Home and Inspiration for a Beloved American Icon
Literary fans come from around the world to visit the home of one of America’s most famous and beloved authors, Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, a pen name he derived from the term used by Mississippi River pilots to indicate a water depth of two fathoms.
“To us,” Twain said, “our house … had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with. … It was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.” Twain commissioned his custom-designed High Victorian mansion from the well-known New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, and lived here with his wife, Olivia (and, eventually, three daughters), from 1874 to 1891, during which period he penned some of his most acclaimed works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
The beautifully restored nineteen-room mansion features decorative work by Louis Comfort Tiffany (it’s one of only two remaining domestic interiors of his design in the United States) and an immense collection of nearly 10,000 Victorian-era objects. Guided tours point out personal items that belonged to Twain and his family: his beloved billiards table, where he would spread out his manuscript when editing; the three-ton Paige typesetter, an ill-fated invention in which Twain invested, leading (along with a bad investment in suspenders) to his bankruptcy; the ornately carved 19th-century master bed, purchased during travels in Italy, at whose foot Twain and Olivia would sleep so they could admire the elaborate headboard.
Directly across from the Mark Twain House is a Gothic cottage that once belonged to writer Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin is regarded as the first international bestseller. Her home, though less ambitious, is also open to the public.