Award-Winning Author, Critic Kicks Off The 2018 Trouble Begins Lecture Series

The Center for Mark Twain Studies kicks off its Spring 2018 Trouble Begins lecture series by hosting Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning writer and critic, on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:00 p.m. in Cowles Hall, Elmira College. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Powers’ presentation, “Travelin’ Man,” looks into how Mark Twain’s prodigious travels around his region, then the nation, and then the world, have provided pleasure and scholarly thought for more than a century. Somewhat less appreciated has been the transformative effect Twain’s lifelong appetite for exploration (“move–move–Move!,” Twain wrote in a letter to his family) produced upon American literature, the legitimacy of common vernacular, and even the nation’s final psychic break with Old Europe. Speaking (mostly) in sentences even shorter than the preceding, Powers will examine this divine compulsion that hastened America’s literary Declaration of Independence.

Powers is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including Flags of Our Fathers (2000), a New York Times #1 bestseller. He has written extensively on Mark Twain and his literature, including a biography, Mark Twain: A Life (2005), also a New York Times bestseller. His current book, No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America (2017), has been named a finalist for the PEN/E.O Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. The book has also been named “Notable Book of the Year” by the Washington Post and one of the Top Ten books of the year by People magazine.

For a PDF copy of the Spring 2018 Trouble Begins Lecture Schedule, click here.

The Quarry Farm Fireplace Creative Writing Contest

The Quarry Farm Fireplace Creative Writing Contest

CMTS is pleased to announce the creation of creative writing contest for elementary school students.  Three winners will be awarded a tour of Quarry Farm, including inside the main house.

A PDF copy of this assignment can be found by clicking here.

Mark Twain on the Quarry Farm Porch

The Center for Mark Twain Studies encourages local elementary school teachers to discuss Mark Twain’s legacy in Elmira and the Southern Tier region of New York State.  2nd grade to 6th grade students from local schools are encouraged take part in this writing contest and submit their creative writing stories.  A “local school” is defined as being no more than 25 miles away from Quarry Farm.  Quarry Farm is the home where Mark Twain lived for over twenty consecutive summers and is the place were Twain penned The Adventures of Tom SawyerAdventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many other important texts. The deadline for the stories is April 16, 2018.  Three winners from three different schools will be chosen by the CMTS Staff.  Winners will be given a personal tour inside of Quarry Farm and be able to read their story right next to the Quarry Farm Parlor Fireplace.  Winners will also be able to bring their class or entire grade (depending on overall size).  The tour of Quarry Farm will conclude with Mark Twain’s favorite dessert: gingerbread, vanilla ice cream and lemonade!

All the fireplace tiles and a full virtual tour of Quarry Farm can be found at  The virtual tour can be found by clicking here.  The fireplace tiles can be found by clicking here.

Submit all your stories to the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College, 1 Park Place, Elmira, NY 14901


The Writing Assignment and Writing Prompt

Susan Crane on the Quarry Farm Porch

It was July of 1886 and my parents and I had been invited to join Susan Crane and her husband Theodore for dessert at Quarry Farm, their home overlooking the city of Elmira, New York, the Chemung  River Valley and the hills beyond.  As our carriage made its way up East Hill, we passed the Elmira Water Cure Sanitarium and directly across from it the home of the Reverend Thomas Beecher and his wife Julia.  Our drive up to Quarry Farm was filled with great anticipation for not only would we be spending the evening with the Cranes but also with Susan Crane’s sister Olivia, Olivia’s three daughters and her most famous husband, Mark Twain.  As our carriage stopped at the side of the big front porch, I spied out on the lawn a series of little pegs.  My parents had told me about the lawn game that Mark Twain had devised to teach his children English history and, too, about Ellerslie, the playhouse that Aunt Susie Crane had recently had built for her nieces.  I had heard that the playhouse had it’s own fireplace!

