Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Gilded Age of Hartford: A Major Exhibit Now on View

The Mark Twain House & Museum is proud to present the new exhibition in the Museum Center: The Gilded Age of Hartford! The exhibit opened Friday March 15th and features artifacts and rare items from the museum’s collections revolving around Hartford Connecticut’s period of wealth, poverty, dynamism, oppression, plutocracy, populism, corruption, and reform. Twain was an active member of the community and his own ideas and life helped to depict the varying dimensions of the time.

            The Gilded Age spanned from the middle to the late 19th century. During that time, Hartford underwent many reforms and prosperous endeavors. Gas lighting was a major breakthrough for citizens; Mark Twain often felt annoyed about it and in 1891 complained to the Hartford City Gas Light Company about randomly shutting off lights without informing citizens ahead of time. Also, the telephone had been invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, and in 1877-1878, Mark Twain had a telephone line in his home connecting to the Hartford Courant and two of their editors. He was not the best, however, at operating the telephone and regularly recorded his troubles on a homemade chart. Another reform of this period was with sanitation. People began realizing the need for better sanitation to stop the spread of diseases and to make life better, in general, especially for the lower classes. The railway at Union Depot was introduced in 1843, fixing the problem carriages had previously run into of having to lower the gates every time they crossed the tracks, which was daily. The Union Depot has been on the National Registrar of Historic Places since 1975. The Hartford and Wethersfield Horse Railroad allowed people to move outside the city but still keep their city jobs.
A popular leisure time activity for people during this period was the social club. Between 1873-1874, there were more than 90 active clubs and societies in Hartford. Mark Twain belonged to many of these clubs and societies, including The Hartford Club, the Monday Evening Club, and the Saturday Morning Club. Twain felt that belonging to a club created a sense of belonging for himself in the community.
In 1872, Hartford began making some form of education mandatory. Because of this, by the end of the 19th century more than 10,000 children were enrolled in public school. Hartford Public High School was a popular school, but to attend, children had to pass an exam in reading, writing, math, and other subjects, plus be able to pay the $1.50 weekly tuition. Mark Twain’s children, Susy and Clara, briefly attended this school, but were mainly homeschooled by their mother, Olivia. Trinity College was also established in 1823 for men who wanted to receive higher education.
Another great aspect of The Gilded Age was the establishment of the headquarters in Hartford for The Chinese Educational Mission, headed by Yung Wing. The Chinese Empire would send 120 boys ages 12-15 to New England to study between 1872-1874. Mark Twain held a reception during this period of time for Yung Wing at his home. This program ended in 1881. Many students went on to become railroad builders, naval officers, or diplomats. One student in his old age said, “I used to dance with Mark Twain’s daughters.”

            Mark Twain wrote a book about his experiences during this period of his life called The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, and it was published by Elisha Bliss and the American Publishing Company in 1873.

            The exhibit runs through September 2nd, and is open during regular museum hours. The exhibit is free with a purchase of a tour of The Mark Twain House or $5.00 for a museum-only pass.

            “…& again Hartford is becoming the pleasantest city, to the eye, that America can show.”—Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) to Olivia Langdon, May 12th, 1869

-- Catie Calo, Communications Intern

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Get a Clue!

Have you ever wanted to take part in solving a murder mystery? Do you ever wish you could transport yourself into the Parker Brothers/Hasbro game CLUE? Well today’s your lucky day because the Mark Twain House & Museum is offering YOU the chance to be a detective of murder right here in Hartford!

The Mark Twain House & Museum’s “Get a Clue” Tour on Saturday March 9th from 6-10pm will lay out a full-fledged murder mystery in Mark Twain’s historic home. Visitors will be able to make accusations and try to deduct who sent “Pap Finn”—Huck Finn’s drunken father—to his grave, where it took place, and what tool was used. Mark Twain’s own Library, Conservatory, Dining Room, Kitchen and more will be potential scenes of the crime!

The Conservatory is a quite special aspect of the house. Located right off the Library, it houses many beautiful hanging and potted plants, as well as an ornate fountain in the middle. The Conservatory can remind visitors of Mark Twain’s fatherly qualities that can get overlooked by his literary achievements. He would pretend to be an elephant on mock safaris with his three daughters in their “Jungle” paradise. The room is surrounded by glass walls and a glass roof, letting in the most light of any room in the house. If the murder of Pap Finn were to have happened in this room, the whole world would’ve seen!

At the end of the night, in a dramatic reveal, the murderer will be unmasked and proven guilty!

Hartford’s Sea Tea Improv members will portray the suspects—characters from Mark Twain’s beloved books that were crafted in the very house where the murder mystery takes place.

Becky Thatcher is a cute little character from Twain’s book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She is the daughter of Judge Thatcher and the love interest of Tom. Tom attempts to court her throughout the entire book, using various tricks and skills, but to no avail until he takes a whipping for her in school by taking the blame for something naughty she did. With her hair always seen in braids, she seems like a prim and proper young lady from a well-to-do family. But what if this little girl has a secret dark place inside of her capable of dangerous things? What if she was responsible for Pap Finn?!

Come join us for a night of detective reasoning and murderous plotting that is sure to be one thrilling event! And who knows, YOU could be the one to solve the mystery!

Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for members, and $13 for children 16 years old and under. 

-- Catie, our new marketing intern!