Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas with the Clemens Family

Christmas at the Mark Twain House is one of my favorite times of the year. The house is transformed into something even more beautiful and exquisite, if you can believe it. We're fortunate that Sam and the family wrote down so many of their memories of Christmas; it was a special time for the family and we're honored to be able to share their memories with so many visitors during the holiday season. I thought it would be nice to share some of these stories and photos for those of you who haven't been able to visit the home during the holidays. Mind you, the photos do little justice to the actual feeling of being inside the house, so I hope you'll make your way to Hartford to visit anyhow. But for now, as you read on let yourself imagine that you are visiting the house on Christmas Eve day, 1881.

You pull up to the house in your horse-drawn sleigh and your coachman helps you step down. You walk up to the front door and knock and wait for their butler George to greet you and welcome you into the house. As you enter the home you are in awe at how the lights twinkle off the stenciling in the front hall, and the beautiful greenery they have carefully placed on the mantle and above each doorway. As you enter further you glance at the fireplace and you see two bootprints on the floor. George takes your coats and from the next room a little girl runs out to say hello. She sees you looking at the bootprints and tells you that Santa left those there years back and told the girls not to clean it up as it would be a reminder to them to be good all year long. She leads you into the next room where Mr. Clemens, Mrs. Clemens and the other two daughters, Clara and Jean are waiting to greet you and wish you a Merry Christmas. Susy, Clara and Jean show off their decorations that they've made for the Christmas tree. Paper ornaments, crochet snowflakes, popcorn and cranberries and tinsel adorn the tree. The tree has just been decorated and the scent of the fresh green tree fills the room. You sit near Mrs. Clemens and tea is brought into the room. She tells you that this holiday season has been so busy and a bit hectic with the decorators still finishing the decorating within the first floor of the house, and putting together all of the gift baskets that you saw in the front hall which are to be delivered to some of the needy families in Hartford this evening and of course, shopping for the girls. Speaking of the girls, they've just begun playing the piano and singing Christmas carols and are encouraging you to sing along! "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!" After the song, you stand up to say good-bye, as you have a few other friends to see before the day is over. Mrs. Clemens asks if you'd like to see the rest of the first floor before you leave, she knows the girls would like to show you what they've been working on. She walks you through the dining room, where the table is set for what is sure to be an elegant dinner this evening. On the table, there is a beautiful silver centerpiece. You ask her where she got the epergne, and she tells you it was on the table during their wedding reception, a gift. You follow her into the library where there is a fire crackling in the fireplace and the table is covered in paper, string and popcorn. The girls have been busy at work finishing the last of the ornaments for the tree. They've spend the past few days popping corn in the fireplace and stringing it along with the cranberries, crocheting and cutting out paper snowflakes, and making cornucopias to fill with nuts. In the alcove there are scraps of cloth and sewing materials and Mrs. Clemens tells you that the girls made doll clothes for a cousin of theirs as a gift and haven't cleaned their mess yet. As she walks you back into the front hall to have George gather your coat you peek back into the drawing room where the girls are talking animatedly with their father, relaxed now that their duty to entertain is over... for now. Their house is simply enchanting with the decorations, festive and yet homey. The girls have helped to decorate and it's clear that this is a family home and they are all so happy to be here together celebrating the holiday.

George helps you into your coat and you say good-bye to Mrs. Clemens and walk outside to your sleigh, waiting to take you to your next destination. You look back the house as you leave and through the window you can see that Mrs. Clemens has joined the family in the drawing room, and it is picture perfect, seeing them all together in their beautiful home.

(Photo credits for the front door, front hall, drawing room and dining room to Hunter Neal)


“Joy, and peace be with you and about you, and the benediction of God rest upon you this day! …There is something beautiful about all that old hollowed Christmas legend! It mellows a body – it warms the torpid kindnesses and charities into life. And so I hail my darling, with a great, big, whole-hearted Christmas blessing. God be and abide with her evermore.” -Mark Twain, to his wife Olivia, Christmas of 1871.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Spirit of the Season!

I stumbled upon this great website today. It's called Redefine Christmas, and is based out of Westport, CT and it aimed at getting people to "change the way we look at giving and receiving." As a little kid Christmas was all about getting presents and asking Santa for toys and dolls and clothes. As I got older it was still fun to get presents but I began getting involved with food drives and volunteering at the food pantry to help put baskets together. I began to realize that during this season of family and giving, there were families out there who couldn't afford to give presents to their kids or make a nice meal. Christmas and the holidays should be about not only giving to your family, but giving to others as well. Redefine Christmas is working to create awareness about this simple idea that so many have forgotten and is hoping that people will give donations as gifts to charities and to the less fortunate. It's a wonderful idea and it's so nice to see a website (and Facebook and Twitter) dedicated to this cause.

It reminded me also of the Clemens' Christmas. Every year the family would exchange gifts, the girls would get letters from Santa and presents laid out in their classroom to open on Christmas morning. And an important tradition that they took part in every year was to create gift baskets for the poor in Hartford. According to Katy Leary, their housekeeper, “She [Livy] always had a crowd of people, children and old people and grown-up people, too, depending on her and she fixed them up wonderful baskets with a big turkey and cans of peas and tomatoes and vegetables and then, oh, a bottle of wine and a great big box of candy, and nuts and raisins, and then there was always some stockings and underwear and a few pretty things, too. She used to give every one of them a present, individual-like, extra. She knew, it seems to me, just what each person wanted most and she shopped for weeks before Christmas, doing up all those things and having all those baskets ready…” And then on Christmas Eve the Clemens girls would get dressed up in their winter outfits and get in the sleigh with Patrick the coachman and deliver the baskets to the needy families they were created for. Livy continued this practice well into the time when the family was having financial hardship, knowing that there were other families who were still less fortunate than they.