Quarry Farm Parlor and Fireplace

My thoughts were quickly interrupted by the welcoming greetings of the Susan Crane who appeared on the Quarry Farm porch, followed by Olivia, her daughters and several cats.  But, Mark Twain was nowhere to be seen!  As we were led into the cozy home, I saw the dining room to my left and on the large table I noticed that a plentiful and lovely dessert had been laid out. And then, as my eyes wandered across the hall into the parlor, I noticed a man with a big bushy mustache, smoking a cigar.  This was Mark Twain himself! He was sitting in front of a beautifully tiled fireplace, a tortoise-shell cat curled up on his lap.  As he rose from his chair, I gathered  the courage to ask the name of his cat and he replied that his name was “Sour-Mash.” Mark Twain then asked us to gather around the fireplace with him for he had a creative task for us.  This evening, instead of reading from the pages that he had written during the day, he invited us to choose a favorite tile that decorated the hearth and then to imagine a story to accompany the tile.  I noticed that there were little scenes of animals on the tiles and I was quickly engrossed by several of the scenes.  He told us that one of the best storytellers that ever lived was a person from a long time ago named Aesop and that the scenes around the fireplace were all about his stories. Mark Twain explained to us the various details that must accompany our new story and told us that we would all share our stories after dessert.  He chuckled and left us with our thoughts as we moved back into the dining room for a splendid dessert that had been prepared by Mary Ann Cord, their cook.

Here are the details that Mark Twain instructed us to consider when creating our stories.  Each storyteller should do the following:

1.  Look at the fireplace in the Quarry Farm Virtual Tour and then select one of the tiles that captures your attention.  A Virtual Tour of Quarry Farm and the Parlor can be found here.  High-definition images of each fireplace tile can be found here.

2.  Understand that the tiles illustrate fables written by the Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop whose stories are illustrated in these tiles. Almost all of Aesop’s fables contain animals who speak as humans and illustrate a moral lesson.

3.  Write your own fable, different from Aesop’s original, based on the tile that you have chosen.

4.  The narrative should include the following:

         A.  A description of what is happening in the scene.

         B.  A description of the setting (time of day, season, landscape).

         C.  A description of the relationship of the characters.  Are they strangers?  Do they know each other?

         D.  A description of what the characters are saying or feeling.

         E.  A statement of the problem or dilemma that the characters are discussing in your story.

         F.   A moral or a statement that sums up the lesson in the story

         G.  A title for your story.

When we had finished our dessert and were summoned back into the parlor, Mark Twain asked each of us to tell our story.  I was a bit timid because his daughters, Suzy, Clara and Jean, had done this many times and I was quite new at this.  But we all took our turns and shared the stories that we had created and Mark Twain seemed happy with all of our efforts…even mine!  This was an evening that I will always remember!!


The Quarry Farm Cats


Olivia Langdon Clemens, and her daughters, Suzy, Clara, and Jean


Mary Ann Cord


For Teachers and School Administrators

CMTS has made this assignment fit neatly into the New York and Pennsylvania Common Core Standards.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

#3    Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Grade 5: Text Types and Purposes:

Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.

Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events.

Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.

Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events    

While this assignment demonstrates the 5th grade Standards, these standards can apply to the 2nd trough 6th grade levels. For example the 2nd grade Standard reads: Write narratives in which they recount a well- elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Many thanks to Elmira College alumna, Mary “Cookie” Shultz ‘65, and the Elmira College Education Department for their help with this project.

A PDF copy of this assignment can be found by clicking here.

CMTS announces the Spring 2018 “Trouble Begins” Lineup

The Spring 2018 Trouble Begins” Lecture Series

Previous “Trouble Begins” lectures can be found and downloaded in the “Trouble Begins Archives” or by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 21 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7 p.m.

“Mark Twain: Travelin’ Man”  Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, media critic, and New York Times best selling author

Mark Twain’s prodigious travels around his region, then the nation, and then the world, have provided pleasure and scholarly thought for more than a century. Somewhat less appreciated has been the transformative effect his lifelong appetite for exploration (“move–move–Move!”, he wrote in a letter to his family–) produced upon American literature, the legitimacy of common vernacular, and even the nation’s final psychic break with Old Europe. Speaking (mostly) in sentences even shorter than the preceding, I will examine this divine compulsion that hastened America’s literary Declaration of Independence.

Ron Powers is a Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning writer and critic.  He is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books, including Flags of Our Fathers (2000), a New York Times #1 bestseller.  He has written extensively on Mark Twain and his literature, including a biography, Mark Twain: A Life (2005), also a New York Times bestseller.  His current book, No One Cares About Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America (2017), has been named a finalist for the PEN/E.O Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.  It has also been named “Notable Book of the Year” by the Washington Post and one of the Top Ten books of the year by People magazine.

