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Mark Twain's Buffalo Legacy - An Article in The Buffalo News on 2/20/2016

By Edited Oct 15, 2016 1 0

 Mark Twain Lived in Buffalo for Two Years

Buffalonians are proud of the fact that Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) lived in Buffalo for two years, from 1869 to 1871.  When the thirty-four-year-old Twain married Olivia Langdon in 1870, she was just twenty-four years old.  The bride’s father presented the couple with an exquisite home at 472 Delaware Avenue as a wedding gift.  Twain worked as an editor and a writer at the Buffalo Express, as well as acquiring a part interest in the newspaper.  The Buffalo Express was the predecessor of the Buffalo Courier-Express, which ended its reign in Buffalo in 1982. 

                                           

Mark Twain

                                            Mark Twain (drawing from  Appleton's Journal)                                                                                                                    Wikimedi                                                  

The Mark Twain Room

An article in The Buffalo News on Saturday, February 20, 2016, written by Mary Kunz Goldman, and entitled “Twain’s Buffalo Legacy,” is an informative piece concerning the tribute to the author given by the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s central location.  It is called The Mark Twain Room and it is free to all patrons of the library.  There are more than 500 pieces of memorabilia filling the bookcases along the walls and in glass cases in the center of the room.  The Room was made possible through public and private funding, including a $50,000 grant from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.  It was opened to the public officially on May 12, 1995.  

It is not necessary to make an appointment to view the Twain exhibit.  However, if a student needs to study items close up, those items can be made available daily under the watchful eye of staff members during designated hours.

                                               

Hal Holbrook

                                                            Hal Holbrook - Wikimedia

Tragedy Befalls the Clemens Family

The Mark Twain Room contains the author’s handwritten manuscript of his famous novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” presented to the City of Buffalo by the author himself after it was published in 1885.  The gesture indicated Twain’s fondness for the City, even though the Clemens’ first-born son, who was born prematurely, died there when he was three months old.  Also, his father-in-law, Jervis Langdon, died while visiting the Clemens household, as well as a friend of Olivia’s who came down with typhoid fever and died in their home.  On the whole, the Clemens' time in Buffalo, although professionally productive, was not a happy time.  The cold Buffalo weather seemed to be a major cause of the family’s dissatisfaction with living there.

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Manuscript

The trunk that held missing sections of the manuscript of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” had been presumed to be lost forever until it was discovered in 1990 in a steamer trunk in the attic of a granddaughter of James Fraser Gluck, a one-time curator of the Buffalo Library, who had received the manuscript from Mark Twain decades earlier.  Two pages of the manuscript are always on display, rotating from time to time.  Interestingly, a correction is clearly seen in one episode.  The sentence “So he sat down on the ground, right between me and Tom,” had the words “right between” crossed out and replaced with “betwixt.”  Today, such a substitution would never be apparent, in this digital age when manuscripts are written on a computer.

                                   

Huckleberry Finn

                                               Huckleberry Finn - {{PD-US}} - Wikimedia

Memorabilia and Ephemera in The Mark Twain Room

The Mark Twain Room is not only a climate-controlled Museum; it is a Shrine.  An exquisite mantel taken from the Clemens’ Delaware Avenue residence is a central focus in the room, as well as the fireplace from the same domicile, which has since been demolished.  An antique box of Mark Twain cigars sits on a table.  Historic editions of Twain’s published books are spread throughout the room, including a surprising book about Joan of Arc, since Samuel Clemens was viewed as an atheist.  The collection also includes original Norman Rockwell illustrations (signed by Rockwell) that were featured in the 1940 edition of “Huck Finn.”

Foreign Translations

Several translations in other languages are part of the extensive collection in the Mark Twain Room.  Tales of life on the Mississippi have clearly resonated with readers in foreign countries and cultures.  A staff member related that a professor from the University of Tehran in Iran remarked in his visit that there was no copy of “Huck Finn” in Farsi.  When he went back home, he mailed a Farsi copy to the Library.

Mark Twain Impersonators

Today, Mark Twain impersonators perform to sell-out audiences, entertain at fancy parties, speak at conferences, and are getting rich while bringing to life the valuable legacy left behind by the man.  Actor Hal Holbrook, at 85 years old, has been impersonating the writer for 57 years.  His one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight” continues to sell out in theaters.  Holbrook always performs in a three-piece white suit, which was the casual garb that Twain wore in his later years, but never wore when he was speaking to the public professionally.

Buffalo Meteorologist Mike Randall has impersonated Mark Twain successfully in the Buffalo area for many years, in his one-man show entitled “Mark Twain Live.”  Hal Holbrook sued Mike Randall for plagiarism when Randall first began his impersonations, but the suit was settled and Mike Randall was able to continue his part-time career of impersonating the famous personage.

The New World Encyclopedia lists a bibliography of fifty publications of the author between the years 1867 and 1995, some of which were published posthumously.

                           

Mississippi River

                                                                            Wikimedia

Mark Twain’s Novels Adapted to the Screen

Many of Twain’s novels have been adapted to the silver screen.  Eight versions of “Huckleberry Finn” have been filmed, as well as five versions of “Tom Sawyer.”  “The Prince and the Pauper” has been adapted to the screen five times, while “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court” has been seen in five different versions.  A review of the film “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” is available here.

I like to think that I am an aficionado of Samuel Clemens.  I have read several of his novels and have viewed the theater versions also.  He is truly an American icon, and his ability to interpret early American life, particularly on the Mississippi River, has provided the American public with a reservoir of information for researchers of that topic.

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
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Bibliography

  1. "Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) in Buffalo, NY." History of Buffalo . 20/02/2016. 20/02/2016 <Web >
  2. "Mark Twain Room." Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. 20/02/2016. 20/02/2016 <Web >
  3. "Samuel Clemens." New World Encyclopedia. 20/02/2016. 20/02/2016 <Web >
  4. Mary Kunz Goldman "Twain’s Buffalo Legacy." The Buffalo News. 20/02/2016.
  5. Malia Wollan "Mark Twain, Now a Career for the Mustachioed." The New York Times. 20/02/2016. 20/02/2016 <Web >

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