Vol 1 Section 0010
A Drunk Burned – Sam Again in Charge – Grumbler vs. Rambler – Assistant’s Column Sam Left Hannibal for St. Louis –New York City Typesetter
My Dear Mother: you will doubtless be a little surprised, and somewhat angry when you receive this, and find me so far from home; but you must bear a little with me, for you know I was always the best boy you had, and perhaps you remember the people used to say to their children—“Now don’t do like Orion and Henry Clemens but take Sam for your guide!”
Well, I was out of work in St. Louis, and didn’t fancy loafing in such a dry place, where there is no pleasure to be seen without paying well for it, and so I thought I might as well go to New York. I packed up my “duds” and left for this village, where I arrived, all right, this morning.
It took a day, by steamboat and cars, to go from St. Louis to Bloomington, Ill; another day by railroad, from there to Chicago, where I laid over all day Sunday; from Chicago to Monroe, in Michigan, by railroad, another day; from Monroe, across Lake Erie, in the fine Lake palace, “Southern Michigan,” to Buffalo, another day; from Buffalo to Albany, by railroad, another day; and from Albany to New York, by Hudson river steamboat, another day—an awful trip, taking five days, where it should have been only three. I shall wait a day or so for my insides to get settled, after the jolting they received, when I shall look out for a sit; for they say there is plenty of work to be had for sober compositors.
The trip, however, was a very pleasant one. Rochester, famous on account of the “Spirit Rappings” was of course interesting; and when I saw the Court House in Syracuse, it called to mind the time when it was surrounded with chains and companies of soldiers, to prevent the rescue of McReynolds’ nigger, by the infernal abolitionists. I reckon I had better black my face, for in these Eastern States niggers are considerably better than white people.
I saw a curiosity to-day, but I don’t know what to call it. Two beings, about like common people, with the exception of their faces, which are more like the “phiz” of an orang-outang, than human. They are white, though, like other people. lmagine a person about the size of Harvel Jordan’s oldest boy, with small lips and full breast, with a constant uneasy, fidgety motion, bright, intelligent eyes, that seems as if they would look through you, and you have these things. They were found in the island of Borneo (the only ones of the species ever discovered,) about twenty years ago. One of them is twenty three, and the other twenty five years of age. They possess amazing strength; the smallest one would shoulder three hundred pounds as easily as I would a plug of tobacco; they are supposed to be a cross between man and orang-outang; one is the best natured being in the world, while the other would tear a stranger to pieces, if he did but touch him; they wear their hair “Samson” fashion, down to their waists. They have no apple in their throats, whatever, and can therefore scarcely make a sound; no memory either; what transpires to-day, they have forgotten before to-morrow; they look like one mass of muscle, and can walk either on all fours or upright; when let alone, they will walk to and fro across the room, thirteen hours out of the twenty-four; not a day passes but they walk twenty-five or thirty miles, without resting thirty minutes; I watched them about an hour and they were “tramping” the whole time. The little one bent his arm with the elbow in front, and the hand pointing upward, and no two strapping six footers in the room could pull it out straight. Their faces and eyes are those of the beast, and when they fix their glittering orbs on you with a steady, unflinching gaze, you instinctively draw back a step, and a very unpleasant sensation steals through your veins. They are both males and brothers, and very small, though I do not know their exact hight. I have given you a very lengthy description of the animals, but I have nothing else to write about, and nothing from here would be interesting anyhow. The Crystal Palace is a beautiful building—so is the Marble Palace.11 If I can find nothing better to write about, I will say something about these in my next.
[ closing and signature missing] [MTPO].
My dear Mother:
New York is at present overstocked with printers; and I suppose they are from the South, driven North by the yellow fever. I got a permanent situation on Monday morning, in a book and job office, and went to work. The printers here are badly organized, and therefore have to work for various prices. These prices are 23, 25, 28, 30, 32, and 35 cents per 1,000 ems. The price I get is 23 cents; but I did very well to get a place at all, for there are thirty or forty—yes, fifty good printers in the city with no work at all; besides, my situation is permanent, and I shall keep it till I can get a better one. The office I work in is John A. Gray’s, 97 Cliff street, and, next to Harper’s, is the most extensive in the city. In the room in which I work I have forty compositors for company. Taking compositors, pressmen, stereotypers, and all, there are about two hundred persons employed in the concern. The “Knickerbocker,” “New York Recorder,” “Choral Advocate,” “Jewish Chronicle,” “Littell’s Living Age,” “Irish ——,” and half a dozen other papers and periodicals are printed here, besides an immense number of books. They are very particular about spacing, justification, proofs, etc., and even if I do not make much money, I will learn a great deal. I thought [Thomas] Ustick was particular enough, but acknowledge now that he was not old-maidish. Why, you must put exactly the same space between every two words, and every line must be spaced alike. They think it dreadful to space one line with three em spaces, and the next one with five ems. However, I expected this, and worked accordingly from the beginning; and out of all the proofs I saw, without boasting, I can say mine was by far the cleanest. In St. Louis, Mr. Baird said my proofs were the cleanest that were ever set in his office. The foreman of the Anzeiger told me the same—foreman of the Watchman the same; and with all this evidence, I believe I do set a clean proof.
My boarding house is more than a mile from the office; and I can hear the signal calling the hands to work before I start down; they use a steam whistle for that purpose. I work in the fifth story; and from one window I have a pretty good view of the city, while another commands a view of the shipping beyond the Battery; and the “forest of masts,” with all sorts of flags flying, is no mean sight. You have everything in the shape of water craft, from a fishing smack to the steamships and men-of-war; but packed so closely together for miles, that when close to them you can scarcely distinguish one from another.
