Mark Twain, Mary Baker Eddy, and the News

Produced by The Mary Baker Eddy Library, the Seekers and Scholars podcast explores the relevance of Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910) to contemporary scholarship in a variety of disciplines and fields.  Guests have frequently conducted research in the Library’s collections, which have contributed to publications with notable academic presses.

Mary Baker Eddy (1886) from the Mary Baker Eddy Library

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) was an influential American author, teacher, and religious leader, noted for her groundbreaking ideas about spirituality and health, which she named Christian Science. She articulated those ideas in her major work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, first published in 1875. Four years later she founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, which today has branch churches and societies around the world. In 1908 she launched The Christian Science Monitor, a leading international newspaper, the recipient, to date, of seven Pulitzer Prizes.

Dr. L. Ashley Squires, guest speaker for the podcast episode “Mark Twain, Mary Baker Eddy, and the news,” has had two fellowships at the Library. Her archival research provided important information and insights for her book Healing the Nation: Literature, Progress, and Christian Science (Indiana University Press, 2017).  Squires’s thesis seeks to fill what she perceives is a void in understanding Eddy and the impact Christian Science has had on literature and the media in the Progressive Era.   

In this episode Squires explores Twain’s views on Eddy and Christian Science, discussing how we can better discern them.  Twain is a key figure for Squires—a major literary and cultural force whose fixation with Eddy stands out. She notes that, while his critique of Eddy “is still the best known and most frequently studied . . . it is not particularly well understood” (Healing the Nation, 3).

The Library provides public access to original materials and educational experiences about Mary Baker Eddy; the ideas she advanced; her writings; and the institutions she founded and their healing mission.

The podcast can be found by clicking here.

Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes will perform “Mark Twain’s Music Box”

By 1878 Sam Clemens had accomplished substantial wealth and fame and was living comfortably with his wife Livy and their family near Hartford, Connecticut.  Yet something important was missing.  A wide gap persisted between his personal cultural development and that of his upscale neighbors and social circles in the Hartford area. 

Sam and Livy resolved to fix this gap by extended travel and cultural study in Western Europe.  Beginning in 1878 they set out to tour seven countries in Western Europe.  Given the prevailing stylistic differences between European and American music at the time, confrontation of these differences was inevitable.  Following a symphonic musical performance in Baden Baden, Germany by the Baden Baden Philharmonie, Sam wrote his compelling and introspective analysis of music, defining the place of music in human society.  Although he showed an interest in music and made passing reference to his musical preferences on prior occasions, this time he faced music head-on with a clear and compelling message.  It was a time of an obvious inflection point in his cultural development regarding music.   

In the musical production Mark Twain’s Music Box, the important role of a music box is woven into the story of Sam Clemens’ relationship to music.  The mysteries surrounding the music box extend to this day.  Perhaps our audience can play some role in finally resolving these 140 year old conundrums.  Join the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble, consisting of what Twain would call ten “high grade” musicians, as they deliver the intriguing story of the music box and Mark Twain’s relationship to music. 

We wish to thank the following organizations and individuals for their important contributions and collaborations in the development and presentation of Mark Twain’s Music Box:

  • The Park Church
  • Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies
  • Dr. Barbara Snedecor, former Director of CMTS
  • Dr. Joseph Lemak, current Director of CMTS
  • The Baden Baden Philharmonie, Baden Baden, Germany
  • Herr Arndt Joosten, Orchestermanager
  • Kiril Nikolow, Principle Cello
  • Dr. Kerry Driscoll, University of St. Joseph, Hartford, Connecticut

Concert details:

The Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes is proud to announce its third Musicians’ Choice Chamber Series concert of the 2018-19 season.  This concert, titled Mark Twain’s Music Box, will be held in the majestic sanctuary of the historic Park Church in Elmira on Friday, February 8 at 7:30 PM.  All ages are welcome.

Mark Twain’s Music Box explores Sam Clemens’ (Mark Twain’s) fascinating personal relationship with music.  The production is filled with live music, drama, mystery, and the comedy befitting the title character.  Mark Twain’s Music Box is a one of a kind concert that uses fine music to teach about important history, while using important history to teach about fine music. 

25% Off Group Discount for 10 or more, group rates available by phone or in person.

