in Easton, Connecticut-
Twain & Keller: Easton and Redding, Connecticut's Special Connection

Curated by Brent M. Colley, Heather Morgan and Lisa Burghardt

"He entered into my limited world with enthusiasm just as he might have explored Mars. Blindness was an adventure that kindled his curiosity. He treated me not as a freak, but as a handicapped woman seeking a way to circumvent extraordinary difficulties. There was something of divine apprehension in this rare naturalness towards those who differ from others in external circumstances."
-Helen Keller on meeting Mark Twain

Their paths crossed at pivotal points in both their lives: A series of failed business ventures had pushed Twain into bankruptcy and Keller was being pressured to decide whether she should continue with her studies or devote herself to the cause of the deaf and blind. In a roundabout way, it was Henry H. Rogers who championed for both of them, corrected their situations and fortified a friendship that would continue until Twain's passing and beyond.

This exhibit is a celebration of their friendship and the interesting parallels between these world-renowned individuals who just happened to select Easton and Redding, Connecticut as their final residences.

The Online Version of the Twain & Keller Exhibit.

Sunday, March 11

Mark Twain and Helen Keller

Mark Twain and Helen Keller’s Relationship

They first met in March 1895 at a luncheon held in Keller’s honor at West 34th Street in NYC. It was the home of Laurence Hutton, an editor and critic who was Twain’s friend and one of Helen’s early benefactors.

Henry Rogers was there with Twain and about a dozens others to welcome & wish Helen well during her stay in NYC where she had come to study speech at the School for the Deaf.

During the luncheon the two spent time together and Helen seemed to feel more at ease with Twain than with any of the other guests. Hutton later said: “He was peculiarly tender and lovely with her-even for Mr. Clemens- and she kissed him when he said good-bye.”

Helen had read some of his work and asked him to explain the origin of his pseudonym “Mark Twain”. After explaining its meaning to steamboat pilots he added that the name suited him because he “was sometimes light and on the surface, and sometimes-”

“Deep,” she interrupted, surprising him with her quickness and intelligence.

“His voice is truly wonderful,” she later recalled. “To my touch, it was deep & resonant…he spoke so deliberately that I could get almost every word with my fingers on his lips.”

“Mark Twain has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I can feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.”

How she felt the “twinkle of his eye”
When Helen was talking with an intimate friend, her hand went to her friend's face to see, "the twist of the mouth." In this way she was able to get the meaning of those half sentences which people complete unconsciously from the tone of the voice or the twinkle of the eye.

To the astonishment of all the guests at this luncheon, Helen shook the hands of all the guest and thanked them by name as they left.

For whatever reason, Twain decided to quickly pat her on the head as he passed by, to his astonishment…she knew who did it!

He later said: “Perhaps someone else can explain this miracle, but I have never been able to do it. Could she feel the wrinkles in my hand through her hair?”

He found out how when she visited him at Redding in 1909: “I smelled you” was her honest reply.

Twain’s Letter to Mrs. Henry Rogers Asking $$$ to Support Keller’s Education (Twain himself was bankrupt at this time)

“For & in behalf of Helen Keller,

Mr. Rogers will remember our visit with that astonishing girl at Lawrence Hutton’s house when she was 14 years old. Last July, in Boston, when she was 16 she underwent the Harvard examination for admission to Radcliffe College. She passed without a single condition. She was allowed only the same amount of time that is granted to other applicants, & this was shortened in her case by the fact that the question-papers had to be read to her. Yet she scored an average of 90, as against an average of 78 on the part of the other applicants.

It won’t do for America to allow this marvelous child to retire from her studies because of poverty. If she can go on with them she will make a fame that will endure in history for centuries. Along her special lines she is the most extraordinary product of all the ages

I beg you to lay siege to your husband & get him to interest himself and Messrs. John D. & William Rockefeller & the other Standard Oil chiefs in Helen’s case…[to] pile that Standard Oil Helen Keller College Fund as high as they please; they have my consent.”

The result of this letter was that Mr. Rogers personally took charge of Helen Keller’s fortunes, and out of his own means made it possible for her to continue her education and to achieve for herself the enduring fame which Mark Twain had foreseen.

Twain's Reaction to this News:

It is superb! And I am beyond measure grateful to you both. I knew you would be interested in that wonderful girl, & that Mr. Rogers was already interested in her & touched by her; & I was sure that if nobody else helped her you two would; but you have gone far & away beyond the sum I expected—may your lines fall in pleasant places here, & Hereafter for it!

Ever sincerely yours,

Examples of Public and Private Praise for Keller from Twain:

“…at sixteen years of age this miraculous creature, this wonder of all the ages, passes the Harvard University examination in Latin, German, French history, belles lettres, and such things, and does it brilliantly, too, not in a commonplace fashion. She doesn't know merely things, she is splendidly familiar with the meanings of them.

Has Miss Sullivan taught her by the methods of the American public school? No, oh, no; for then she would be deafer and dumber and blinder than she was before. It is a pity that we can't educate all the children in the asylums!”