Let's all invoke the spirit of Livy and remember that we have the ability to help make someone else's holiday better. Make a donation is someone's name as a gift, or ask that others do it for you as your gift.

Happy holidays!


“Joy, and peace be with you and about you, and the benediction of God rest upon you this day! …There is something beautiful about all that old hollowed Christmas legend! It mellows a body – it warms the torpid kindnesses and charities into life. And so I hail my darling, with a great, big, whole-hearted Christmas blessing. God be and abide with her evermore.” -Mark Twain, to his wife Olivia, Christmas of 1971

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ghost Hunters Premiere and Contests!

So by now everyone knows that Ghost Hunters visited The Mark Twain House back in September. Everyone's been asking us when the show would air and now we know! The Mark Twain House episode of Ghost Hunters will air on December 2nd! To celebrate we are holding a premiere party in collaboration with the Connecticut Science Center that night! The evening will start with the Smoking Gun Research Agency (a local ghost hunting group) talking about the equipment they use and the sciences behind what they do. THEN at 9pm the show will air! Check out the preview! And to win tickets to this event, read on!

We're holding a YouTube contest for Twain's birthday, which is November 30th. We want YOU to upload a video of you, your brother, your kids, whoever... singing happy birthday to Mark Twain! Upload it to YouTube with the tag MarkTwainHouse and then head over to our YouTube page and post the link in our comments section! Upload it by end of day on November 30th, we will judge and pick a winner on December 1st and you'll be on your way to the premiere on the 2nd! GOOD LUCK!

The relationship with Ghost Hunters began a while back when the show called us to inquire about filming on site. At the time staff was short and we weren't able to pursue having them come on site. Then this past August Ghost Hunters inquired again and we took them up on their offer! Our marketing coordinator worked with the producers to agree upon two nights where our staff and their staff could be on site. For two consecutive nights in September the TAPS crew came to the house and did their investigation. We weren't allowed to tell anyone that TAPS was coming or which nights they would be here; we were afraid that Ghost Hunters fans would swarm the house! The first night is the official investigation. No staff is allowed inside or around the house while the investigation is happening so we don't impact the outcome. The TAPS crew stayed from about 5pm-5am filming. They came back the next night to film interviews with staff and other footage inside and around the house. About a month later they came back to the house and filmed the reveal. When you watch the show you'll see the reveal is filmed inside the front hall of the house, with our very own Rebecca Floyd, Manager of Interpretive Services! Rebecca is the only staff member at the Mark Twain House who actually knows if and what Ghost Hunters found. She has been sworn to secrecy and try as we might, she hasn't said a word about it. So just like you, we are all waiting for the December 2nd airing to see what's going on inside our house! We hope to see you all at the CT Science Center to watch the premiere with us!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ghostly experiences at The Mark Twain House

Our Graveyard Shift Friday night ghost tours have been so popular that we sold out the month of October within a couple of weeks. We've been getting great feedback from those who have taken the tour. For those who have been to the house in the past, they say it's great to see the house in a new light (literally, it's REALLY dark). And for those who have come to the house for the first time, they are interested in coming back for the full tour. BUT the most interesting are the comments from the people who have experiences in the house while on the ghost tour!

A week ago, 3 women on one of the tours said they distinctly heard children giggling on the floor above them, when there was no one else inside the house. Another girl said she heard heavy breathing behind her, when there was no one there, in the same spot in the house where our local CT paranormal investigators heard heavy breathing as well, and we hadn't told that story to the tour yet! Another gentleman heard a crash on the floor above them, when again, they were the only people in the house. All of these incidences are interesting, except that only a few people on the tour heard or felt something.

But then, last night, that all changed. Last night on the 9pm ghost tour the ENTIRE TOUR heard the same thing. While the tour was in the master bedroom and the tour guide was talking, at one point he stopped talking and the whole tour turned around because they all heard voices coming from the first floor of the house. It was loud enough that Jason, the tour guide, heard it and had to stop talking. I was told it was two male voices, clearly having a conversation, but the words were indistinct. Jason assumed that it was some of his colleagues beginning to close up the house since he was the last tour going through... except that he was the only male staff member working last night. Still, he assumed he had heard wrong and told his tour that it must be Twain staff members downstairs. It scared someone on the tour so much though, that he was asked to yell downstairs and see who it was. So Jason walked out to the balcony and called down, "Caitlin? Mallory? If that's you please say something because we can hear you." Silence. At this point Jason started to get a little nervous. But he walked back into the master bedroom and continued on with his tour. A couple of rooms later, while Jason was discussing the girl's classroom, the same thing happened. He was interrupted by the sound of two men talking on the first floor of the house. Now, the way the house is set up, the rooms on the second floor are all situated around the grand staircase that winds its up the middle of the house. That means that if anyone is talking in the front hall, where the staircase begins, if you're on the second floor you will hear them talking. So again, Jason stopped talking and the ENTIRE TOUR listened to two men conversing, and then the noise disappeared. At this point Jason was not able to reassure his tour that it was his colleagues, because now he was a little freaked out. After his tour Jason asked every staff person if they had been in the house while he was giving his tour, and none of us had. So, where did the voices come from that 22 people heard?