Relive Twain’s Summer of 1884 with the Final Lecture of the “Trouble Begins” 2018 Season

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes Wednesday, November 7 when presenter John Bird takes the audience through Twain’s summer of 1884 at Quarry Farm.  The final fall lecture begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture is free and open to the public.


Mark Twain working in the Study, circa 1880’s.

Bird, emeritus professor of English at Winthrop University, will present “‘At the Farm’: Reliving Mark Twain’s 1884 Summer at Quarry Farm.”  As he did for many summers, Mark Twain packed up his family (including dogs and cats, and in this case, a bicycle) and left Hartford for an extended stay at Elmira’s Quarry Farm. Part of his current work-in-progress, a micro-biography of Twain in the year 1884, Bird’s presentation will let audiences relive Twain and his family’s experience that summer. Even though Twain wrote his friend Joe Twichell near the end of the stay that he had not accomplished anything of value during the summer, he actually had an interesting and productive summer: he read a proof of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and made some important revisions; he began a sequel even before he published his novel, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn Among the Indians; he became fully engaged in national politics during the presidential campaign; and he sat for the bust Karl Gerhardt made (twice) at Quarry Farm for the frontispiece of Huck Finn. Just as importantly, he engaged with his family, writing a short but charming personal memoir, “At the Farm,” with humorous and heartwarming anecdotes about his daughters. Living with Mark Twain day-by-day for this summer brings him and his family back to life and gives the audience a window into life at Quarry Farm, a place central to his work and his life.


Bird is the author of Mark Twain and Metaphor, as well as a number of articles on Mark Twain. He is a past president of the Mark Twain Circle of America.


About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Updated Virtual Tour of Mark Twain’s and Family’s Gravesite Now Available

CMTS has updated its virtual tours of both Quarry Farm and the Langdon/Clemens plot on Woodlawn Cemetery (Elmira, New York).  The virtual tours now include a number of Points of Interests.  These “POI” include images and text that will help viewers explore and learn about the house where wrote a number of his iconic works and his final resting place.


(On the upper left menu, click on “Off Site”, then “Gravesite”)


This is the beginning of a larger project for CMTS, specifically the creation of an interactive map of Woodlawn Cemetery and an interactive map of the city of Elmira from 1870 – 1910, roughly the time span when Mark Twain would visit and reside in Elmira.

Created by David Coleman of Small Town 360, the virtual tour allows a glimpse of Quarry Farm and a step back in time by offering 360-degree views of both inside and outside the home, including the parlor, library kitchen and pantry; at the same time the Langdon/Cemetery plot features all of Samuel Clemens’s and Olivia Langdon Clemens’s children and descendants, along with important members of the Langdon family who were essential to Twain’s time in Elmira, including Jervis Langdon, Charley Langdon, and Susan Crane.

We hope that teachers and enthusiasts will use the resources and show the tour to their students, friends, and anyone who is interested in Mark Twain and his literature.  As with all resources provided by CMTS, these virtual tours are open to the public at no cost.


Author of Award-Winning Novel “Flood” Continues the Fall Trouble Begins Series

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 24 in the Barn at Quarry Farm. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Writing from Roots in ‘America’s Hometown’: Flood, a Novel” by Melissa Scholes Young, American University

Literature and life often claim you can’t go home again, but what happens if you have to? In this book talk and author reading, Melissa Scholes Young will chronicle how Mark Twain’s own exodus from Hannibal parallels Laura Brooks’, the protagonist of her debut novel, Flood, who like the Mississippi River, once ran in the wrong direction in order to recalibrate. She’ll share her historical research and creative writing process as well as explore whyTwain’s origin in rural America is more relevant than ever.

“Filled with pithy dialogue and cultural references, Scholes Young’s writing ties Laura’s journey of self-discovery squarely to Hannibal and its famous young troublemakers. As Laura reckons with her past, Scholes Young reckons with Twain’s influence on the region. This debut is a wonderful story of home, hope, and the ties that bind us to family.” – Publishers Weekly

Melissa Scholes Young is an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of the anthology Grace in Darkness. Her debut novel, Flood, set in Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown she shares with Mark Twain, was the winner in Literary Fiction for the 2017 Best Book Award.