-from a Mark Twain Speech

Below is a letter from Twain to Helen in 1903:

Riverdale - on - the Hudson
St. Patrick's Day, 1903

Dear Helen:

I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they'll say, "there they come--sit down in front." I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger's last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well--you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.

Every lovingly your friend (sic)

Blindness is an exciting business, I tell you; if you don't believe it get up some dark night on the wrong side of your bed when the house is on fire and try to find the door.”

- Mark Twain quoted by Helen Keller, in her book Midstream

Keller Visits Twain in Redding:

Helen Keller visited Twain for three days in January of 1909. She was 28 years old and had recently released her second major work: “The World I Live In

The copy Twain received was inscribed:

Dear Mr. Clemens, come live in my world a little while/Helen Keller.”

In response, he had said that she must come to his world first, and to bring Annie (Sullivan) Macy & John Macy with her.

I command you all three, to come and spend a few days with he in Stormfield.

Of all the visitors to Stormfield none wrote a more vivid description of the place than Helen Keller.

Nothing escaped her senses, from the “tang in the air of cedar and pine” as she made her approach to the smell of “burning fireplace logs, orange tea and toast with strawberry jam” which were served shortly after her arrival.

That which she could not see was “spelled” into her hands by her teacher, Annie Sullivan Macy, a.k.a. “The Miracle Worker” as Twain called her.

It was not generally known that Keller had a great sense of humor, but it was one of the things Twain liked best about her.

When he showed her to her room on the first night at Stormfield, he told her that if she needed anything, she would find an ample supply of cigars and bourbon in the bathroom.

When he gave her a tour of the billiards room, he offered to teach her the game. She took the bait and innocently replied, “Oh Mr. Clemens, it takes sight to play billiards.” Not the way his friends played, he answered. “The blind couldn’t play worse.”

More Examples of Keller’s Sense of Humor

When she met Dr. Furness, the Shakespearean scholar, he warned her not to let the college professors tell her too many assumed facts about the life of Shakespeare; all we know, he said, is that Shakespeare was baptized, married, and died.

"Well," she replied, "he seems to have done all the essential things."

Once a friend, who was learning the manual alphabet, kept making "g," which is like the hand of a sign-post, for "h," which is made with two fingers extended.

Finally Miss Keller told him to "fire both barrels."

Back to the Visit to Twain’s Stormfield

The highlight of Helen’s visit came on the final evening when Twain read to her his short story: Eve’s Diary.

He sat in a big armchair by the fire while Helen followed the story with an ecstatic expression on her face. At the very last line: “Wherever she was, there was Eden.” (Twain’s tribute to his wife Livy) Helen became tearful.

In her journal, Twain’s secretary wrote: “She quivered with delight, and he was shaken with emotion & could hardly find his voice again. It was a marvel to behold.”

In the Guestbook of Stormfield she wrote:

I have been in Eden three days and I saw a King. I knew he
was a King the minute I touched him though I had never touched a
King before
~ A Daughter of Eve. Helen Keller Jan. 11

Twain understood her meaning so completely that he wrote beside it:

The point of what Helen says above, lies in this: that I read the ‘Diary of Eve’ all through, to her last night; in it Eve frequently mentions things she saw for the first time but instantly knew what they were & named them- though she had never seen them before.”

In Keller’s ‘The Story of My Life’, she recalls the joy of learning the names of things after she acquired the gift of language: “…the more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous & confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the World.”

As a way of thanking Annie Sullivan Macy for helping to bring Helen’s imagination to life, Twain handed her a small souvenir before she left Stormfield.

It was a postcard on which he wrote:

To Mrs. John Sullivan Macy with warm regard & with limitless admiration of the wonders she has performed as a *miracle-worker.”

*It would take 50 years for the term “miracle-worker” to catch on, via the Broadway show about Annie by playwright William Gibson.

Twain was amazed that Helen had been able to transform everything around her into a reality only she could imagine.

A well put together unreality is pretty hard to beat,” was his response to a friend who remarked that Helen’s “concept of things…must lack reality.”

In Huckleberry Finn- written long before he met Helen – Twain wrote:

it’s lovely to live on a raft…nothing to hear nor nothing to see.”

Twain and Keller had a Lot in Common:

1. Mark Twain was a pre-mature baby with little hope of surviving, let alone succeeding.

Helen Keller lost her vision and hearing at 19 months and had little hope for success.

Both “survived” and became successful Authors, Public Speakers and Celebrities.

2. Over the course of her life Helen came to accept religious and political beliefs quite different from those of her family and friends.

In 1906, Twain pondered what future audiences (100 years later) would say about his unpublished comments on religious bigotry and social hypocrisy…

He noted that “The 2006 edition (of his Autobiography) will make a stir when it comes out.”


In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

3. They both dealt with people who wished to take advantage of them.
"As she had her entire life, the luminous Helen inspired intrigues and power struggles, as her acquaintances and advisers fought with one another to gain possession of her."

The same can be said for Twain who endured a painful “power struggle” between his daughters and business associates in the final year of his life.

4. They were both well traveled but both chose Fairfield County as their final homes.

During her lifetime, Helen Keller lived in many different places—Tuscumbia, Alabama; Cambridge and Wrentham, Massachusetts; Forest Hills, New York, but perhaps her favorite residence was her last, the house in Easton, Connecticut she called "Arcan Ridge."

