Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Lexington, KY

Jane Lampton Clemens (1803-1890), the mother of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. She bore seven children and outlived all but three—Samuel, his older sister, Pamela Ann Clemens Moffett, and his oldest brother, Orion. Twain captured the spirit of his mother in his portrayal of Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly—kind-hearted but also outspokenly stern. When Samuel was pulled limp and half-drowned from a river she only gave him tea and castor oil, quipping, “I guess there wasn’t much danger. People born to be hanged are safe in water.” Jane Clemens’ landlocked Lexington became a symbol, in comparison to river city Louisville, of a Kentucky commercial center that lost out in the era of the steamboat: In 1820, Lexington’s population was more than five times that of Louisville, but by 1860 Louisville was three times larger than Lexington.

November 5

Posts from Lexington, KY

Ihsan Bagby: Islam in the United States is Islam’s Future Worldwide

An African-American born in Cleveland who “grew up in the ‘hood,” Ihsan Bagby says he had rejected Christianity by his junior year in high school. “I thought I had rejected God,” he adds, but in 1969, … Read more >>

Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Merlene Davis pessimistic about true equality

On a Friday afternoon, Merlene Davis is playfully cussing out John Carroll, her former editor. We’re in a cold first-floor conference room of the Lexington Herlad-Leader, and Carroll had recommended we talk to Davis during our … Read more >>

Former Lexington Herald editor John Carroll: ‘It was really bad what the paper did’

Though best known for his ten years as editor of The Baltimore Sun and five years as editor of the Los Angeles Times (during which the staff won 13 Pulitzers), John S. Carroll can speak about … Read more >>