Come and see if you have an experience of your own!
Dates available: 10/1, 11/6, 11/13 and 11/14. 5 tours a night beginning at 6pm and running every 45 minutes with the last tour at 9pm. Call for availability, 860-280-3154.


"Then I became conscious that my chamber was invaded -- that I was not alone. I heard sighs and breathings about my bed, and mysterious whisperings." - Mark Twain, A Ghost Story

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tapping into Twain - Oktoberfest 2009!

Our 2nd annual Oktoberfest is coming up next week! Last year's event sold out at 302 tickets and we are determined to make this year bigger and better! We have more brews, more food and great music lined up for the evening!

Tickets are $35 in advance by calling 860.280.3154. For designated drivers, those who want to come and enjoy the food and music but will not be drinking, we have a $15 ticket. If you procrastinate and decide to take your chances at the door, tickets are $45.


The Hartford Better Beer Co. will be pouring their Arch Amber Ale, which is named after the Soldiers and Sailors Arch in downtown Hartford; Arch IPA which is new this week; and Praying Mantis Porter, our state insect!

ROGO Distributors is bringing Otter Creek, Saranac Pale Ale and Saranac Pumpkin Ale, Ubu Ale and Ubu IPA.

Franklin Distributors will be on site with some Belgian beers that they say most people haven't tried; a couple of Oktoberfests and LOTS and LOTS of Magic Hat! Magic Hat #9, Magic Hat Circus Boy, Magic Hat Roxy Rolles and Magic Hat Odd Notion, a Belgian chocolate stout.

Rhode Island Distributing will have Shipyard Pumpkinhead, Sea Dog Pumpkin and Narragansett.

Local brewery City Steam will be pouring their well-know Naughty Nurse Amber Ale and their Acapulco Gold Pale Ale.

Olde Burnside Brewing will be here again this year with Ten Penny Ale, Dirty Penny and Pennyweiz.

John Harvard's will be here as well with some of their locally made brews.

Hartford Distributors will be on hand with the brand new Budlight Golden Wheat.

You may also see Long Trail, Hooker, Blue Point and more, but you'll have to show up to find out!


There will be sliders, thai chicken salad and chocolate brownies from the Wood N Tap. Agave will chips and homemade guacamole, spicy beef empanadas and mango chicken.

Hook & Ladder is providing dalmatians (mini dogs wrapped in dough), Maxim Fire Engine Mac & Cheese and Captain Walsh’s Beer Battered Chicken Tenders. Rookie's in Cromwell will bring some of their chicken wings.

The Half Door is bringing their delicious Shepherd's pie. City Steam will have meatball sliders, apple butternut bisque and some of their homemade bread topped with mustard and duck.

Barb's Pizza is making some pizza bread. Moe's Southwest Grill is bringing some of their tortilla chips and famous salsas.

Vaughan's will be on site, food is TBD, but it will be delicious! The Kitchen at Billings Forge will also be here with another vegetarian option!


Zok's Home Brewing will also be on hand to answer any home brew questions that you have and to show you the latest and greatest home brew equipment!

Jeff Mainville's Acoustic Smackdown will provide the tunes.


"Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink-- under any circumstances." -Mark Twain

Monday, August 31, 2009

Would Mark Twain have tried to sell his family on Craigslist?

For the past few weeks The Mark Twain House staff has been busy putting together the final touches on our upcoming What Would Twain Tweet (W.W.T.T) event. As one of the panelists for the event, I've been doing some thinking about what Mark Twain would tweet, if he would have tweeted at all. BUT you'll have to come to find out my thoughts on that (for tickets, call me at 860.280.3154. $15 general admission, $10 members/Let's Go Arts).

The Hartford Courant wrote an article today about a listing they found on Craigslist. The listing title? "Perfectly Good Parents - $155". A man from Madison, CT listed his parents on Craigslist. I can say that's the first time I've ever seen anything like that on Craigslist, but when Craigslist offers everything else, why not? Michael Amatrudo said he was creating his own "social experiment" when he did it, and apparently it's working. He said he's even gotten emails from people (who realized it was a joke) and started playing along with him. And even his parents thought it was humorous.

This all made me wonder if Mark Twain ever would have thought to do this, or something similar, if Craigslist were around in his day. He did once post an interesting classified ad in the Hartford Courant after a young boy stole an umbrella of his at a baseball game:

To the Public

TWO HUNDRED & FIVE DOLLARS REWARD--At the great baseball match on Tuesday, while I was engaged in hurrahing, a small boy walked off with an English-made brown silk UMBRELLA belonging to me, & forgot to bring it back. I will pay $5 for the return of that umbrella in good condition to my house on Farmington avenue. I do not want the boy (in an active state) but will pay two hundred dollars for his remains.
Samuel L. Clemens.

While not quite the same as trying to sell your parents online, it makes use of a similar type of humor, don't you think?


