Samuel Clemens was born when Halley’s Comet blazed through the sky in 1835. The man who became known as beloved writer Mark Twain foretold that he would die when Halley’s Comet returned in 1910. And he did. Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, shortly after the comet’s closest approach to Earth. But in his 74 years, Twain wrote some of the world’s greatest masterpieces, including “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Many of those were written between 1874 and 1891 when Twain and his family lived in Hartford, Connecticut, in what is now the Mark Twain House & Museum.
“Mark Twain was at the beginning of his writing career when he came to Hartford to meet with his publishing company,” says Grace Belanger, associate manager of museum historic interpretation at the Mark Twain House & Museum. “Hartford was a place of literary magnitude, and Mark Twain fell in love with the city.”
Twain, his wife Olivia Langdon, and their three daughters lived in the 19-room mansion. “The Billiard Room was where he did much of his writing,” Belanger says. “Mark Twain was very easily distracted, so he needed a place where distractions were eliminated.”
First, Twain tried writing in a private room next to the family nursery. “But he’d be in the nursery playing tea parties with his daughters instead of writing,” Belanger says.
The family enjoyed their Hartford home until bad investments brought them to bankruptcy. When their daughter died of spinal meningitis in the Hartford home, the couple could not bear to live there anymore. The house had several different owners until it was sold in the mid-1920s to a developer who planned to raze it and construct an apartment building.
That’s when a local group banded together to stop the demolition. In 1974, the Mark Twain House & Museum opened to the public. Group tours can enjoy discounted rates, catered box lunches in a private dining room, and discussions with living history actors.
“We really try to bring alive the house and the family and the man who once lived here,” Belanger says. “We think it is a fascinating history to share with our guests.”
For more information, call 860-247-0998 or go to marktwainhouse.org.
Main Image: Mark Twain House; Credit: Mark Twain House & Museum
Article by Jackie Sheckler Finch