Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

New York, NY

Mark Twain at Wikimedia Commons

This photo was taken by Matthew Brady in his New York studio at Broadway and Fulton streets, February 7, 1871.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) first came to New York, a city of more than 500,000, in 1853 to see the Crystal Palace Exposition. New York, filled with free blacks, Germans, Jews and Chinese, challenged the views of a nativist (Twain wrote snidely to his mother, “I reckon I had better black my face, for in these Eastern States niggers are considerably better than white people”). He walked four miles a day, living in a lower Manhattan boardinghouse on Duane Street, working as a printer for John A. Gray at 95-97 Cliff Street and regularly stopping off at the free printers’ library on Chambers Street. “I have taken a liking to the abominable place [New York],” he wrote, “and every time I get ready to leave I put if off a day or so from some unaccountable cause.” After two months, Twain traveled to Philadelphia and became a substitute typesetter for the Pennsylvania Inquirer and National Gazette. But he would return to New York more than 100 times, living there or nearby in 1867 (when he first met his wife-to-be, “timid and lovely”), 1900-03 and 1904-08. Mary Mapes Dodge called him the “Belle of New York.” He became senior partner in the publishing house of Charles L. Webster & Co., a founding member in the Players Club on Gramercy Park, a resident of a house at 14 W. 10th Street in Greenwich Village , then Wave Hill, a Riverdale mansion, and finally 21 Fifth Avenue. He also continued to write, though more bitterly “with a pen warmed up in Hell.”

October 10-October 13

Posts from New York, NY

Ann Ghiglione O’Keefe finds a surprise in Pontedecimo, Italy

I, like other Ghigliones born in the United States, returned to Pontedecimo, Italy, birthplace of my great-grandfather, Angelo Francesco Ghiglione, in search of the holy grail. Our holy grail took the form of descendants—any descendants—of Angelo … Read more >>

Gay writer and physician Larry Mass on the pains of assimilation

Larry Mass invited us to his Manhattan apartment to discuss the sense of wistfulness that the gay community feels as it becomes more and more assimilated in society. Mass, co-founder of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, … Read more >>

Author Ellis Cose talks about his daughter’s approach to race

Ellis Cose is a renowned American journalist whose most recent book The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage was published May 2011. We interviewed him in his writing apartment in Manhattan. … Read more >>

Cartoonist Michael Kupperman becomes Mark Twain in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

We met with Michael Kupperman in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on a windy New York day. Kupperman is an American cartoonist and humorist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker. His most recent book Mark Twain’s … Read more >>

Mystery on Staten Island

In Dan’s video you can follow our drive around Staten Island with Roger’s Effehi, a United Cars taxi driver from Nigeria, in search of where my great-grandfather and his family lived at the end of the … Read more >>