The same can be said about Samuel L. Clemens. He too lived in many places, and yet fell in love with the beauty of his final residence… Redding, Connecticut.

I was never in this beautiful region until yesterday evening. Miss Lyon and the architect built and furnished the house without any help or advice from me, and the result is entirely to my satisfaction.”

It is charmingly quiet here. The house stands alone, with nothing in sight but woodsy hills and rolling country.”

-Samuel L. Clemens letter to Dorothy Quick dated June 19, 1908

Both died of heart disease.

Helen Keller lived at 163 Redding Road in Easton, Connecticut. She died in her sleep on June 1, 1968 at the age of 87. The cause of her death was arteriosclerosis heart disease (Twain died of Heart troubles too. His were tied to his life long smoking habit).

Twain died in the twilight hours of April 21, 1910, at the age of 74.

6. Since their deaths, their names have lived on…

She will live on, one of the few, the immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith.”

Eulogy by Senator J. Lister Hill of Alabama

To celebrate the 176th anniversary of Twain's birth Google painted its logo using its patented "Doodle" to render the world of Twain's Tom Sawyer, who famously cajoled friends to whitewash a fence for him.

Mark Twain and Helen Keller's Relationship will be showcased at Easton, Connecticut's Public Library starting May 1st, 2012.

Wednesday, March 7

A Mark Twain Tourism Trail in Connecticut? Why Not?!

Last week I came across a new website launched by the Connecticut Office of Tourism called My Connecticut Story.

The homepage said-


And I thought- "What a Great Opportunity to Promote the Twain Tourism Trail."

My entry is available by following the link below:

My Connecticut Story

The contest runs until May 25, 2012 so VOTE OFTEN!

Thank you!

Friday, March 2

Map of Twain's Connecticut

I have updated the Google Map I created several years ago to include all the towns and cities in Connecticut connected to Mark Twain:

Mark Twain's Connecticut

Tuesday, February 14

Mark Twain on Love and Marriage

Hartford, Nov. 27/1888

Livy Darling, I am grateful — gratefuler than ever before — that you were born, & that your love is mine & our two lives woven & welded together!


Mark Twain on Love-

"Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century."
- Twain's Notebook

Mark Twain on Marriage-

"Marriage -- yes, it is the supreme felicity of life. I concede it. And it is also the supreme tragedy of life. The deeper the love the surer the tragedy. And the more disconsolating when it comes."
- Letter written to Father Fitz-Simon, June 5, 1908

Monday, February 13

Life Lessons from Mark Twain

"... life does not consist mainly -- or even largely -- of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one's head." -Mark Twain

The lesson:
There are two lessons that can be learned from this quote.

One: Be mindful that each one of us awakens each morning and faces an internal battle with our thoughts, feelings and personal desires. Take that into consideration when interacting with other people and realize that their position on a topic or reaction to your opinion is based solely on their perceptions.

Two: Give yourself a break. A lot of what's floating around up there has nothing to do with reality. Focus on the positives, ignore the negatives and if you really want something- stop dreaming about it, set some goals and go get it.

Saturday, February 11

Forever a Reddingite...

The opening line of Mark Twain's last will and testament begins...

"I, Samuel L. Clemens of the Town of Redding."

And he is very much a part of the Town of Redding one hundred+ years later.

Lead By Example

"It's noble to be good, and it's nobler to teach others to be good, and less trouble."
- Twain's remarks at the opening of the Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut 1908.

Thursday, February 9

Mark Twain and Helen Keller Exhibit

"The two most interesting characters of the nineteenth century are Helen Keller and Napoleon Bonaparte."
- Mark Twain, New York Sun, April 10, 1903

Easton Public Library in Easton, Connecticut will be hosting our Mark Twain and Helen Keller Exhibit in April and May of this year.

More info soon.

Tuesday, February 7

Mark Twain on Habits

"You can't reach old age by another man's road. My habits protect my life but they would assassinate you."
- 70th birthday speech, 1905

And here's proof of that- Mark Twain's bedside table in Hartford, CT...

Anyone else would have likely blown themselves up.

Monday, February 6

Bob Marley

"Manifestly, dying is nothing to a really great and brave man."

Mark Twain wrote that in a letter to his wife Olivia in reference to Ulysses S. Grant but it could just as easily be applied to Bob Marley today.

Today would have been Bob Marley's 67th birthday. Marley who died of cancer in 1981 at age 36 was and still is the icon of reggae music. His hits: "Get Up, Stand Up," "No Woman, No Cry," "Jamming," and "One Love." are timeless anthems of justice, unity and love that are still relevant today-- thirty+ years after his death.

Bob Marley truly was a great and brave man whose faith allowed him the strength to not to see death as a negative but as a positive... a step closer to God.

To quote another Twain quote on the topic:

"Death is the starlit strip between the companionship of yesterday and the reunion of tomorrow."

One would hope that many of the reunited are "Jamming" up in Heaven today.

Happy Birthday Mr. Bob Marley, may you rest in peace.