Vol 3 Section 1138

1074                                      Addenda & Errata For Volume II (1886-1896)

Twain left for Europe the next day, but by then Riley was too ill to move into Twain’s now-vacant room at the Players’ Club [“On Stage and Off with James Whitcomb Riley and Mark Twain,” [Traces 7.4 (Fall, 1995): 22-3]. Note: Boewe makes one error here—Sam did not sail on Mar. 4 but on Mar. 7.

March 4, 1894 / April 26, 1894 additionOn Apr. 26, Nikola Tesla invited Sam, along with Robert Underwood Johnson, Francis Marion Crawford (1854-1909), Italian-born American novelist (nephew of Julia Ward Howe), and Joseph Jefferson to his New York laboratory, on South Fifth Avenue (See Johnson’s Remembered Yesterdays, p.400). Krumme tells the tale, noting that “The friendship of the two men is well-documented, albeit slightly unusual,” and that “the two forged a strong and enduring friendship, meeting often at the The Player’s Club in Manhattan or in Tesla’s laboratory,” Krumme continues:

It was there that the first photographs ever to make use of phosphorescent light were taken. Twain went to experience the photography and “take high voltage sparks through [his] body,”1 as Tesla joked, at least twice in 1894, on Mar. 4 and again on April 26. Johnson described the experience:

We were frequently invited to witness his experiments, which included…the production of electrical vibrations of an intensity not before achieved. Lighting-like flashes of the length of fifteen feet were an every-day occurrence, and his tubes of electric light were used to make photographs of many of his friends as souvenir of their visits…I was one of a group consisting of Mark Twain…and others who had the unique experience of being thus photographed2 [“Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla: Thunder and Lightning,” Berkeley Engineering paper, 4 Dec. 2000].

[Krumme’s quotations: 1: Tesla, Man Out of Time(1981) by Margaret Cheney; 2: Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla (1996) by Marc J. Seifer.Krumme does not supply a source authority for her Mar. 4 claim, whereas the Apr. 26 date which included Twain, Johnson, and Joe Jefferson is confirmed by Francis Marion Crawford’s Apr. 27, 1894 letter to his wife, Elizabeth Christophers Berden Crawford, which includes this interesting passage about the visit and a description of Tesla:

Tesla wished to make some historical photographs of the experiments on Johnson [3 words illegible] the three biggest celebrities he could lay hands on, to wit, Mark Twain, Joseph Jefferson, the famous old actor and myself. We all went down together, Jefferson greatly interested in the whole thing, Clemens greatly amusing, and I very curious about it. The great Tesla is a man of thirty seven, about my height, but even thinner, and painfully narrow shouldered though very erect. He has a keen tired face with a big nose, and much smooth black hair with very thoughtful eyes [MS Am 2206 (5) Houghton Library, Harvard University].

Note: Sam was in the first group of photographs made by phosphorescent light. See his photograph, with Tesla in the dark background on p. 201 of Meltzer. Also, in Remembered Yesterdays, see Marion Crawford’s photograph in the same session after p. 402. Four photographs (including these) were later published in The Century, 49.6 (April 1895) in “Tesla’s Oscillator and Other Inventions” p. 916-933, by Thomas Commerford Martin. It is noted that in this article the photo of Twain is labeled “January 1894” (the online site of Cornell shows this issue but the pictures are unclear). Krumme gives another visit of Sam to Tesla’s lab, which seems to be discrete from this one, and so is assigned the Apr. 26 date; see entry. In fact, however, there may have been several visits, as various inventors often mesmerized Clemens, and Tesla was a particularly brilliant and prescient one. See also Mar. 2 and Mar. 4, 1894 entries, Vol. II.

Krumme continues with what seems to be another visit by Sam to Tesla’s laboratory:

Tesla had been perfecting a mechanical oscillator, a sort of engine that would produce alternating current of a high frequency. The inventor had noticed an interesting effect of the machine: it produced significant vibrations. Tesla wondered if these vibrations might have therapeutic or health benefits, and one day when Mark Twin was at his lab the author asked if he might experience these vibrations himself.