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We've Gone Green

When The Mark Twain House & Museum Visitor's Center opened in November of 2003, it became the first museum in the nation with a LEED Certification. The LEED system looks at a building in terms of it's sustainability, it's performance standards, the materials used and the energy efficiency. What went into the Mark Twain House's Museum Center to make it LEED Certification ready? Well, the building was physically built into the side of a hill; which means the first floor of the building is actually underground. The contributes to a smaller heat loss and gain throughout the day. The lighting fixtures outside the building were created to have less glare and less night-sky impact. Geothermal wells are the primary source of heating and cooling, rather than using fossil fuels. A high percentage of materials used to build the facility came from local sources, less than 500 miles away. The building also was created to allow for future energy savings, space for solar panels and fuel cells.

A recent article in NBC Connecticut talks about how the museum is currently looking into getting solar panels installed. This came after CL&P approached The Mark Twain House about our energy costs. After doing some research it was determined that the museum center was in need of a lightbulb overhaul. The 50 watt bulbs that had been used throughout most of the galleries were able to be changed; now the lighting is the same but with a 3 watt bulb instead. CL&P ended up changing 457 lightbulbs throughout the museum center, which has resulted in HUGE savings for the museum. The electric bill alone has been cut in half! Thank you to CL&P for all of the amazing work they did for us!


"I spent a night at General Singleton's--one of the farmer princes of Illinois--he lives two miles from Quincy, in a very large and elegantly furnished house, and does an immense farming business and is very wealthy. He lights his house with gas made on the premises--made from the refuse of petroleum, by pressure. The apparatus could be stowed in a bath-room very conveniently. All you have to do is to pour a gallon or two of the petroleum into a brass cylinder and give a crank a couple of turns and the business is done for the next two days. He uses seventy burners in his house, and his gas bills are only a dollar and a quarter a week. I don't take any interest in prize bulls, astonishing jackasses and prodigious crops, but I took a strong fancy to that gas apparatus." - Mark Twain

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Come play at the Mark Twain House!

...AND meet Mr. Twain himself! In Lego form that is. If you've visited The Mark Twain House & Museum since April you may have seen a 7 1/2 foot Twain House made of Lego, and even a little tiny Mark Twain standing on the porch. Now, starting on July 30th you can meet a life size Twain!

July 30th, 4-7pm, we'll be hosting an ice cream social to welcome our brand new ice box to the house.

*Enjoy some free ice cream, graciously donated by UConn Dairy Bar, and we'll be providing all the delicious toppings to go along with it.
soda donated by Avery's Beverages, made right next door in New Britain, CT!
musical performances by Bandstand Barbershop Quartet and EQuilibrium Dance Theatre. *Weather permitting there will be games on the lawn; crochet and hoops!
*And of course we'll be doing tours of the servants' wing of the house to welcome the new ice box for $5. (See previous article for more information and pictures on the ice box).
*The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center will also be involved, leaving their museum and house open for tours and doing Plein Air painting.

So be sure to stop by and see us, and say hello to Sam!
When: July 30th from 4-7pm
Where: 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford
How much: FREE!


"Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do." - Mark Twain

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recent celebrity deaths and Twain

Recently, it has been hard to avoid the media coverage of celebrity deaths. Famous figures including Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon have died in the past few weeks. Though media scrutiny is obviously more intense than it was a century ago, Mark Twain received an immense amount of press about his death -- even when unwarranted!

As word of Jackson’s hospitalization emerged on June 25, several outlets gave conflicting stories as to his status. Additionally, on the same day that Jackson and Fawcett died, rumors circulated on the internet that actor Jeff Goldblum had died as well. In 1897, Twain was similarly the subject of false death gossip when The New York Journal inaccurately published Twain’s obituary. The mistake occurred after one of Twain’s cousins grew gravely ill and word spread incorrectly. Twain responded humorously to the mix-up with his famous quotation, “The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”

While countless celebrities garner media coverage, only a rare few are paid tribute by the U.S. President after their deaths. President Obama recognized Jackson’s star power by noting in an interview the “great joy that [Jackson] brought to a lot of people through his extraordinary gifts.” In a similar fashion, after Twain’s passing, President Taft said, “Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions… He has made an enduring part of American literature.”

Although Twain’s death was national front-page news, his funeral was not a public spectacle like the televised events of some contemporary celebrities. Instead, the ceremony was attended by a small number of relatives and close friends. Nevertheless, Twain’s fans made their gratitude known following the service by covering his grave with notes of appreciation and flowers.

In his tongue-and-cheek essay “At the Funeral,” Mark Twain wrote, “If the odor of the flowers is too oppressive for your comfort, remember that they were not brought there for you and that the person for whom they were brought suffers no inconvenience from their presence.” We can expect that Twain reacted to the gifts of flowers in the manner any newly deceased individual should: with indifference.

- Kevin Mathews

"Death, the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the erring, the forsaken, the old and weary and broken of heart." -Mark Twain

Monday, July 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla!

