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A message from Joe Lemak, Director of the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies Dear Friend: While at Quarry Farm in the early summer of 1874, Mark Twain wrote: “…since we have perched away up here on top of the hill near heaven I have the feeling of being a sort of scrub angel & am more moved to help shove the clouds around, & get the stars on deck promptly, & keep all things trim & ship-shape in Read more…


Thanksgiving dinner at Quarry Farm in 1897 was planned by Susan Crane and described on elegant cards featuring the family cats. A surviving copy of these menu cards, located in the Mark Twain Archive at Elmira College, provides insight into how one prominent Elmira family celebrated the holidays near the turn of the century. Familiar Thanksgiving staples, like roast turkey and cranberry jelly, shared the table with fashionable preparations from the era and timeless delicacies. Mrs. Crane was clearly partial Read more…


Quarry Farm’s only year-round resident, Caretaker Steve Webb, provides us with occasional, not altogether reliable, updates from the premises. To paraphrase the friendly ghost with whom he shares his home, Mr. Webb’s dispatches include eminently plausible fictions, mildly exaggerated truths, and an exhaustless mine of stupendous lies. The breeze pushed through the window screen just hard enough to float the curtains away from the wall and split them a few inches to reveal the blue sky. There was a trace of Read more…


As Hal Holbrook is quick to point out, he has been Mark Twain for longer than Mark Twain was. Holbrook premiered Mark Twain Tonight! in 1954. He has been performing a constantly evolving version of the show for over sixty years. Samuel Clemens bore his eponymous alter ego for less than fifty. Holbrook, who will turn 92 in February, will visit the following select cities over the next six months. November 15th – Waco Hall, Baylor University (Waco, TX) – Read more…


Elmira 2017, the Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, will convene at Elmira College this August 3rd through 5th, 2017. The Conference will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Sam Clemens’ participation in the famous Quaker City Tour to Europe and the Middle East. In addition, the Conference acknowledges the sweeping and ongoing importance of Mark Twain’s satirical writings with its theme: The Assault of Laughter. More than 50 scholarly papers will be presented over three days Read more…


“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”                                                               – The Apocryphal Twain In November 1973, Gore Vidal’s Burr debuted at #4 on the NYT Best Seller List. The novel spent the next 39 weeks in the top ten, including 21 at #1. The topic Vidal chose for his much-anticipated sequel, Read more…


The Chicago Cubs first trip to the World Series since 1945 is, for many fans of the franchise, tinged with the melancholy remembrance of friends and family. Many lives were lived in the interim between World Series appearances, much less World Series victories. But such rare events can also have a telescoping effect, temporarily making the seemingly distant past seem oddly approachable and familiar. The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Samuel Clemens was 72. He was living Read more…


Samuel L. Clemens pioneered a modern understanding of the new information economy emerging in the U.S. in the years after the Civil War because he understood and marketed Mark Twain as a brand-name comic commodity. Judith Yaross Lee explains how Clemens managed the Mark Twain brand by extending it to some activities, excluding it from others, and exploiting its modern conception of the self in his public performances.   Judith Yaross Lee is Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Charles Read more…


In the recently published 2017 issue of Mark Twain Annual, Susan L. Eastman of University of Tennessee – Chattanooga discusses the distinctly contemporary resonances of a short story, “The War Prayer,” which was not published until thirteen years after the death of its author. Twain’s incisive posthumous indictment of imperial militarism, as Eastman puts it, “buoys the anti-war movement in the twenty-first century,” having been adapted and analyzed “in media beyond Twain’s imagination.” Though it’s never wise to doubt the limits of Read more…


Recent books by Richard Zacks and Judith Yaross Lee (who will be giving the final lecture of the fall season of Trouble Begins at Eight on November 2nd) have emphasized Mark Twain’s unprecedented performance style. Twain abandoned the self-serious moralizing of popular antebellum lecturers, but also demurred from seeking easy laughs like slapstick vaudevillians. Next week, on October 27th at 7:00 PM, CMTS welcomes a contemporary performer who, like Twain, blends talents as a journalist, comedian, actor, and social critic Read more…


The Trouble Begins at Eight lecture series continues on Wednesday at Quarry Farm with a lecture by Martin Zehr entitled “Dressing for Success: Mark Twain Fashions an Image to Suit His Disguise. While famous for the attention-getting white linen suits he donned in his later years, Mark Twain was aware of the functional value of outer coverings throughout his life. A survey of Sam Clemens’s wardrobe choices underscores his sensitivity to the status value, shock value and even, in some Read more…


The virtual tour has been expanded to include eleven new panoramas from the Quarry Farm property, including several vantage points highlighting the changing season. Choose a location from the dropbox menu, right click to enter full screen, and scroll to zoom. The tour, created by David Coleman of Small Town 360, will eventually cover the whole property, inside and out. David’s high-resolution panoramas allow for extensive interactions, including annotations and 3D objects, so look for the tour to grow in Read more…

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