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The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum January 10, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, History.
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I recently visited The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. This museum showcases the life and work of Hannibal’s most famous resident, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Clemens chose the pen name “Mark Twain” based on his experience as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. Steamboat pilots often checked the depth of an unfamiliar stretch of water. To that end, they would lower a knotted rope into the water; one “mark” on that rope represented a depth of six feet, while a “twain” on that rope represented a depth of twelve feet. A river depth of twelve feet was sufficient for a steamboat.

2. One of Twain’s characters, Injun Joe, was probably based on Joe Douglas, an Osage Indian boy who was brought to Hannibal after his family was attacked by Pawnee warriors. Douglas never adjusted to life in Hannibal, though.

3. The tentacles of antebellum slavery extended to Hannibal. Slaves in Hannibal typically slept on pallets on kitchen floors and rose early on the following day to begin preparing food for their owners. During his upbringing, Clemens was aware of slavery – though he only had a limited understanding of it.

4. Another of Twain’s characters, Becky Thatcher, was probably based on Laura Hawkins, who lived in an upper middle class home right across from the home where he grew up. Hawkins was the first girl who Clemens liked.

5. Clemens’ younger brother, Henry, sailed on the steamboat Pennsylvania. In 1858, a boiler exploded on the Pennsylvania, scalding Henry. He would later succumb to his injuries, and his death greatly affected his older brother.

6. Clemens’ father, John, was unable to make a living as a farmer. He then moved his family to Hannibal and managed a store; he also served as a judge. Unfortunately, he passed away when Clemens was only twelve years old; Clemens then became a printer’s apprentice to support his family.

I appreciated the fact that the museum consisted of several distinct buildings, as that allowed me to get some much-needed exercise while touring it. The museum staff was also quite friendly and helpful.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would certainly recommend it to tourists who happen to visit Hannibal.

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