[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER: I was asked if I would be willing to curate an exhibition on Mark Twain that would coincide with the hundredth anniversary of his death. I started my research, just as so many students start their research these days. I went to Google.
There are full-text public domain books of Mark Twain, by and about him, and found that his two-volume autobiography is there.
I knew that Mark Twain had spent 20 summers in nearby Elmira. But it raised the question for me, did he ever come to Ithaca? And did he know anyone at Cornell? In the autobiography, three prominent Cornellians are mentioned.
Mark Twain knew Cornell's first president, Andrew Dickson White, Cornell's first university librarian, Willard Fiske, and Cornell trustee and benefactor, Henry William Sage. All three are featured prominently in stories in the autobiography.
I've only been able to verify two visits by Mark Twain to Ithaca, and I actually have no evidence that he was ever on the Cornell Campus. I haven't proven that yet.
But he was in Ithaca twice. He came here in the summer of 1877, from Quarry Farm in Elmira, to visit friends here, including Professor Boyesen and Willard Fiske, and spent three days here.
The second visit came in December of 1884. And he came here to perform in the Wilgus Opera House in downtown Ithaca with the humorist George Washington Cable. And together, they were on their Twins of Genius tour.
One of the great treasures in the Cornell archives is a collection of student scrapbooks. And there's a scrapbook from that year, where a student has collected all of the programs for the various events that were at that Wilgus Opera House, including that night's performance, which included a reading by Mark Twain of his forthcoming book, Huckleberry Finn.
So audiences here got to hear some of that book several months before it was actually published. The local newspapers also provided reviews of that performance.
Using the microfilm collection in Olin Library, I was able to look at the Ithaca Journal and read about the performance, as well as a visit after the performance to the restaurant and bar, Zinks, where Mark Twain and approximately 100 Cornell students apparently had a drink, sang some songs. And Mark Twain told a humorous story or two.
One of the great things happening with research these days are many analog materials are now being digitized. And here at Cornell, a huge section, almost all of The Cornell Daily Sun, our student newspaper, has been digitized.
And this made very-- it was very helpful in my research. Easy access. Because again, I could use keywords, like Twain and Clemens, to search the entire range of published papers, and found several hundred mentions of Mark Twain, even-- over 100 mentions during his lifetime in the Cornell student paper.
Many of these were actually advertisements for a memory-improvement system that he once endorsed and then disavowed later on. But there were also a student review of Huckleberry Finn, as well as a mention in 1898, when the typesetting machine, the Paige Compositor, that he had invested so heavily in, the-- there were two working models created of that machine.
And one of those was donated to Cornell by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. And it was on display in the Engineering Museum, which was, at that time, over at Sibley Hall.
Various sources told me that the Cornell model of this machine was the one that was sold off in a scrap metal drive. And various sources said it was a scrap metal drive in World War I.
Another said it was a scrap metal drive during World War II. Another said, no. It was the machine that was donated to Columbia University, not the Cornell machine that was scrap metaled.
Only in the last couple of weeks have I been able to finish this story and discover that the Cornell copy was the one that did, indeed, survive. And it went from Cornell back to the Mergenthaler Company, where it stayed until 1957, when they donated it to the Mark Twain House.
One of my Mark Twain Cornell discoveries was the fact that mark Twain's nephew and niece came to Cornell, and were the first of four generations of his wife's family, the Langdon family from Elmira, who have been Cornellians.
The connection with Mark Twain goes back to his journey in 1867, when he traveled with a group of 163 pilgrims. And that's what they called themselves.
They went on tour, through the Mediterranean, and Europe, and the Holy Land, to visit and see these sites. While he was on this excursion, he met a young man from Elmira, Charles Langdon. And they became good friends.
Charles Langdon showed Mark Twain a little, miniature image of his sister. And it is said that Mark Twain fell in love instantly. And this woman, Olivia Langdon, three years later would become his wife.
One of the stories about Cornell that shows up in Mark Twain's autobiography concerns his meeting with Henry William Sage. Mark Twain was newly married. And about a year into his marriage, his father-in-law tragically died.
And his brother in-laws and he were left with questions about what to do with his father-- with the business. And so they were advised to talk with Mr. Sage, who was a close friend and former business partner of Jervis Langdon.
Sage was so impressed with Clemens that he asked, "Mr. Clemens, you've got as clear a business head on your shoulders as I have come in contact with for years. What are you an author for? You ought to be a business man."
Mark Twain has been called the first truly American writer by William Faulkner, and Cornell has been called the first truly American University. And they do, indeed, share a rich associated history of friends and family.
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While doing research, Lance Heidig, a reference and instruction librarian in Research and Learning Services in Olin Library, discovered that Mark Twain came to Ithaca twice while visiting nearby Elmira: once in the summer of 1877 to see friends, and then again in December 1884 as part of his "Twins of Genius" lecture tour.
In addition to those visits, Mark Twain and Cornell - the "first truly American writer" and the "first truly American university," as they have been called - share a rich history of associations, friends, and family.