Here is Kevin Mac Donnell’s review of Flood: A Novel from the Mark Twain Forum Reviews.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series
In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

TV Critic David Bianculli Explores Mark Twain’s Representation on the Small Screen in the Next “Trouble Begins” Lecture

The fall portion of the 2018-2019 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, continues Wednesday, October 17 in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus. The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

The lecture, “Mark Twain, TV Star,” will be presented by David Bianculli of Rowan University and NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. The real Mark Twain, Samuel L. Clemens, appeared in only one film in his lifetime, shortly before his death: a short silent movie of him walking around his Stormfield home, photographed by Thomas Edison’s Edison film company in 1909. But since then, Mark Twain has been on television dozens of times – immortalized, and impersonated, by a frankly startling array of actors on the small screen. The best of them, Hal Holbrook in his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight!, you know, and should. But the rest of them? Other actors portraying Mark Twain, in various programs over the 70-year-history of television, have ranged from Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby to Woody Harrelson and William Shatner. The character and image of Mark Twain have been kept alive by shows ranging from Bonanza and The Rifleman to Touched by an Angel and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bianculli will discuss and show clips from all these and more.

TV Critic David Bianculli

Bianculli has been the TV critic for National Public Radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, where he also appears as occasional guest host, since 1987. Beginning in 1975, he has worked as a TV critic for newspapers in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, most recently for the New York Daily News from 1993-2007. Currently, he is a full-time professor of television and film history at Rowan University, and editor of the website TV Worth Watching (, which he launched in 2007. Bianculli has written four books – The Platinum Age of Television: From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific; Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’; Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously; and Dictionary of Teleliteracy – and has written chapters for and co-edited, with Douglas Howard, Television Finales: From ‘Howdy Doody’ to ‘Girls,’ to be published by Syracuse University Press in November. Bianculli has a B. S. in Journalism and an M. A. in Journalism and Communications, both from the University of Florida.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series
In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series. The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Help Support The Mark Twain House & Museum and Eat Great Food!

The Staff of CMTS wishes the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut the biggest success with their annual fundraiser.  We encourage you all to participate.  It looks like a fun, fantastic, food-filled event!

Food is the focus of Twain’s Feast, the 2018 Mark Twain House & Museum Gala fundraiser, to be held Saturday, November 3 at 6 pm at the Goodwin Hotel in downtown Hartford. The annual event benefitting The Mark Twain House & Museum will highlight delectable preparations from nationally recognized chef Tyler Anderson, based on some of the foods listed in the book Twain’s Feast by Andrew Beahrs.

Audible will present a preview of its new eight-part series Twain’s Feast, based on Beahrs’ book.  Twain’s Feast is a rollicking, information-packed journey that explores Mark Twain’s life and a changing America through eight of his favorite foods. Actor, author and Twain enthusiast Nick Offerman presents Twain’s life and, with the help of some friends and Chef Anderson, reveals a surprising culinary and ecological history. This Audible Original is a fun look into the heart of a changing America, with the sharp eye and unmistakable wit of Mark Twain as a guide.

In this article from The Huffington Post, the author describes some of the dishes detailed in the publication.

The evening begins with cocktails at 6 p.m.  Dinner will be served family style and Chef Anderson will describe the dishes and how he was inspired by Twain’s Feast.

Silent auction items up for bid at the gala include a a five-day stay in a private home on the French Riviera with Norwegian Air tickets included; a dinner for six in the Hartford brownstone home of Luke and Sara Bronin, catered by Chef Anderson; and a seven-day steamboat cruise down the Mississippi River on the American Queen.

“Twain’s Feast”, the gala’s theme, is directly related to the museum’s mission of preserving and promoting Mark Twain’s legacy.

Read more about Mark Twain’s love of food in this Frank Rizzo story in Hartford magazine.

You can Buy gala tickets here.


2018 Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium Recap

Last weekend (October 5-7. 2018) CMTS hosted the 2018 Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium “American Literary History and Economics in the New Gilded Age.”

