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Ever the Twain Will Meet

Kathy Werner
Posted 6/23/23

  Mark Twain, that legendary American author, once lived in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife and children.   Luckily for us, his beautiful home has been restored and must be one of the …

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Ever the Twain Will Meet


 Mark Twain, that legendary American author, once lived in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife and children.   Luckily for us, his beautiful home has been restored and must be one of the best historic houses with adjoining museums in America. I have long wanted to visit it, and my wish came true last Saturday when my sister Mary took me there.

Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, in 1835, the sixth of seven children.  When he was 11, his father died, and Sam went to work.  He set type by hand for a local printer and soon began working for his brother’s Hannibal Journal newspaper. By age 18 he traveled East and worked for several newspapers. In 1857 at the age of 22, he became a riverboat pilot, and it was from this profession that he acquired his well-known nom-de-plume.“Mark twain” is a nautical term that referred to the way riverboat pilots would measure the depth of the water to assure safe passage. “Twain” meant two and referred to the two fathoms (12 feet) depth that riverboats needed to travel safely. His career as a riverboat pilot was over when the Civil War stopped traffic on the Mississippi. Sam then headed West, where a failed attempt at silver mining brought him back to writing for newspapers and where he first began using his famous pen name.

He became a successful travel writer and lecturer but yearned to marry and raise a family. On a trip to Egypt (which became “Innocents Abroad”) he met Charles Langdon. Charles showed Twain a photograph of his sister Olivia(Livy), and he was smitten. The Langdons were one of the leading families of Elmira, NY, and Langdon père was unimpressed with Twain’s prospects, but after several years of courtship, Livy and Sam were married. His in-laws built and furnished a beautiful house for the new couple in Buffalo where Sam had secured work, but they soon moved to Hartford, one of the most prosperous cities in the country. There they built the beautiful home where he and Livy raised their family and where he wrote both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Twain said of his house, “To us, our house… had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies.” It was where he and Livy spent their happiest years with their three daughters (a son named Langdon had died of diphtheria before the age of 2).

The museum itself is a treasure trove, with an extensive timeline and artifacts from Clemens’ life, a short Ken Burns’ film about Twain, and a fascinating exhibit about the places that Clemens and his family spent their summers. They often went to Elmira to his in-law’s farm, but also visited the Adirondacks, as well as the Onteora Club in Tannersville, which was an artists’ enclave founded in 1887 by Candace Wheeler and others.  Wheeler was a partner with Louis Tiffany and created the wallpaper and fabrics used in the Twain home. The Onteora Club still exists and information about it can be found athttps://onteoraclub.com/Home.aspx .

Give yourself plenty of time when you go to visit. We were there for nearly three hours and could have stayed for several more. You must take a guided tour in order to go inside the Twain house. With more time, we would have visited the Harriet Beecher Stowe house next door (separate admission).

The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford is wonderful. For more info, visit https://marktwainhouse.org/.


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