Happy Birthday Mr. Tesla! (July 10, 1856) Nikola Tesla is regarded as one of the world's most renowned thinkers and inventors when it comes to electricity. Many of his inventions are still used today, and many of us never think about where it comes from. "The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment. His alternating current induction motor is considered one of the ten greatest discoveries of all time. Among his discoveries are the fluorescent light , laser beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla’s turbines and vertical take off aircraft. Tesla is the father of the radio and the modern electrical transmissions systems. He registered over 700 patents worldwide." (from the Tesla Memorial Society of NY website)

Nikola Tesla and Sam Clemens were good friends beginning in the 1880's. Sam was always fascinated by new inventions and was constantly on the lookout for new investments. An invention of Tesla's came Sam's way and impressed him greatly. Tesla lived in New York City when he moved to the United States, and some of his friends happened to be friends with Clemens as well. As their social circles started to mingle, Clemens and Tesla eventually ended up meeting at a popular gentleman's club in the city. In 1894 Tesla invited Clemens to his lab, along with a few other friends, which is where the famous picture of Sam in Tesla's lab comes from.

Tesla and Clemens remained good friends until Sam's
death in 1910; writing correspondence whenever they could about the latest inventions and patents. Tesla greatly admired Clemens' writing and work, and Clemens was highly fascinated by the work that Tesla did with electricity. It seems as though they were a match made in heaven.


Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work." -Mark Twain

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

If you've ever wondered what Mark Twain thought of the 4th of July and patriotism... brace yourself. An article in the Cleveland Examiner recently gave examples of Twain's quotes on patriotism, some of which I will include here.

If you know anything of what Twain thought of religion, then you know that this quote, "Patriotism is merely a religion -- love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country's flag, honor and welfare" isn't in support of patriotism. And if you don't know Twain's views on religion, there here you go: "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."

Some more quotes to ponder...
"[Patriotism] a word which always commemorates a robbery. There isn't a foot of land in the world which doesn't represent the ousting and re-ousting of a longline of successive "owners" who each in turn, as "patriots" with proud swelling hearts defended it against the next gang of "robbers" who came to steal it and did -- and became swelling-hearted patriots in their turn."

"...the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it."

"We teach them to take their patriotism at second-hand; to shout with the largest crowd without examining into the right or wrong of the matter -- exactly as boys under monarchies are taught and have always been taught. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place -- the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan."

Happy 4th of July from The Mark Twain House & Museum!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Welcome to the family!

As of this week, The Mark Twain House & Museum welcomes an icebox into the collections family! The icebox, circa 1890, has gone through rigorous and difficult tests in order to become a Mark Twain House & Museum collections piece.

Ice would have been delivered to houses in the 19th century by an iceman, and from the research we've done over the years, it looks as though the Clemenses bought a substantial amount of ice for the house. "The Clemens household used large quantities of ice. During the first five months of 1873, prior to the construction of their own house, Sam and Livy purchased 5750 lbs. of ice from the Hartford Ice Company (located on Pearl Street). An October 1880 invoice from the W.H. Ice and Pressed Brick Co. (also on Pearl Street) indicates that between April and October the family used, on average, 100 lbs. of ice every 2 to 4 days. Although some of this ice could have been used for drinks and to make desserts such as ice cream, the majority would have been used for refrigeration… In all likelihood there were several refrigerators in the Clemens house."

Tours of the servants' wing of the house are given daily, so if you'd like to come see our new icebox come on by and join the next tour! For the daily tour schedule, please call the front desk at 860-280-3129 the day of your visit.

See the icebox in action! Being unloaded when it was delivered.


Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death." -Mark Twain

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A note on Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass

Never heard of him? You sure? I think you have. T.J. Snodgrass, an early Mark Twain. Clemens used many different pen names in his early career (another was W. Epaminandos Adrastus Blab) and in the 1850s he used for a short time, Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.

This particular pen name is of note because this is one of the first times that Clemens begins to write in the vernacular. Snodgrass becomes something of a character for Clemens; as Kent Rasmussen puts it, "he makes 'Snodgrass' a country bumpkin with atrocious spelling and grammar...who comments disdainfully on big city life."In three letters that Clemens gets published in the Keokuk post, Snodgrass describes a trip on the railroad, seeing a play, and "a adventure".


"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice." -Mark Twain

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mark Twain on Islam and Christianity

Last October, The Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y., got an unexpected gift: A copy of William C. Prime’s Tent Life in the Holy Land, published in 1857. But this was not just any old copy of Tent Life in the Holy Land. It wasn’t until the donor, Irene Langdon, showed it to the Center’s archivist, Mark Woodhouse, that its value became apparent: it was chock full of annotations by Sam Clemens.

The book was known as one of the important sources for The Innocents Abroad, Clemens’ first major book as Mark Twain (and the book that got him to Hartford, because his publisher was here.) But no one had seen the witty, scathing comments Clemens put into Tent Life. He clearly considered Prime, a widely popular author, as pompous ass and Prime’s attitude toward the people of Egypt and Palestine loathsome. After a syrupy description of an Egyptian evening, Clemens wrote: “The sham Prime.” A paragraph later, when Prime is beating his donkey-boys to get them going in the morning, Clemens writes: “The real Prime.”

At the end of a chapter describing his visit to the purported tomb of Jesus, in an area of Jerusalem under Muslim control, Prime couldn’t control himself: Seeing Christian pilgrims there and the “sneering Turks,” he wrote that Christianity “will ere long – God grant it be soon! – sweep from the face of the earth every vestige of the religion of the camel-driver of Mecca.”

Mark Twain, who could sniff bigotry out from whatever source, wrote acidly next to this passage: “The charity & the gentleness that Christ taught?”

--- STEVE COURTNEY (with thanks to Mark Woodhouse for permission to use this)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Did You Know?