The economic expansion of the U.S. during Mark Twain’s lifetime was unprecedented, in this country or any other. Twain was fascinated by the technological innovations that transformed commerce and industry, the volatile financial markets that strained to keep up with the demands of entrepreneurs and investors, the infamous magnates that accumulated private fortunes unimaginable to previous generations, the corrosive symbiosis of private wealth and public servants, the precarious plight of consumers and laborers who both drove the economy and were periodically driven over by it, and the fledgling field of philosophical inquiry, political economy, aimed at understanding the organizing principles of capitalist society.

Before anybody suspected he would become the literary figure who defined this era, Twain gave it its lasting nickname, the Gilded Age, recognizing that the luxurious lifestyles of America’s nouveau riche celebrities and the bedazzling technologies advertised by American entrepreneurs disguised deep disparities of wealth, exploitative employment practices, systemic corruption, and widespread financial fraud. As we find ourselves in what is now frequently called “The New Gilded Age,” characterized by many of the same phenomena, CMTS’s Fifth Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium featured scholars who explore the intersections of economic history, economic theory, mass media, and literature.

The symposium was organized by Henry B. Wonham (University of Oregon), Lawrence Howe (Roosevelt University), and Matt Seybold (Elmira College). Wonham and Howe’s collection, Mark Twain & Money, was published in 2017, while Seybold’s Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (coedited with Michelle Chihara) was just published this year.

The official symposium program with full abstracts of all the talks can be found here.

The festivities began with an opening reception on the Elmira College campus.  After a welcome address from Dr. Charles Lindsay, President of Elmira College, Professor Matt Seybold (Elmira College) kicked off the talks with an introductory address.  Dr. Seybold’s talk can be found here.  The opening reception was highlighted by David Sloan Wilson (Distinguished Professor of Biology & Anthropology at Binghamton University) delivering the keynote address “Mark Twain, Cultural Multilevel Selection, and the New Gilded Age.”  This provocative talk challenged literary scholars to theorize the multilevel selection of systems of meaning and maladaptive economic systems.  An audio-recording of Professor Wilson’s talk can be found here.

The majority of the symposium took place at beautiful Quarry Farm, where 11 papers were delivered in an intimate section.  A number of the talks were recorded.  All of the recorded talks can be found in the Trouble Begins Archives. After all the papers were delivered, all attendees enjoyed a cocktail hour on the Porch at Quarry Farm, followed by a dinner in the Barn.

They symposium concluded with a farewell breakfast at Quarry Farm where attendees conversed and said their good-byes to old and new colleagues.

CMTS is pleased to announce that we are already working on the 2019 Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium, tentatively titled “Mark Twain and the Natural World.”   This gathering will explore the relation between human beings and the natural world. This broad scope allows for critical examinations of Twain’s writing about the natural world in any number of ways: as nature writing; as a form of environmentalism; as commentary on animal welfare, technology and science, and travel; and as a forerunner to mid-20th to early 21st century writers (Krutch, Abbey, Kingsolver, Quammen, and Gessner) who offer comic responses to nature as well as recognize the comic in the natural world and in our relationship to that world. The conference organizer is Ben Click (St. Mary’s College of Maryland).  Professor Click is the current editor of Mark Twain Annual and plans to publish a special issue of MTA in conjunction with the symposium.

Images from Friday’s Opening Reception and Saturday’s Paper Sessions

Lecture focusing on Twain’s friend from New Orleans starts the Fall 2018 Trouble Begins Series

The fall portion of the 2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, begins Wednesday, October 10 in the Barn at Quarry Farm.  The lecture begins at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Portrait of Grace King

The first lecture “Getting to Know Mark Twain through the Eyes of Grace King, a Southern Woman of Letters” will be presented by Miki Pfeffer, from Nicholls State University. New Orleans writer, Grace King, enjoyed a two-decade friendship with Sam and Livy Clemens and their daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean. King visited the family in Hartford in 1887 and 1888 and in Florence in 1892. She wrote to her family about the Twain homes, meals, dress, and habits. From New Orleans, she exchanged letters with each Clemens, especially Livy, with whom she became a confidante. As each family member died, she kept in touch with the living, right through Clara’s brief messages around 1918. Miki Pfeffer will read from some of King’s captivating letters that offer a fresh view of the Clemenses and of Mark Twain as loving homebody, father, and generous friend to this ambitious southern woman.

