Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

River Days

Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
Mark Twain exhibit section
Photograph depicts artwork and artifacts on display from the following sources:
~ Buffalo and Erie County Public Library
~ Mark Twain Home and Museum, Hannibal MO
(Reproductions of Norman Rockwell illustrations granted for exhibit use by the Easton Press, Norwalk CT)
~ Mark Twain House, Hartford CT
~ Mark Twain Papers Project, University of California, Berkeley CA
~ Dave Thomson, Sun Valley CA
~ Margaret Woods and Washington Community Theater, Washington IA

"… the river told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice."
- Mark Twain

No other literary figure - nor artist, musician, or legendary character - has been as closely tied to the Mississippi than Mark Twain. After the Civil War halted his career as a steamboat pilot, Samuel Clemens turned to journalism and literature. He chose the pen name "mark twain," a river measurement that signified two fathoms (12 feet), a safe depth for steamboats.

Clemens' most autobiographical account of the inhabitants and scenes of Hannibal, Missouri, was Life on the Mississippi, written in 1883. Yet his childhood adventures had been most popularly recreated earlier in 1876 for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Using regional dialects and deadpan humor, Mark Twain broke all the traditional European rules of writing to create a uniquely American novel.

Later in 1884 in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain satirized the dark side of human nature - greed, corruption, alcoholism, and especially racism - by using a 14-year-old boy as narrator. 'Huck Finn' is a raw yet sweet story of Huck's education in life taught by Jim, a runaway slave. Filled with racist attitudes, 'Huck Finn' remains one of the most antiracist novels ever written.


Did you know … ?
Mark Twain is nearly as famous for his quotable observations on life as he is for his novels. A few of his notable lines include:

"When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learnt in seven years."
"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."


The Section "River Days" has the following related pages:
Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain

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2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
You are here!steamboat
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
View Selected Artifacts
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