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