Miki Pfeffer holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature and a Ph.D. in Urban History from the University of New Orleans. She is a visiting scholar at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Louisiana. Her book, Southern Ladies and Suffragists: Julia Ward Howe and Women’s Rights at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair, was awarded the 2015 Eudora Welty Prize for scholarship in Women’s Studies and Southern Studies from the Mississippi University for Women.Her current mission is to see Grace King’s letters published and appreciated, and she offers the collection of the family of Twain in a book to be published in 2019.

About The Trouble Begins Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series.  The title came from the handbill advertising Mark Twain’s October 2, 1866 lecture presented at Maguire’s Academy of Music in San Francisco. The first lectures were presented in 1985. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the fall and spring of each year, in the Barn at Quarry Farm or at Peterson Chapel in Cowles Hall on Elmira College’s campus. All lectures are free and open to the public.

CMTS Launches the Quarry Farm Preservation Campaign – and Needs You!

My name is Joe Lemak and I am the Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. I’d like to welcome all of you, not only the familiar faces who are already part of the CMTS community – You know who you are! – but also all the people who are new to CMTS and Quarry Farm. We hope that you will join us as we grow our services for the local, national, and international constituencies we serve.

Quarry Farm is one of America’s most important literary landmarks and a true cornerstone of the historical and cultural legacy of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region. This fall we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Mark Twain’s first visits to Elmira. It’s here that he would go on to write Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Prince and The Pauper, A Tramp Aboard, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many others!

A big part of the CMTS mission is the preservation and maintenance of the historical infrastructure that we are in charge of, namely Quarry Farm, the Mark Twain Study and Exhibit at Elmira College, and the Mark Twain Archive in the Gannett-Tripp Library.

To this end, CMTS has sought out professional help, enlisting the services of Johnson-Schmidt & Associates (Corning, NY), architects specializing in historical preservation. Elise Johnson-Schmidt and her team are currently in the process of preparing historic structures reports for both Quarry Farm and the Mark Twain Study. These documents have been funded by a number of grants we have applied for and received in the last year, a testament to how deserving these structures are of special attention. These grants include funding from the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation; Preservation League of New York; and the Mark Twain Foundation.

Johnson-Schmidt & Associates has already given us some preliminary feedback. They have prioritized a large-scale project for Quarry Farm: namely, the installation of a comprehensive heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, or “HVAC.”

A properly designed HVAC system addresses some of the most critical issues for the long-term stability of the Quarry Farm property, namely, the potentially corrosive impact of moisture and temperature changes on the historical furnishings and fabrics contained within, as well as upon the structure itself.

Properly designed humidity control will monitor and protect the building and its contents from the ill-effects of long-term moisture, which is a constant threat to historic buildings, and especially those with significant quantities of paper and textile resources. As Quarry Farm is home to a world-class library of Twain-related sources, many pieces of 19th-century furniture and artwork, and a recently-refurbished pre-Civil War rug, we must be vigilant on this front.

Furthermore, climate conditions within Quarry Farm are such that the broad fluctuation in temperature and humidity lead to deterioration of the building materials. Temperature fluctuations enhance the opportunity for insect decay, dry and wet rot, as well as mold, all of which need to be prevented.

It is important to consider the type and installation of the HVAC system so as to minimize its visual and structural impact to the house. Although no perfect system exists to control these aspects of the building for both resource and occupants, a system can be designed to significantly improve the climate controls to meet the needs of both constituents for the long-term preservation of Quarry Farm and the goals of the Langdon family gift.

Jervis Langdon, Jr.

Jervis Langdon Jr. gave Quarry Farm to Elmira College. Undoubtedly, it is a wonderful, unique gift. But Quarry Farm has no endowment, no extra monetary resources. As a result, all the former directors of CMTS have had to be extremely creative and resourceful in funding preservation/maintenance projects.

As you might have guessed, that’s where you all come in!

We are continuing this tradition of resourcefulness by launching the Quarry Farm Legacy Preservation Campaign!

This campaign will help fund the HVAC system necessary for the continued sustainability of the Quarry Farm property. Needless to say, this will not be an inexpensive project. One of the best ways to win big grants is to demonstrate community support, and the support that speaks the loudest is monetary support!

A current plaque outside the kitchen at Quarry Farm recognizes the generosity of local donors to our last preservation campaign, in 1986!

