Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, Missouri’s largest city with a population of 60,000 by the time Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) arrived in June 1853, was described by Huck in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as “the whole world lit up.” The growing city’s river and railroad work attracted immigrants, mainly Irish and Germans. Twain worked as a printer for the Evening News and other local papers. His small-town typesetting skills were dismissed by a St. Louis printer as error-filled: “He could not have set up an advertisement in acceptable form to save his life.” St. Louis printers proudly proclaimed themselves able to guzzle more red whisky than most men. But Twain, the abstemious abstainer, saved his money for a trip east in August 1853. He wrote to his mother: “Well, I was out of work in St. Louis, and didn’t fancy loafing in such a dry place, where there is no pleasure to be seen without paying well for it, and so I thought I might as well go to New York.”

September 23-September 26

Posts from St. Louis, MO

Octogenarian Audrey Ghiglione Bender shares birthday memories

From bowling and dancing trophies to a sign that says “Don’t Mistake Me For That Nice Little Old Lady,” almost 80 years of living cover every inch of the tiny living room in Audrey Ghiglione Bender’s … Read more >>

The St. Louis Ghigliones: Secular Saints vs. Saloonkeepers

The search for the Ghigliones, what I like to think of as a representative immigrant family from Mark Twain’s era, began for me in St. Louis. There I discovered two branches of the local Ghigliones, the … Read more >>

Getting to know The Hill and the game of Bocce ball

The Hill, a 50-square-block area in South St. Louis, is the city’s Italian neighborhood. On Sunday, September 25, 2011, the St. Ambrose school cafeteria hosted a ravioli dinner from noon to 6 p.m. to benefit the … Read more >>

Wash U prof. Gerald Early relives racially tense experience with St. Louis police

Gerald Early, 59, shares his experience with racial profiling in the wealthy St. Louis suburb, Frontenac. We sat down with him to discuss race in St. Louis and the next step for racial harmony. Early is … Read more >>

Meet Big Mama, the mayor of Hopeville

For obvious reasons it’s hard to find a homeless city. No address. Hopeville, one of the three largest homeless camps in St. Louis, comes with nothing more than “north of The Arch, next to the river.” … Read more >>