Vol 1 Section 0011

 Short Washington Vacation – Philadelphia to New York

Return to St. Louis and Muscatine – Orion Ties the Knot



January 6 Friday Sam’s letter of Dec. 24 from Philadelphia ran in the Muscatine Journal [MTL 1: 34].


February 3 Friday – Sam wrote another letter to the Muscatine Journal, which was printed unsigned as “From Philadelphia Correspondence of the Journal.” He described going to a reception for Captains Low and Crighton, visiting heroes to Philadelphia from the rescue of survivors in the steamship San Francisco on December 25, 1853. The reception was probably on Feb. 2 [MTL 1: 39n3]. Sam also wrote of the Philadelphia Ledger’s habit of inserting doggerel poetry in obituaries; Paine claimed that Sam submitted a few of these to the Ledger, but “never confessed that” [MTB 98].

February 15 WednesdayClemens took a night train in Philadelphia, which would arrive in Washington the next morning [Bliss 1].

February 16Thursday – Sam arrived at the Baltimore and Ohio station in Washington, D.C. for a short vacation that he called “a flying trip.” It is possible he stayed until Washington’s Birthday. Paine says he did not work there [MTL 1: 44; 11; 3; Bliss 1].

February 17 to 19 Sunday – In Washington, D.C., Sam wrote to the Muscatine Journal. He took a “stroll” around the capitol waiting for Congress to sit (Feb. 17) [MTL 1: 43n1]. even though the snow was “falling so thickly I could scarcely see across the street.” He described various buildings, including the unfinished Washington Monument. On Feb.19 he added description of the Smithsonian. Sam was particularly taken by the Museum of the Patent Office, where Bliss writes he spent four hours [9]. He ended with a note about seeing Edwin Forrest playing Othello at the National Theater on Feb. 17.

Sam, now eighteen, would next visit Washington in 1867, a 32-year-old man. By then the city would be greatly changed, but Washington’s Monument wouldn’t be completed until 1885, at 555 feet, the tallest structure in the world. In the Senate Chamber, Sam observed that the senators:

…dress very plainly, as they should, and all avoid display, and do not speak unless they have something to say—and that cannot be said of the Representatives. Mr. Cass is a fine looking old man; Mr. Douglass, or ‘Young America’ looks like a lawyer’s clerk, and Mr. Seward is a slim, dark, bony individual, and looks like a respectable wind would blow him out of the country [MTL 1: 41].

Notes: Lewis Cass (1782-1866) Secretary of State under Buchanan; Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861), Lincoln’s competitor for the presidency; William H. Seward (1801-1872) Secretary of State under Lincoln. Douglas was promoting the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would pass three months later. For a more thorough treatment of Sam’s first stop in Washington, see Donald Tiffany Bliss’ 2012 work, Mark Twain’s Tale of Today.


February 23 Thursday – By this date, Sam had returned to Philadelphia. He worked for about two weeks on the Ledger and North American [MTL 1: 44]. Bliss writes he returned on this day [11].


March, mid – Sam returned to New York. There are no letters for this period, so the reasons are unclear, but it was probable that he lost his job, given that his pay in Philadelphia was more than he’d received in New York. It’s also possible that Sam was growing restless, having been away from home nearly a year. There are unclaimed letters for Sam in Philadelphia dated Mar. 10 and also Mar. 17, indicating he had gone to New York by Mar. 10. Sam’s memory of this period was vague, and it seems likely it was one of struggle. Unemployment was high for printers after fires at the major publishers, Harper & Bros., and Cooledge & Bros. in Dec. 1853 [MTL 1: 45]. Sam’s Washington correspondence was printed in the Muscatine Journal in March [Camfield, bibliog.].

March 24 Friday Sam’s letter of Feb. 17 and 18 was printed in the Muscatine Journal [MTL 1: 40].


April –Sam may have returned home as early as April, as there is no mention of him working in New York during this period in later letters or notes.


Summer, late – Sam, “obliged by financial stress to go home,” does so. In 1906 Sam recalled:

“I went back to the Mississippi Valley, sitting upright in the smoking-car two or three days and nights. When I reached St. Louis I was exhausted. I went to bed on board a steamboat that was bound for Muscatine. I fell asleep at once, with my clothes on, and didn’t wake again for thirty-six hours –” [Neider 95; MTL 1: 45-6].


August 7 Monday In St. Louis, Sam boarded with the Paveys, formerly of Hannibal. Sam’s roommate was Jacob H. Burrough (1827-1883) “a journeyman chairmaker with a taste for Dickens, Thackeray, Scott, and Disraeli” [MTB 103]. (See also MTNJ 1: 37n45, & Nov. 1, 1876 letter to Jacob H. Burrough.)

In a Dec. 15, 1900 letter to Jacob’s son, Frank E. Burrough (1865-1903), Sam recalled the boarding house:

“It was a large, cheap place, & had in it a good many young fellows who were students at a Commercial College. I was a journeyman printer, freshly fledged, your father was a journeyman chairmaker….He & I were comrades & close friends” [MTNJ 1: 37n45].

Election rioting broke out between the Know-Nothings (anti-immigration) and German and Irish immigrants in St. Louis. Sam went with a friend to an armory and drilled with a militia that had been formed to put down the riots. When word came that the mob was in force in the lower end of the city, Sam asked his friend to hold his musket while he got a drink. Sam didn’t return. The riot was quelled in two days. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) had attended one Know-Nothings meeting in the city [MTL 1: 46; Powers, MT A Life 69].


September 1 Friday ca. – In the first entry for Sept., 1854, Francis Jackson of Boston Massachusetts’ Anti-Slavery Society, made this entry:

“Samuel Clemens passage from Missouri Penetentiary [sic] to Boston—he having been imprisoned there two years for aiding fugitives to escape…$24.50” [Sattelmeyer 294].

Note: In “Did Sam Clemens Take the Abolitionists for a Ride?” Sattelmeyer speculates that Sam played a trick on Jackson and the abolitionists, writing for financial support for non-existent aid to fugitive slaves, and impersonating an abolitionist. Sattelmeyer’s article further speculates that Sam’s rail fare back home may have been a debt Sam needed to repay.

Fall, Winter—There is some controversy whether Sam worked on the Muscatine Journal and stayed a few months there, or whether he went to St. Louis after a short visit with family. Paine takes this latter position [MTB 102]. Powers claims Sam got rehired as a typesetter on the St. Louis Evening News [Powers, MT A Life 68].


November 30 Thursday Sam’s nineteenth birthday.


December 19 TuesdayOrion Clemens married Mary Eleanor (Mollie) Stotts, in Keokuk, Iowa. Orion was visiting there. They left the next morning for Muscatine, but when she became homesick, Orion moved them back to Keokuk.