Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Keokuk, IA

Orion Clemens, brother of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), settled in Keokuk, a frontier town in the southeastern corner of Iowa about 45 miles north of Hannibal, Missouri, in June 1855 with his wife, Mollie, a Keokuk native. Twain and his brother Henry followed Orion in July and helped him put out the Keokuk Journal. Twain gave his first public speech in Keokuk—at a dinner honoring Benjamin Franklin’s sesquicentennial birthday. He left Keokuk by fall 1856, claiming in his Autobiography that he found a $50 bill blowing in the swirling wind and with it bought a ticket for Cincinnati. In truth, he went to Cincinnati after visiting St. Louis and briefly returning to Keokuk. While out of town he wrote letters, using the pen name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, that were published in George Rees’s Keokuk Post. In 1861 Orion and Twain traveled together by stagecoach to Nevada. Several letters Twain wrote home were published in the Keokuk Gate City. Orion permanently returned to Keokuk in 1872. His and Twain’s mother, Jane Lampton Clemens, moved to town, and Twain visited for family reunions until 1890, the year his mother died.

November 20-November 21

Posts from Keokuk, IA

Small river towns of Keokuk, IA, and Cape Girardeau, MO, showcase Twain’s writings and letters

On the drive to Keokuk, Iowa, where a young Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) worked as a printer in the mid-1850s, we stop in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for lunch. We have Twain as an appetizer. A building … Read more >>

Culinary delights in Iowa

In Iowa, carrot cake and steak coexist so easily. How Midwestern. Alyssa