When Mark Twain was a young man he traveled all across the United States. When he was in his mid-thirties he traveled to the West and witnessed the nation as it was growing and moving across the country. He tried out his hand at silver mining, he saw land speculation and he even set fire to a mountain. In the book he describes his encounter with a coyote in the wild. Twain devotes 5 pages to a description of this animal, saying the coyote is "always poor, out of luck and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spiritless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it."

His entire description of the coyote is so detailed, and so particular, that it's no surprise that it would at some point be turned into a cartoon character. And that's exactly what animator Chuck Jones did. The famous character Wile E. Coyote, from the Road Runner cartoons, comes from Mark Twain's description that Jones read when he was 7. Mark Twain's writing made such an impression on Jones that he would eventually turn it into the cartoon character that so many of us loved as children.


"Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular coyote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquainted with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence." -Mark Twain

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Wine Tasting

The Mark Twain House & Museum cordially invites all of you to a glamorous evening of wine tasting, food sampling and music at 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut. The evening will take place on Friday, May 29, 2009 from 5:30-8:30pm.

This will be an evening you won't want to miss out on! Hopefully to become an annual spring event, we've planned to have lots of goodies to sample and taste while you walk your way around the Mark Twain House Museum Center. Allan S. Goodman is our presenting sponsor, bringing 16-20 different kinds of wines for the tasting. Ann Howard at the Bond will be providing an array of hors d'oeuvres and Ascot Catering will be creating some wonderful antipasto plates for us. Cabot Creamery will be sampling their finest cheeses, and there will be Lindt Chocolate to compliment the wines.

Jazz piano will be playing throughout the evening by Skip Steiner, as well as a special performance by a Hartford based a cappella group, The Sweetest Key.

The Hartford Courant recently ran a wonderful article on the event with some interviews with Mark Twain House & Museum Chief Curator, Patti Philippon; as well as an interview with Kerry Driscoll, a Twain scholar who is chair of the English Department at St. Joseph College in West Hartford.

Reservations are highly recommended as the last similar event we had (Oktoberfest 2008) sold out!! Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 at the door. To make reservations call Caitlin Thayer at 860.280.3154.

Check out the event on Facebook!


"Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink-- under any circumstances." -Mark Twain

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mark Twain in Popular Culture

There's been talk amongst some Mark Twain House staff lately about different shows and movies that Mark Twain appears in, so I thought I would share some of them with all of you!

In this episode the characters of Star Trek travel back in time and end up meeting Mark Twain! Whoopi Goldberg also plays a part in this episode. Each clip is roughly forty minutes in length. Twain makes an appearance halfway through part one, and continues on through part two.
Star Trek, "Time's Arrow Part I"
Star Trek, "Time's Arrow Part II"

A short, five minute clip from Bonanza, where Sam Clemens travels to Nevada and tries to get a job at a newspaper. A young Sam!
Bonanza, "Enter Mark Twain"

Actor Val Kilmer is in the middle of filming a movie (he plays Mark Twain) about the relationship between Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy (the discoverer of Christian Science). The film is still in the works, but a relative of mine who works at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston, MA told me that Kilmer calls the library frequently to ask a question pertaining to Eddy while still in Mark Twain character!
Val Kilmer's upcoming movie about Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy

Mark Twain makes a quick appearance in Sabrina the Teenage Witch when Sabrina needs the opinion of some famous authors on a newspaper article.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Twain is often quoted in TV and movies too! Share more movies that Mark Twain is in, or the shows that you know he has been quoted on!


"Everybody's private motto: It's better to be popular than right." -Mark Twain

Friday, April 10, 2009

12th Annual Young Writers Competition Awards Ceremony

After 11 years at the Litchfield Inn, the Young Writers Competition Awards Ceremony has moved to The Mark Twain House & Museum! This competition, which highlights works of poetry and prose submitted by teenagers from throughout the state, this year inspired the participation of over 580 students this year -- the third highest number of entries in the competition's 12 years -- and is sponsored by IMPAC and the Connecticut State University System. The ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 31, 2009, beginning at 7 p.m., following a reception that begins at 5:30 p.m.

"There could not be a better setting to honor outstanding young writers than the Mark Twain House & Museum. The talent and creativity of a new generation of Connecticut writers is clearly evident, and the inspiration that Mark Twain's example provides is especially fitting as we recognize their excellent prose and poetry," said David G. Carter, chancellor of the Connecticut State University System.

"These students certainly understand what Mark Twain was saying in 1888. The Mark Twain House &Museum is honored to host the 12th Annual Young Writers Award Ceremony. Hartford's Nook Farm was a haven for 19th century writers, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dudley Warner, and, of course, Mark Twain. I can not think of a more fitting location in Connecticut for this prestigious awards ceremony," said Jeffrey L. Nichols, executive director of The Mark Twain House & Museum.

The state winners in prose and poetry, to be announced at the Mark Twain House ceremony, will be invited, with a parent, to a week of festivities in Ireland connected with the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Dublin Writers Festival. There, they will also meet young writers from Europe and Asia. Their works will also be considered for publication in Connecticut Review, the literary journal published by the Connecticut State University System (CSUS).


"The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." -Mark Twain

Who doesn't love LEGO?

