Cat lovers must visit The Mark Twain House & Museum, in Hartford, Conn., because he is most likely the most cat-crazy writer ever.
While the museum does not have any permanent cat exhibits, you may find a temporary exhibit devoted to cats, or some stray, feral cats roaming the premises. One thing is for sure, you will walk away with a better understanding of this well-known author, and perhaps gain an insight into why he loved cats so much.
Why do we say Mark Twain may have been the American writer most crazy about cats? and why do we say cat lovers must visit the Mark Twain House & Museum?
- At one time, it was reported he had up to 19 cats.
- He loved cats more than most humans and was confounded by humans who didn’t love them back. (At Paws, we wonder the same thing).
- When he would travel, he would rent cats because he could not take his cats with him.
- He went to great lengths, even offering a reward to find his beloved cat Bambino, lost on the streets of New York City.
- He incorporates cats into many of his books.
- And he is well-known for a number of cat quotes, saying he admired them as they were the only animal to elude the sting of man’s whip.
- It is almost hard to explain his intense love of cats which stayed with him throughout his life.
Address: 385 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105
Architect: Edward Tuckerman Potter
Architectural styles: Gothic architecture, Gothic Revival architecture.
Hours: Friday: 10 am – 4:30 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10 am – 4:30 pm
Tours will go out every hour on the half hour, with the first tour departing at 10:30 am and the last tour departing at 3:30pm
Living History Tours are more expansive than the regular house tour. Here, you will see the Mark Twain House from an entirely different perspective when you join a costumed member of the family or staff for a behind-the-scenes look at life with Samuel Clemens. Each tour is one hour and 15 minutes long and includes opportunities not available on a regular house tour. Reservations are highly recommended.
Guided Tours of The Mark Twain House & Museum will resume Saturday, April 10, 2021
This is not to be confused with the The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Museum, 120 N Main St, Hannibal, MO. This houses the original home of the author, along with remnants of the town from his era, are on display.
Mark Twain House ideal destination for cat lovers
From his days of growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, to his last years in Connecticut, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) spent much of his life surrounded by cats.
His love of cats was something he carried with him from his childhood.
In his earliest recollections, he recalls his mother taking in and caring for strays.
It should be no surprise to find they worked their way into some of his most famous, best-known books including:
- T.S. Eliot, author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) a collection of whimsical light poems about feline psychology and sociology, published by Faber and Faber. It serves as the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical Cats.
- Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, didn’t have a reputation that gave people a warm and fuzzy feeling, but her gruff personality seemed to soften around her cats. She was also known to sketch her cats, despite spending most of her time with them curled around her typewriter.
- And Ernest Hemingway, well-known for his six-toed (Polydactyl) cats who reside at Key West Museum & Home in Florida.
Mark Twain had up to 19 cats at a time
Twain owned up to 19 cats at one time, all of whom he loved and respected far more than people. His cats all bore fantastical titles, among them:
- Buffalo Bill
- Sour Mash
- Soapy Sal
- And Pestilence
At Paws, we were intrigued by the possibility of finding a host of cat places to see around the world. We are writing a whole section on cat tourism, and you may want to check out some of our posts about cat tourism and events.
- Get your cat fix at the Dr Seuss Museum
- Poland’s Cat Museum Ideal for Cat Lovers
- Virtual Museum Tours for Cat Lovers
- Cat Best Selling Author Gwen Cooper tells how cat tourism events help cats
- Cat Tourism on the Rise & Why We Are Writing About It
- Hurricane Irma’s Cat Heroes Work to Keep Cats Safe at Ernest Hemingway Museum
More reasons cat lovers should visit the Mark Twain House & Museum
Throughout his life, when Twain traveled he would rent cats to take the place of his left-behind companions.
Since he couldn’t travel with the cats, he’d rent them and then leave behind money to help cover their care during all nine of their lives.
The most famous cat-renting episode occurred in Dublin, NH, in 1906.
Twain biographer Albert Bigelow Paine witnessed him renting three kittens for the summer. One he named Sackcloth. The other two were identical and went under the joint name of Ashes.
