Hannibal's two most renowned citizens are immortalized in a downtown park.

I've followed Mark Twain all around the world - it seems like anywhere I've been, he got there first. So far my favorite spots with Twain connections are Maui (He loved the place so much that he couldn't even write while he was there), Lake Tahoe, Virginia City, and Paris (which he hated).

Virginia City managed to give a flavor
of what it must have been like in the 1860's.
The city is built along the side of a mountain,
so each street is even with the rooftops
of the street before - you could imagine how Twain
made his famous rooftop dance with Artemus Ward.
We played the slots in the Mark Twain saloon
and my wife experienced the kind of luck
that Clemens was blessed with:
the good news was that she got 7 plums in a row.
The bad news was that she only bet a nickel.
Betting 35 cents would have netted her a thousand
dollars. We did win enough to pay for the train ride
to the next town. At the Territorial Enterprise offices,
there is a toilet seat in the printing room with the sign
"Mark Twain sat here."

I went to his boyhood home in Hannibal Missouri when I was on my way across America to take a new job in New York in 1990. At that time, the boyhood home was undergoing a complete refurbishing, so I wasn't able to get a picture. There must have been 100 businesses that had the names Tom Sawyer or Mark Twain on their signs, but, curiously, there was little mention of Huck Finn. The picture below may look the cerebellum of a blue whale, but it is actually a picture taken inside Tom Sawyer's cave - one of the essential visits in Hannibal.

After a stint at reporting in Virginia City and San Francisco, he got an assignment to write about the Hawaiian Islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands. On the big island of Hawaii, he almost fell into an active caldera. The volcanoes there are still active.

After he grew up, made a name for himself and made lots of money, he built this mansion in Hartford.:

With a little imagination, you may be able to see Twain's face in the reflections of the left and center windows.

Here is the house at Tedworth Square in London where he was living when he spoke the famous lines "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

That visit was strange.
When I was standing outside the Square,
looking at the house, a woman and her son
were arriving with the key -
and they offered to let me inside the residents only square.
That kind of treatment of strangers is rare in London.

In November, 2001, I signed up for the birthday walking tour of New York provided by Peter Salwen. There were just about a dozen of us, but we could not have hoped for better weather. We started off on Broadway, about a half mile south of Houston and worked our way up from the hotel where Sam and Livy first met to a pub where the intellectuals of 1866 hung out, to a site of the offices of the Webster Publishing Company, Cooper Union, where Twain gave his first New York speech, and finally the house on 10th Street where the family lived shortly before Livy's death.

Further upstate, Twain's grave in Elmira, New York is the last place you'd want to go when making a Twain pilgrimage. While there, you can also see the octogonal house where he did his writing - it's now on the campus of Elmira College.

People who want to read up before making their own pilgrimages might want to read Shelley Fisher Fishkin's "Lighting out for the territory," or Ron Powers' White town drowsing. Powers also did a sequel, of sorts, that investigates a series of senseless murders by teens in the late 1990's, called Tom and Huck don't live here anymore. Also, I'd recommend the page of Cal Pritner, an actor who does Twain Impersonations at http://cas.umkc.edu/theatre/twain/default.htm.

Return to

Terry Ballard's Professional Web Page

drupal stats