Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Hannibal, MO

Mark Twain at Wikimedia Commons

This tintype, the earliest known photograph of Mark Twain, shows him as a 15-year-old printer’s apprentice.

Hannibal, about 100 miles up the Mississippi River from St. Louis, served as home to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) from 1839 to 1853. His family moved several times during that period, but by 1844 lived in a house at 206 Hill Street that is now known as Twain’s boyhood home. Hannibal, a growing transportation center, supported two churches (Twain attended Protestant Sunday schools), brothels, sawmills, slaughterhouses, pork-processing plants, book dealers, saloons, hotels and several newspapers (Twain worked as an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier and later two papers owned by his brother Orion, the Hannibal Western Union and Hannibal Journal, for which Twain also occasionally wrote sketches). Twain’s idealized version of his Hannibal childhood found its way into Tom Sawyer and other fiction. Twain’s sister Pamela married and left Hannibal for St. Louis in 1851. Twain followed in 1853.

September 20-September 22

Posts from Hannibal, MO

Boyhood Museum’s treatment of slavery evolves

In 1996 Mark Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin, editor of the Oxford Mark Twain and author of Was Huck Black?: Mark Twain and African-American Voices, wrote a skeptic’s critique of Hannibal and its Mark Twain Boyhood … Read more >>

Captain Steve Terry embodies Twain’s riverboat spirit

Think of Captain Steve Terry, the 52-year-old pilot-owner of the Mark Twain Riverboat, as a 21st-century Twain. Terry, as did Twain, loves life on the Mississippi. He earned his license at age 19, becoming the youngest … Read more >>

Attorney and amateur historian examines Hannibal’s slaveholding past

Hannibal, Mo., cheerily announces its intentions before you reach the downtown area. “America’s Hometown.” It’s written on a stout, sky-blue water tower that looms over Highway 61, one of the tallest structures in Hannibal. Terrell Dempsey, … Read more >>

Small town newspaper editor decides to ‘publish dead deer photos again’

I managed to resist much of Hannibal’s historic-site hucksterism—the souvenir Mark Twain t-shirts and the ride on the Too-Too Twain. But I succumbed to the Mark Twain Dinette’s 12-foot-tall rotating mug of root beer atop a … Read more >>

The “Mark Twain” Steamboat

All aboard the Mark Twain! A video of our experience floating down the Mississippi.