Another story about his love of cats goes like this.
Once, as he was about to enter the screen door that led into the hall, two kittens ran up in front of him and stood waiting. With grave politeness he opened the door, made a low bow, and stepped back and is quoted as saying, ‘Walk in, gentlemen. I always give precedence to royalty.’
Mark Twain was a real cat lover
Perhaps, Bambino was his favorite cat. And there’s a reason behind that.
His world fell apart in 1904 when his wife, Livy died. He became depressed and barricaded himself in his New York apartment.
His daughter, Clara, also suffered from the stress of her mother’s illness and death. She went to a sanatorium for a year to recover her health.
Although animals were not allowed there, Clara slipped a black kitten into her room. She named the cat Bambino, and he became a great comfort in a very lonely place. Clara wrote about that time in her book, ‘My Father, Mark Twain’:
The cat helped Twain through a deep depression, and when he went missing in New York City, the author offered a $5 reward for anyone who could return Bambino to his home at 21 5th Avenue in New York City.
An advertisement in the New York American read, ‘Have you seen a distinguished-looking black cat that looks as if it might be lost? If you have, take it to Mark Twain, for it may be his.
Twain described the cat as: ‘Large and intensely black; thick, velvety fur; has a faint fringe of white hair across his chest; not easy to find in ordinary light.’
Cat Lovers will learn why Mark Twain loved cats so much
Mark Twain’s love of cats lives on at the museum and through more recent writings. A search on the Internet will find some of Mark Twain’’s quotes about cats:
- A man’s treatment of a dog is no indication of the man’s nature, but his treatment of a cat is. It is the crucial test. None but the humane treat a cat well.”Winter-end Excursion to the Sutherd” (1902)
- Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these. quoted in “UC’s Bancroft Library celebrating Mark Twain,” San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2008
- When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction. “An Incident,” Who Is Mark Twain?
And In this lighthearted book, ‘Mark Twain for Cat Lovers’, Twain scholar Mark Dawidziak explores the writer’s lifelong devotion to cats through stories, excerpts, quotes, photos, and illustrations, illuminating a little-known side of this famous writer’s life that will appeal to Twain enthusiasts and cat lovers alike.
About the Mark Twain House & Museum
- In 1929, Katharine Seymour Day, grandniece of Twain’s neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe, helped persuade the Connecticut General Assembly to establish the Mark Twain Memorial and Library Commission.
- The Friends of Hartford lobbied the state for many years to stop the demolition of the historic Twain House.
- The house officially opened as a museum in 1974, 100 years after Samuel Clemens and his family took possession of their new Victorian-era mansion, where they lived until 1891.
- The Mark Twain House & Museum is a non-profit institution. All purchases and proceeds go directly into the upkeep and restoration of the historic home.
- Samuel Clemens, with his wife Olivia, had the house built for them to be near Sam’s publisher.
- It was their home from 1874 to 1891.
- They raised their three daughters in the mansion in what Twain called the happiest and most productive period of his life.
- In 1873 Sam and Olivia Clemens engaged New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design their Hartford Home in the American High Gothic style
- Construction began in August of that year‚ while Sam and Livy were abroad. Although there was still much finish work to be completed‚ the family moved into their house on Sept. 19‚ 1874.
- Construction delays and rising costs of building plagued the building of their dream home
- The house is quite large: 11‚500 square feet‚ with 25 rooms distributed through three floors.
- It had the latest modern innovations when it was built in 1874.
- The couple spent $40‚000 to $45‚000 building their new home.
- Once they moved in they kept the interior simple.
- Mark Twain and his family enjoyed what the author would later call the happiest and most productive years of his life in their Hartford home.
- Financial problems forced Sam and Livy to move the family to Europe in 1891. These financial problems were caused by a series of poor investment decisions.
- The family would never live in Hartford again. Susy’s death in 1896 made it too hard for Livy to return to their Hartford home‚ and they sold the property in 1903.