Wednesday, May 9 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“High Style in Mid-Nineteenth Century Elmira: The Architecture and Interiors of the Jervis Langdon Mansion” Walter G. Ritchie, Jr., Independent Scholar

Jervis Langdon

By the 1860s, Jervis Langdon, Mark Twain’s father-in-law, was ready to create a home that announced his status as one of Elmira’s most successful and influential businessmen.  After purchasing a house built in the 1850s, he immediately arranged to have it enlarged and remodeled in the fashionable Italianate style. The result was an imposing three-story brownstone mansion that was counted among the largest and most elegant residences in the city.  Langdon then commissioned Pottier & Stymus, one of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms in New York City, to decorate and furnish a number of the principal rooms on the first floor of the house.  After her husband’s death in 1870, Olivia Lewis Langdon continued to patronize the firm, purchasing bedroom suites and other furniture.  This lecture will explore the architecture, interiors, and furnishings of the Langdon mansion, sadly destroyed in the 1930s, but well documented by period photographs showing both the exterior and interior.  Surviving pieces of furniture made by Pottier & Stymus, now preserved in various museum and university collections, will be discussed to illustrate how the Langdons, through the guidance of the firm, demonstrated their good taste and familiarity with the latest modes in household decoration and furnishing.

Walter G. Ritchie, Jr. is an independent decorative arts scholar and architectural historian specializing in nineteenth-century American architecture, interiors, and furniture.  He has written, lectured, and taught courses on a variety of decorative arts subjects, in addition to having served as director and curator of a number of historic house museums.  He is currently researching and writing a book on the history, furniture, and interior decoration of Pottier & Stymus.

Wednesday, May 16 in The Barn at Quarry Farm 7 p.m.

“Raising the Bar: Satirizing Law in Puddn’head Wilson and The Sellout” Rebecca Nisetich, University of Southern Maine

From the Harper & Brothers edition (1889) of Puddn’Head Wilson

This lecture explores how American writers use satire to expose the ways that “race” operates in our political institutions, social practices, and cultural discourses. In Puddn’head Wilson, Twain shows what happens when legal discourse is taken to its logical extreme. Contemporary novelist Paul Beatty similarly satirizes America’s racial structure and—like Twain—he takes aim at the legal system that support it. Twain’s novel is produced in the legal wrangling leading up to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision; Beatty’s novel responds to the present-day nadir of African American jurisprudence: the 2013 Supreme Court ruling which overturned critical aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the effect of the subprime lending crisis on African American homeowners, and the spate of “Not Guilty” verdicts in the deaths of African American men. As Twain, Beatty, and others demonstrate, we cannot escape these fundamentally racist legal and social structures until we have created other viable options. As racial satirist Patrice Evans writes, “When we laugh…we are making light, but [we are] also setting the groundwork for raising the bar.” For these American writers, satire becomes a powerful means for undermining racist narratives.

Rebecca Nisetich directs the Honors Program at the University of Southern Maine, where she teaches inter-disciplinary courses on race and identity in the U.S. Her manuscript, Contested Identities, explores characters whose identities are not clearly articulated, defined, or knowable. The project underscores indeterminacy—as opposed to ambiguity or “mixture”—as enabling writers to undermine the “one-drop” conceptions of race that dominated the discourse on race in early twentieth century America. Her essays have appeared in African American Review, Studies in American Naturalism, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 23 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7 p.m.

“An American Cannibal at Home: Comic Diplomacy in Mark Twain’s Hawai’i” Todd Nathan Thompson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Image from Chapter 73 of the first edition (1872) of Roughing It

During and after his 1866 visit to Hawai’i, Mark Twain wrote about the place, its people, and their relationship to the United States in several different genres: newspaper articles, first as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union (1866) and then for other papers, including the New York Herald; a popular lecture titled “Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands” (1866-1873); two travelogues, Roughing It (1872) and A Tramp Abroad (1880), and an unfinished novel (1884). In my talk I will investigate the comic strategies he employs in these works—particularly self-effacement, satiric levelling, comic foils, physical comedy, and sarcastic irony—to show how Twain leveraged the ambivalence of social humor’s to stoke Americans’ interest in Hawai’i while simultaneously defending Hawaiians from “other”-ing stereotypes that—even as early as 1866—he saw as intimately tied to Americans’ imperialist urges.

Todd Nathan Thompson is Associate Professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as Assistant Chair of the English Department. He is author of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015). Thompson’s work on political satire and pre-1900 American literature has also appeared in Scholarly Editing, Early American Literature, ESQ, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Journal of American Culture, Studies in American Humor, Teaching American Literature, the Blackwell Companion to Poetic Genre, and elsewhere. He is currently at work on a new book project entitled Savage Laughter: Nineteenth-Century American Humor and the South Seas.