We all remember LEGO from our childhood. Well, at least I do. Being able to build houses and cars and then take them apart and do it all over again! Well, there's one house that was built that will not be taken apart. The LEGO Mark Twain House now resides on our site! The LEGO house was built back in the 1980s and had been traveling the country - until now! We are proudly displaying the LEGO MTH in our new exhibit space; Stories by the Fireside: A Readers' Room. The room boasts not only the LEGO MTH but also a cozy sitting area where visitors can watch footage of Clemens walking around his home from Stormfield; home video of Sam's granddaughter, Nina; Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain and a 1974 Bob Steele short film where he "meets Mark Twain." The room also has a sitting area for kids, with coloring books and word puzzles and artwork done by local visiting schools! There is also a section on Sam's daughter Jean. 2009 is the centennial of Jean's death, and we've put together a small collection of artifacts about Jean. Don't miss this great exhibition!


"To us our house was not unsentient matter--it had a heart & a soul & eyes to see us with, & approvals & solicitudes & deep sympathies; it was of us, & we were in its confidence, & lived in its grace & in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up & speak out its eloquent welcome--& we could not enter it unmoved." -Mark Twain

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Bill Cosby has been named the most recent honoree for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor! The Mark Twain Prize is considered the top prize for comedy in the country. The first honoree, Richard Pryor, was in 1998. Bill Cosby is probably best known for his work in The Cosby Show, but he's also known for being outspoken on many subjects, including vulgarity and race. Mark Twain probably (definitely) wouldn't have been on the same page with him on vulgarity but they would have been able to agree on the topic of race. While the two are decades apart, they have spoken out on many similar issues. In a Washington Times article, Cosby talks about the influence Twain has had on him, saying that stories like "How to Tell a Story" and "The Mysterious Stranger" have influenced his work and that when he was younger, his mother used to read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to him. "I would like to apologize to Mr. Twain for falling asleep hundreds of times, but he should understand that I was only four."

Past honorees include Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, Neil Simon, Billy Crystal and George Carlin.


"The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it." - Mark Twain, "How to Tell a Story"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Public Resignation

AIG (American International Group) has been in the news a lot lately, so it's not surprising that AIG showed up in the New York Times this past Tuesday. This time, it was a little different. An executive vice president of the financial products unit of AIG sent his resignation letter to the New York Times to be published. Jake DeSantis decided to publicly resign from AIG, stating that he was ashamed of the company for what is currently happening but proud of the work he had done. DeSantis received a bonus check for $742,000 from the company eight days before he resigned. In his resignation letter he states that if he is allowed to keep the money, he plans to donate the entire amount and will publish the recipients once he has done so.

How does this story connect to Mark Twain? Well, DeSantis currently lives in Redding, CT on the same property that Sam Clemens lived on at the end of his life. The piece written by the Connecticut Post describes DeSantis and his wife as "generous people with a lot of heart." The director of the Mark Twain Library (which donations from Clemens helped found, as well as a collection of his books) said that DeSantis has been a great friend of the library since moving there.


"In all the ages, three-fourths of the support of the great charities has been conscience money." - Mark Twain

Friday, March 13, 2009

Road Trip!

Craig Hotchkiss, the Education Department Program Manager here at the Twain House has taken his show on the road! Along with Sonya Green, the Program Coordinator at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the educational program Twain & Stowe: Effecting Social Change has branched out into libraries around Connecticut. Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe lived next door to each other here in Hartford, and both made a major impact on their worlds with their literature. The program, which takes a deeper look into the societal effects of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Uncle Tom's Cabin has quickly become a popular option for high school field trips. Students and teachers learn and come understand and appreciate how these small books had such a profound influence on race relations in the United States over the past 150 years, and why they continue to have relevance to our cross-cultural dialog even today. Libraries around Connecticut have now become interested in having this program done on their sites! Craig and Sonya have visited Goshen, Guilford and Derby; and are booked for Litchfield, Trumbull, Southbridge, Rockville and the New England Librarian Association convention in October!

Don't miss out on being able to have this interesting and informative program at your school or library! Call Craig Hotchkiss for details or to book the program! (860) 280-3146


"The self taught man seldom knows anything accurately, and he does not know a tenth as much as he could have known if he had worked under teachers, and besides, he brags, and is the means of fooling other thoughtless people into going and doing as he himself has done." -Mark Twain

Friday, March 6, 2009

2010: The Year of Mark Twain ... 2013: The Year of the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin

There is currently a petition going around to make 2010: The Year of Mark Twain. 2010 is the centennial of Mark Twain's death and Twain sites around the country will be honoring him with events and celebrations throughout the year. By the 262 signatures already on the petition it's clear from their comments that Mark Twain had made a significant impact, and should be honored nationally.


Just a couple of weeks ago, Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut introduced the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act. This act, which would mint 100,000 five-dollar gold coins and 500,000 silver dollar coins, would benefit the Mark Twain sites around the country. The sites benefiting would be The Mark Twain House & Museum here in Hartford, CT; the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, MO; and the sites in Elmira, NY and Berkeley, CA. The coins would go on sale in 2013, for a price that is yet to be determined. Potentially, if all goes as Sen. Dodd plans, each site would benefit tremendously from this project. Of the $35/$10 surcharges added to the prices of the $5/$1 coins, respectively, we would see 2/5 of those surcharges. The Mark Twain Project in Berkeley, CA, The Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, NY and The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, MO would each see 1/5. This one year project would help to ensure that Mark Twain sites around the country would be able to continue to promote and educate visitors about Mark Twain for years to come.