- The author lost so much money on poor investments that in 1891 he moved the family out of their Hartford home; Twain would sell it after twenty years for about one-sixth the amount he put into it.
- The house changed hands many times after 1891 and its future was uncertain until Day and her friends intervened.
- National Geographic has named the Mark Twain House & Museum as of the 10 best historic homes in the world.
The Mark Twain House Tour, a cat lover’s delight
Admission to the Mark Twain House is by guided tour only. Expert guides will life in the Clemens household between 1874 and 1891, the place where they raised their three daughters with the able assistance of various servants including a butler, coachman, maid, cook, gardener, and others. Learn all about the family, friends, servants, and even the pets when you visit.
Bring your curiosity and questions to our knowledgeable guides for a peek back in time to the Gilded Age, Mark Twain’s work, and his personal life.
Each tour is one hour and 15 minutes long and includes opportunities not available on a regular house tour. These tours are currently offered on weekends only.
Sam Clemens watched a young United States evolve from a nation torn apart by internal conflicts to one of international power. He experienced America’s vast growth and change – from westward expansion to industrialization‚ the end of slavery‚ advancements in technology‚ big government and foreign wars. As a writer, he often wrote about the many changes that were happening
More about Mark Twain: The Early Years
- Samuel Clemens was born on November 30‚ 1835 in Florida‚ Missouri‚ the sixth of seven children.
- Missouri was a state that took part in slavery. Sam’s father owned one enslaved person, and his uncle owned several.
- He spent many boyhood summers on his uncle’s farm playing in the enslaved people’s quarters‚ listening to tall tales and the spirituals that he would enjoy throughout his life.
- In 1847‚ when he was only 11‚ his father died. He left school to work as a printer’s apprentice for a local newspaper. He arranged the type for each of the newspaper’s stories‚ allowing him to read the news of the world while completing his working.
Twain’s Young Adult Life
- At 18‚ he headed east to New York City and Philadelphia‚ where he worked on several different newspapers and had some success at writing articles.
- By 1857‚ he had returned home to embark on a new career as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River.
- With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861‚all traffic along the river came to a halt‚ as did his pilot career.
- Inspired by the times‚ he joined up with a volunteer Confederate unit called the Marion Rangers‚ but he quit after just two weeks.
- His brother‚ Orion‚ who had been appointed secretary of the Nevada Territory, invited him to come west, and that he did in July 1861.
- Lured by the hope of striking it rich in Nevada’s silver rush‚ he traveled across the open frontier from Missouri to Nevada by stagecoach.
- He encountered Native American tribes for the first time, along with a variety of unique characters‚ mishaps, and disappointments, many that were entwined into his later writings.
- After failing as a silver prospector‚ he began writing for the Territorial Enterprise‚ a Virginia City‚ Nevada newspaper. For the first time, he used his pen name‚ Mark Twain.
- Seeking change, by 1864 he headed for San Francisco where he continued to write for local papers.
- In 1865 Sam’s first big break came with his short story ‘Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog ‘ being published in papers across the country.
- A year later he was hired by the Sacramento Union to visit and report on the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii). His writings were very popular, and once he returned stateside, he began his first lecture tour‚ which established him as a successful stage performer.
- In 1867, he was hired by the Alta California to continue his travel writing from the east‚ New York.
- Then, he signed up for a steamship tour of Europe and the ‘Holy Land.’ His travel letters‚ full of vivid descriptions and tongue-in-cheek observations‚ met with such audience approval that they were later reworked into his first book‚ The Innocents Abroad, published in 1869.
- It was also on this trip that Clemens met his future brother-in-law‚ Charles Langdon who reportedly showed Sam a picture of his sister‚ Olivia‚ and it is said he fell in love at first sight.
- Olivia Langdon was a wealthy coal heiress. For their wedding, her father gave them a mansion with servants, and a carriage, and a coachman
Twain Starts a Family and Moves to Hartford
- After courting for two years‚ Sam Clemens and Olivia (Livy) Langdon were married in 1870. They settled in Buffalo‚ NY‚ where he had become a partner‚ editor, and writer for the daily newspaper the Buffalo Express.