Wednesday, May 30 in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus 7 p.m.

Image from Chapter 31 of the first edition (1885) of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

“’My penchant for silence’: Mark Twain’s Rhetorical Art of the Unspoken” Ben Click, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

There is no shortage of commentary on Twain’s penchant for talk, how he transliterated and employed it.  He perfected the mock oral narrative, precisely rendered of frontier and river vernacular, created the stunning narrative method of Huck Finn’s voice, and crafted countless, repeatable maxims (Ironically, one being:  “I talk until I have my audience cowed”).  Yet, silence permeates the writings of Mark Twain–for example, there are over 150 references to silence in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn alone!  Examining its functions is an overlooked, yet integral, aspect of his writing for silence mediates and influences the discourses of his fictive and personal worlds. Rhetorical theorist Cheryl Glenn argues, “silence—the unspoken—is a rhetorical art that can be as powerful as the spoken or written word” (9).  Twain too understood that power:  “The unspoken word is capital.  We can invest it or we can squander it.”  Indeed, Twain crafted the full measure of that art on the page throughout his writing life.  This talk examines representative (and powerful) rhetorical uses of silence in the arc of Twain’s fictive writing.

Ben Click is a Professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Director of the Writing & Speaking Center, Director of the Twain Lecture Series on American Humor Culture, and the Associate Editor of The Mark Twain Annual.  With Larry Howe and Jim Caron, he published Refocusing Chaplin:  A Screen Icon in Critical Contexts (Scarecrow, 2013). He has given numerous lectures and scholarly papers on Mark Twain, published articles and book chapters on the teaching of writing and writing assessment. He is also working on a book that examines humor as a rhetorical strategy in environmental writing, a genre that is sometimes seen as taking itself too seriously.

For a PDF copy of the Spring 2018 “Trouble Begins” flyer, click here.

About The Trouble Begins at Eight Lecture Series

In 1984, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies initiated a lecture series, The Trouble Begins at Eight. 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.

The lectures are now held annually in the fall and spring of each year. By invitation, Mark Twain scholars present lectures in the Barn at Quarry Farm or in Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus in Elmira, NY. Each lecture is digitally recorded after the event and can be downloaded.  This ever-growing digital archive can be found in the “Trouble Begins Archives” or by clicking here.

The Final 2017 “Trouble Begins” Lecture Explores Obsession

The fall portion of the 2017-2018 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, concludes Wednesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m., in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall on the Elmira College campus. The lecture will be followed by a book sale and author signing.

Author and professor of English, Harold K. Bush will present the final fall lecture, “Collecting Mark Twain: Obsessions over the Great Authors and The Hemingway Files.”  According to Bush, obsession is frequently an overlooked focus of major literary works. In novels like Moby-DickThe Picture of Dorian GrayPossessionThe Aspern PapersThe Great Gatsby, and many others, characters are often driven to extremes by their various obsessions over various objects or concerns. But sometimes obsession infiltrates the author’s audience as well. One manifestation of this is when a reader’s relation to and obsession with a famous author leads to a powerful yearning to collect: a desire to gather and accumulate almost anything ever owned or scribbled by the celebrity author.

One theme of Bush’s own novel The Hemingway Files is just this desire: in particular, a wealthy collector intent on purchasing Hemingway manuscripts and Twain letters. Such obsessive collecting is not unusual among bibliophiles. But, asks Bush, why do we collect? How does one begin the long journey of any sort of collecting? And what are the pros and cons of obsessive connection to iconic writers like Hemingway and Mark Twain? This lecture will consider how individuals get drawn into such compulsive relations with these long dead writers and other celebrities: including Bush’s own lengthy journey into the heart of Mark Twain studies, and into the composition of his novel, The Hemingway Files.

In addition to teaching at Saint Louis University, Bush is author of six books, including Mark Twain and the Spiritual Crisis of His Age (2007) and Lincoln in His Own Time (2012). He has most recently completed Continuing Bonds with the Dead: Parental Grief and Nineteenth-Century American Authors (2016). He is lead editor of The Mark Twain-Joseph Twichell Correspondence (2017) and of Above the American Renaissance: David Reynolds and the Spiritual Imagination in American Literary Studies, which will appear in 2018. His first novel, titled The Hemingway Files, was published in the summer of 2017. He is presently at work on a study of spirituality and American literature and culture, titled Spiritual Blink!

All lectures in “The Trouble Begins” Lecture Series are free and open to the public.