IMPORTANT FACT! This project won't cost you a dime! Unless of course, you'd like to spend your dimes to buy a coin. All costs will be covered by the sale of the coins. So if you're thinking, "Golly, I'd really love to own a Mark Twain Commemorative Coin!" contact your local Senator or Representative and tell them to support the bill!

The Numismatic News (The Complete Information Source for Coin Collectors) published an article about it yesterday, as well as the Hannibal Courier-Post.


"Some years ago on the gold coins we used to trust in God. It think it was in 1863 that some genious suggested that it be put on the gold and silver coins which circulated among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God....If I remember rightly, the President required or ordered the romoval of that sentence from the coins. Well, I didn't see that the statement ought to remain there. It wasn't true. But I think it would better read, "Within certain judicious limitations we trust in God," and if there isn't enough room on the coin for this, why enlarge the coin." -Mark Twain

Friday, February 27, 2009

1893 to 2009

I was reading an article the other day about a couple in Los Angeles who had to move out of their home and into an Airstream trailer in Oregon on their parents' farm. The couple, who lost their major source of income, had to decide what to do when they could no longer afford their expensive lifestyle. Remind you of anyone, maybe 108 years earlier? In 1891, Sam invested a large sum of money into an upcoming inventor and his typesetting machine. After putting his life savings into this invention, the whole enterprise went under and Sam lost everything. He and his wife, who relied on Sam's income, had to move out of their home in Hartford where they couldn't afford to keep their expensive lifestyle. They moved to Europe where Sam signed on to a year-long worldwide speaking tour. Now, living in European hotels isn't quite the same as living in an Airstream trailer on a farm in Oregon, but it's certainly a similar situation when you look at the time period and how the Clemenses had previously been living.

Whoever said that history repeats itself was a very smart person indeed. The United States suffered its first recession in 1797; since then it has repeated itself many times including 1807, 1837, 1893, 1929 and so on. The 1893 recession began with the failure of the Reading Railroad, costing people their jobs and costing the United States the trust Europe had in us. Banks collapsed (they didn't have billion dollar bailouts back then!) as unemployment rates rose higher and higher. Then and now recessions have had/has an affect on people from all over the country and the world, from all walks of life.

A story like this couple who lost their home in L.A. unfortunately isn't a unique one. While Sam's story was a bit different from most during his time, the underlying aspect of having to leave one's home to work off a debt wasn't.


"It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible." -Mark Twain

Friday, February 20, 2009

Race in America

I'm sure that many of you have read the news articles on the Attorney General's speech at the Justice Department about race. If you haven't, you can read the actual speech at:

His remarks, no matter how you feel about them, have to make you think about the change that has happened in this country's history in terms of race. Mark Twain certainly had a lot to say about that during his time. He grew up in the slave holding South (born 1835) and was able to see first hand the effects of slavery. From his childhood Clemens often refers to Uncle Dan'l, a slave who lived near his home, and talks about going to the slave cabins to hear Uncle Dan'l tell stories. Clemens remembers him as being "a faithful and affectionate good friend, ally and adviser." Once he begins to travel the rest of the country he is able to juxtapose his experience growing up in a slave state to his growing experiences with the rest of the country, and comes to his own conclusions about race and humanity. He grew to have very strong opinions about people's differences. His famous quote; "Travel is fatal to prejudice" had come from his time traveling the world, meeting different people and seeing new cultures that looked nothing like his own, and recognizing that though people were different, the one thing they all had in common was that they were all human. It was that simple. Twain was no coward to be writing and publishing his opinions on race and equality at the time he was. By the time Twain writes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) slavery had legally ended, but racism still ran rampant in the South. His book, while well received, had its critics. To this day there are still schools, even here in Connecticut, that continue to ban this book. Twain was outspoken on topics such as race during his lifetime, he certainly had the courage to put his opinions out in the open, publish them, and discuss them in any public forum.

"I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being--that is enough for me; he can't be any worse" -Mark Twain

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Welcome to the first edition of The Mark Twain House & Museum blog! In order to keep fans and visitors updated about how we're doing, we'll be updating this blog weekly with news, events and information about the week! Check back every Friday to stay connected and informed!

The Mark Twain House & Museum is a not for profit organization, dedicated to preserving the legacy and life of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The mission of The Mark Twain House & Museum is to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation's defining cultural figures, and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life and times.

We've been through a lot this past year, as you may have heard or read in the papers. One of the first major articles came out in the Hartford Advocate on May 8, 2008 about our situation; This was the first time the institution had been completely public about what had happened and where we were, which was in a very bad place. We ended this past fiscal year on January 31st, and happily we managed to end the year with a very small surplus! Because of the generous support of donors, new and old, we managed to make it through the year. This surplus is the first the museum has seen since the year 2000. We do, however, realize that the coming year will be tough and we'll need continued support to be able to keep the doors open. The situation we are in becomes even more real when we are seeing other cultural institution in Hartford close their doors;,0,5869959.story.

Thank you to all of you who have continued to support the museum and I hope to see everyone in the museum again this year! Check in every Friday for a new post and to hear about what went on during the week! Please visit our website for information on admissions, group visits, school tours and exhibitions;


"The lack of money is the root of all evil." Mark Twain