- While they were living in Buffalo‚ their first child‚ Langdon Clemens‚ was born.
- In 1871 the Clemens moved to Hartford‚ Conn.‚ a city he had come to love while visiting his publisher. Livy also had family connections to the city.
- For the first few years, they rented a house in the heart of Nook Farm‚ a residential area, home to numerous writers‚ publishers, and other prominent figures.
- In 1872, his recollections and tall tales from his frontier adventures were published in his book, Roughing It.
- That same year their first daughter Susy was born‚ but their son‚ Langdon‚ died at age two from diphtheria.
- In 1873, his focus turned toward social criticism. He and Hartford Courant publisher Charles Dudley Warner co-wrote The Gilded Age‚ a novel that attacked political corruption‚ big business, and the American obsession with getting rich.
- Ironically‚ a year after its publication‚ the elaborate 25-room house on Farmington Avenue‚ which had cost the then-huge sum of $40‚000-$45‚000‚ was completed.
Twain Writes his Most Famous Books While Living in Hartford
- For the next 17 years (1874-1891)‚ Sam‚ Livy, and their three daughters (Clara was born in 1874 and Jean in 1880) lived in the Hartford home.
- During those years, he wrote some of his most famous books‚ often finding a summer refuge for uninterrupted work at his sister-in-law’s farm in Elmira‚ NY.
- Novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Life on the Mississippi (1883) captured both his Missouri memories and depictions of the American scene.
- He was one of the highest-paid authors of the 19th century.
- His social commentary continued. The Prince and the Pauper (1881) explored class relations, as does A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), which‚ criticized oppression in general while examining the period’s explosion of new technologies.
- In perhaps his most famous work‚ Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)‚ Clemens attacked the institution of slavery‚ derailing the failures of Reconstruction and the continued poor treatment of African Americans in his time.
- Huckleberry Finn was also the first book published by his new publishing company‚ The Charles L. Webster Company. In an attempt to gain control over publication as well as to make substantial profits‚ he created the company in 1884.
- A year later he contracted with former US President Ulysses S. Grant to publish Grant’s memoirs; the two-volume set provided large royalties for Grant’s widow and was a financial success for the publisher as well. While this book did incredibly well, the publishing company proved to be one more bad business investment on his part.
After Hartford, bad investments
Paws was curious as to how one of the highest paid authors of the 19th century could become so broke he had to sell his mansion. And while this does not apply directly to this post, we wanted to share.
He made very poor investment choices, including his publishing company, which was a bust. He lost money on an engraving process, on a magnetic telegraph, on a steam pulley, on the Fredonia Watch Company, and on railroad stocks.
Another bad decision, he turned down a chance to buy into Bell Telephone even though he had one of the nation’s first residential phones.
By the 1890s, Mark Twain was losing money faster than he was reaping the benefits ofhis bestselling books. The stage adaptation of The Gilded Age ran for years; he even invented and patented a very popular scrapbook.
On the advice of Henry H. Rogers of Standard Oil, Twain shifted all his assets to his wife in March 1894, a month before he filed for assignment (bankruptcy). He owed $80,000 (today $2.4 million) to authors, bookbinders and a bank.
Twain began entertaining his way around the world—122 shows in 71 cities, in Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa—and eventually earned enough to pay back all confirmed debts. His backlist books, in a new Complete Works edition, started selling very well.
Twain died on April 21, 1910, at the age of 74. He was buried in Elmira, New York.
While Twain had many financial misadventures and was sinking in debt at points in his life, he left a large estate when he died at age 74. In fact, some have valued it at close to $475,000 — about $15 million today.
How’d he make such a fortune?
In I895, he rented out his mansion in Hartford, Conn., and embarked on a round-the-world tour, a combination of stand-up comedy and celebrity victory lap to make back the money. He was the first American author to travel the world doing this. This plus his writing helped him weather the storm of even more really bad investments.
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