Elmira College Writers & Artists Are Invited to Submit to Our Annual Mark Twain Competitions

The Center for Mark Twain Studies is sponsoring two competitions: The 25th Annual Mark Twain Writing Contest & The 2nd Annual “Portraying Mark Twain” Art Competition.

Both contests are open to all Elmira College students. 

The Mark Twain Writing Contest solicits excellent student writing related to Mark Twain, his life, works, and times. Academic essays and creative writing are both strongly encouraged.

All submissions should be typed, double-spaced, and formatted according to MLA style. A submission length of 1000-1500 words is recommended, but submissions of any length will be considered.

The author of the winning essay will receive a $250 cash prize and have their name engraved on the statuette in the entryway of McGraw Hall. Exceptional essayists may be invited to submit to partner journals or to publish on Additional runners-up may also receive cash prizes.

Please submit your essay via email to Dr. Joe Lemak, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies ([email protected]). All entries will be judge anonymously by Dr. Matt Seybold, Assistant Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 30, 2018

CMTS also sponsors the “Portraying Mark Twain” Art Competition, open to visual artists in all mediums and genres.

A $350 prize pool will be divided between winning entries, which will also be displayed on campus and/or via

Further guidelines for submissions may be found here. The deadline for entry is March 30, 2018.


Twain Sites Receive Proceeds from Commemorative Twain Coin Sales

On December 4, 2012, Public Law 112-201 instructed “the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of Mark Twain.” The $5 gold and $1 silver coins, which were available for purchase through the U.S. Mint, went on sale in January 2016. Surcharges from the sale of the coins were authorized to four Twain heritage sites: Elmira College’s Center for Mark Twain Studies; The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT; the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, MO.


More than a year later, the Center for Mark Twain Studies is pleased to announce that it has received its portion of the surcharge amount, totaling $427,937.50.  The entirety of this money has been placed in an endowed fund.  Interest drawn from the fund supports annual CMTS programming which includes, but is not limited to, supporting Mark Twain scholars, hosting school field trips to Quarry Farm, facilitating public Twain lectures throughout the year, and creating meaningful online educational content available, at no expense, to schools and teachers for use in the classroom.


“The College is honored to serve as steward of the Mark Twain Study and Quarry Farm,” said Dr. Charles Lindsay, Elmira College president. “The surcharges will enhance our efforts to preserve the historical integrity and significance of these literary landmarks as well as provide long-term, vital support for increased scholarship and teaching related to all aspects of Mark Twain, including the upcoming quadrennial international conference hosted by CMTS.”


The entire staff of the CMTS extends a thank you to all who bought a coin and to those who continue to support the Center by contributing to its Annual Appeal.  Dr. Joseph Lemak, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, said “if it weren’t for the contributions offered to us by the Friends of the Center, we simply wouldn’t be able to offer all of our wonderful public services and programming.  We are all deeply appreciative of everyone who has helped us out throughout the years and we look forward to that continued support in the years to come.”


The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded in January 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by Jervis Langdon, the great-grand-nephew of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The Center offers distinctive programs to foster and support Mark Twain scholarship and to strengthen the teaching of Mark Twain at all academic levels. The Center serves the Elmira College community and regional, national, and international students and scholars of Mark Twain.


Elmira Archaeology Students Explore Mystery Structure at Quarry Farm

During Term III, as part of the “Introduction to Archaeology” course, 12 students under my direction excavated the area on Quarry Farm where there are remains of a chimney. The chimney is located about 100 yards west of the cistern against the quarry wall, next to which the Mark Twain Study was originally located.

First the area was cleaned. Surface finds during cleaning included many glass shards, window glass and nails. After cleaning, three 1 m. square test trenches were set up. Trench A and C to the right and left respectively of the chimney with the purpose to maybe hit onto some stone foundations of the building. Trench B was located in the middle of the mound of debris in front of the chimney. Later all the trenches were extended: trenches A and C towards the quarry wall and Trench B to a 3 X 2 m. rectangle. In addition, another Trench D was set up against the front wall of the chimney.

Trench B consisted of nothing but a yellowish brown clayey soil with lots of rocks fallen from the quarry wall with few finds, all found on the top soil level. Because of the lack of finds in this trench, another trench, Trench D, was opened in front of the chimney wall. At a depth of 20 cm, we reached the foundation of the chimney with the remains of a clay water pipe (heading towards Trench A) and three bottles, two Heinz bottles which used to contain sour onions with a date range between 1920-1943 and a medicine bottle (the number on which indicates a date between 1850-1920. The clayey soil of the type found in Trench B was found on the south side closest to Trench B. This indicated that the chimney was built into the clayey natural deposit found in Trench B. This is also evidenced by the same clayey layers in Trenches A and C found at the base of the chimney, where the bottom of the chimney was also reached.