CMTS offers you the opportunity to be a part of Quarry Farm.  As part of the Quarry Farm legacy Preservation Campaign we will be honoring groups and individuals who make large donations by including their names on a memorial plaque, next to the plaque already gracing the entrance to Quarry Farm from our last preservations campaign…in 1986.

As that plaque suggests, this opportunity will not come again any time soon.  In fact, the next time we will do this will most likely be during the 200th anniversary, by which point I will be 96 years old (if I make it).  This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, community leaders, to forever be a direct part of the proud legacy of Quarry Farm and Mark Twain Studies.

On this sesquicentennial of Mark Twain’s arrival in Elmira, we are also celebrating the community leaders of this region, both past and present. My colleague, Matt Seybold, discusses Elmirans’ long, proud tradition of generosity and community service in his commemoration of the anniversary, but here are just a few examples:

Thomas K. Beecher was the founding pastor of the Park Church. He made the congregation’s emphasis on community service a qualification for his accepting the pastorate in 1854. Beecher helped organize Elmira’ first public library and stood, along with those in his congregation, for the rights of all individuals, regardless of race or gender. He lived less than a mile from Quarry Farm and was a close friend of the Langdons, Cranes, and Clemenses.

Drs. Rachel and Silas Gleason

Drs. Rachel and Silas Gleason were founders of the Gleason Water Cure Health Resort, another structure that stood about a mile from Quarry Farm. The Gleasons were dedicated to our region’s health and wellness. I can’t think of a more noble pursuit than administering care to another human being. Samuel Clemens was particularly impressed with Rachel Gleason, who prided herself as an excellent midwife. He insisted that she deliver all of his daughters.

Matthias Arnot

Matthias Arnot was another major contributor to the industrial and civic growth of this region. He served on the Board and was President of numerous organizations including Elmira Lumber Company, Chemung Gas Company, Arnot Realty Company, the Board of Managers of the Elmira Reformatory and the Elmira Board of Education. He built an impressive art collection which became the foundation for Elmira’s Arnot Art Gallery.

Someone a bit closer to my racket is Augustus Cowles, the President of Elmira Female College. It is because of his efforts that we now have Elmira College, one of the pillars of our community, which recently joined forces with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine to build a new medical school campus in downtown Elmira, a potentially revitalizing development for the neighborhood.

Charles Jervis Langdon

And to bring it back home, if you will, we have Charley Langdon, who first attracted Mark Twain to Elmira after they became friends on the Quaker City cruise in 1867. Charley was another successful business and civic leader, who was a patron to the educational and artistic institutions in his city and served on the city’s common council, as a member of its volunteer fire department, and as police commissioner. He was also instrumental in erecting Sullivan’s monument.

Last I’d like to point out is Jervis Langdon, Jr. As I mentioned before, it was his vision, that created the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Because of Jervis Lagndon, Jr. and his gift, Quarry Farm is not a roadside museum, but an internationally recognized academic center dedicated to one of the most celebrated authors of the world. One of the stipulations of this gift is that Quarry Farm can never be open to the public. Quarry Farm’s sole purpose is as a writing retreat for Mark Twain scholars. From this stipulation emerged the Center for Mark Twain Studies. More than 30 years later, Quarry Farm is an internationally recognized academic retreat for the most well-known and well-respected scholars who work in the field.

These civic leaders – doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, and patron of the arts – are our mirror. It is a cloudy mirror, but a mirror nonetheless. In these figures who belonged to our community, in some ways, we should try to see ourselves. You are all their cultural descendants, you are the leaders of our community in your own way, you are the people who ensure that their economic, artistic, cultural and political  legacy is sustained in a way that continues to benefit Elmira, the Southern Tier, and the international state of Mark Twain Studies.

All of these people were giving of their time and resources, and because of that they did great good, a good that reached past them and affected future generations.

If you are interested in joining our Quarry Farm Legacy Preservation Campaign, I encourage you to let me know. If you know someone who wants to take advantage of this opportunity, let me know.  I will be more than happy to talk with you, them, anybody! I look forward to working with you all. Thank you.


Joe Lemak’s Contact Information:

Dr. Joseph Lemak, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies

[email protected]

(607) 735-1941

Elmira College, 1 Park Place, Elmira, New York 14901