Of all the commodities, manufactures—or whatever you please to call it—in New York, trundle-bed trash—children I mean—take the lead. Why, from Cliff street, up Frankfort to Nassau street, six or seven squares—my road to dinner—I think I could count two hundred brats. Niggers, mulattoes, quadroons, Chinese, and some the Lord no doubt originally intended to be white, but the dirt on whose faces leaves one uncertain as to that fact, block up the little, narrow street; and to wade through this mass of human vermin, would raise the ire of the most patient person that ever lived. In going to and from my meals, I go by the way of Broadway—and to cross Broadway is the rub—but once across, it is the rub for two or three squares. My plan—and how could I choose another, when there is no other—is to get into the crowd; and when I get in, I am borne, and rubbed, and crowded along, and need scarcely trouble myself about using my own legs; and when I get out, it seems like I had been pulled to pieces and very badly put together again.
Last night I was in what is known as one of the finest fruit saloons in the world. The whole length of the huge, glittering hall is filled with beautiful ornamented marble slab tables, covered with the finest fruit I ever saw in my life. I suppose the fruit could not be mentioned with which they could not supply you. It is a perfect palace. The gas lamps hang in clusters of half a dozen together—representing grapes, I suppose—all over the hall.
[closing and signature missing]
P.S. The printers have two libraries in town, entirely free to the craft; and in these I can spend my evenings most pleasantly. If books are not good company, where will I find it? [MTL 1: 9-12]. Note: for more on the publications Sam listed in the first paragraph, see p.11n4 in source; for more on the Printers’ Free Library and Reading Room see n.10. Thomas Watt Ustick (b. 1800/01) prominent St. Louis printer.
I am very sorry to learn that Henry has been sick. [in margin: Write, and let me know how Henry is] He ought to go to the country and take exercise; for he is not half so healthy as Ma thinks he is. If he had my walking to do, he would be another boy entirely. Four times every day I walk a little over one mile; and working hard all day, and walking four miles, is exercise—I am used to it now, though, and it is no trouble. Where is it Orion’s going to? Tell Ma my promises are faithfully kept; and if I have my health I will take her to Ky. in the spring—I shall save money for this. Tell Jim and all the rest of them to write, and give me all the news. I am sorry to hear such bad news from Will and Captain Bowen. I shall write to Will soon. The Chatham-square Post Office and the Broadway office too, are out of my way, and I always go to the General Post Office; so you must write the direction of my letters plain, “New York City, N. Y.,” without giving the street or anything of the kind, or they may go to some of the other offices. (It has just struck 2 A.M. and I always get up at 6, and am at work at 7.) You ask where I spend my evenings. Where would you suppose, with a free printers’ library containing more than 4,000 volumes within a quarter of a mile of me, and nobody at home to talk to? I shall write to Ella soon. Write soon.
Truly your Brother
P.S I have written this by a light so dim that you nor Ma could not read by it [MTL 1: 13]. Note: Ella Evelina Hunter married James A.H. Lampton, Jane’s younger (by 21 years) half-brother, in Nov. 1849. Paine misidentified Ella as Ella Creel who lived in Keokuk; Twain didn’t visit Keokuk until 1855.
My Dear Brother:
I received your letter to-day. I think Ma ought to spend the winter in St Louis. I don’t believe in that climate—it’s too cold for her. [in Muscatine]
The printers’ annual ball and supper came off the other night. The proceeds amounted to about $1.000. The printers, as well as other people are endeavoring to raise money to erect a monument to Franklin, but there are so many abominable foreigners here (and among printers, too,) who hate everything American, that I am very certain as much money for such a purpose could be raised in St Louis, as in Philadelphia[.] I was in Franklin’s old office this morning,—the “North American” (formerly “Philadelphia Gazette”), and there were at least one foreighner for every American at work there.
How many subscribers has the Journal got? What does the job-work pay? and what does the whole concern pay? I have not seen a copy of the paper yet.
I intend to take Ma to Ky., anyhow, and if I possibly have the money, I will attend to the deeds too.
I will try to write for the paper occasionally, but I fear my letters will be very uninteresting, for this incessant night work dulls one[’s] ideas amazingly.
From some cause, I cannot set type near so fast as when I was at home. Sunday is a long day, and while others set 12 and 15,000, yesterday, I only set 10,000. However, I will shake this laziness off, soon, I reckon.
I always thought the eastern people were patterns of uprightness; but I never before saw so many whisky-swilling, God-despising heathens as I find in this part of the country. I believe I am the only person in the Inquirer office that does not drink. One young fellow makes $18 for a few weeks, and gets on a grand “bender” and spends every cent of it.
How do you like “free-soil?[”] I would like amazingly to see a good, old-fashioned negro. My love to all
Truly your brother
Sam [MTL 1: 28-9].
My Dear Sister:
I have already written two letters within the last two hours, and you will excuse me if this is not lengthy. If I had the money, I would come to St. Louis now, while the river is open; [i.e., not frozen] but in the last two or three weeks I have spent about thirty dollars for clothing, so I suppose I shall remain where I am. I only want to return to avoid night work, which is injuring my eyes. I have received one or two letters from home, but they are not written as they should be; and know no more about what is going on there, than the man in the moon. One only has to leave home to learn how to write an interesting [letter] to an absent friend when he gets back. I suppose you board at Mrs. Hunter’s yet—and that, I think, is somewhere in Olive street above Fifth. Phila is one of the healthiest places in the Union. I wanted to spend this winter in a warm climate; but it is too late now. I don’t like our present prospect for cold weather at all.
Truly your brother