The structure was erected on top of the natural clayey deposit (Trench B), into which the chimney was built. Once the chimney was built, the foundation area was filled with soil and rock. The floor of the structure was built on top of the clayey natural deposit.

Two areas of burnt deposits were uncovered in trenches A and C, wherein most of the artifacts were found. In trench C, in the northeast corner against the Quarry wall, the deposit consisted of very dark loose soil with carbon remains and lots of glass shards as well as some ceramic and metal artifacts, including a part for a water pump. In Trench A, at the eastern another deposit of burnt debris was excavated, wherein was found mostly burnt wood, nails, window glass and few glass shards.

The evidence clearly indicates that a structure, probably with wooden exterior and windows, existed and that it was destroyed by fire. However, the finds were few when compared to what one might expect from a burnt building. It is evident that after the building burnt down, the area was swept clean, with the exception of the two burnt deposits in trenches A and C.

In total, Trench A produced 1,242 pieces of window glass, 399 pieces of bottle glass, and 249 pieces of nails.

Most bottle glass was found in Trench C and consisted of milk bottles, one from the Quarry Farm dairy, many pieces of mason jars and their lids, and soda bottles.

When I directed the excavations of the cistern, we also found much burnt debris, glass, nails, a water boiler, metal and ceramic pieces (all on display in the QF barn). It is likely that when the Chimney building was burnt down much of the debris was thrown into the cistern and that other than the QF milk bottles, the artifacts belonged to the building west of the cistern.

The question remains as to the date of the building. Based on the dates obtained through the glass bottles, preliminary observations indicate that the building was erected and destroyed between 1920’s – 1940’s or slightly later. The building was used as a home perhaps for the people working for the Langdon family.


The team of students who participated in the dig:

Brickey, Cameron

DiMarco, Aaronn

Juliano, Victoria

Kidd, Joseph

Logue, Scott

Pompa, Chelsea

Prior, Cameron

Schutt, Kevin

Smith, Jacinta

Spiridilozzi, Austin

Spirowski, Megan

Yokoi, Yoshiaki

Improved & Expanded Virtual Tour of Quarry Farm

The virtual tour of Quarry Farm now features 26 different panoramas, covering the whole property, inside and out, as well as the Mark Twain Study, Mark Twain Archive, and GTL Lobby on the Elmira College Campus and the Clemens-Langdon Gravesite at Woodlawn Cemetery. Visitors can also click on “map view” to see the property map and floor plans for the main house.

Among the new additions are six panoramas from upper floor, which include the bedrooms were Sam Clemens and his family slept. There is also an autumnal view from the top of the porch. By zooming you can see into Pennsylvania!

The Mark Twain Archive in GTL Library on the Elmira College campus pays homage to one of Twain’s favorite local haunts, Klapproth’s Tavern, and is outfitted with the mantlepiece and ceiling tiles from the original establishment.

This interactive virtual tour was created by David Coleman of Small Town 360.


Graduating Senior Wins Mark Twain Essay Prize

Ashley Fredericks ’17 was awarded the 24th Annual Mark Twain Essay Prize as part of Commencement Weekend festivities for her graduating class at Elmira College.

Ms. Frederick’s essay, titled “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: To Teach or Not to Teach,” enters the most volatile and publicized debate in Mark Twain Studies since the 1950s, concerning the appropriateness of Twain’s most acclaimed novel to secondary school classrooms based on its repeated invocation of the “n-word.” Ashley traces iterations of this controversy through local and national educational policy debates across several decades, analyzes the positions of Twain scholars like Joe Csicsila, David Sloane, and Cassandra Smith, then reframes the controversy using both contemporary pedagogical theory and her own recent experiences as both a college student and a secondary school student-teacher.

The debate which Ashley engages has a tendency to be tedious and reductive, but Ashley manages to bring a fresh perspective as an energetic, diligent, and astute millennial teacher-scholar.

Every year CMTS sponsors the Mark Twain Writing Contest, which is open to all Elmira College students. In addition to being honored at the end-of-year banquets, winners receive a cash prize and have their names added to a statuette in McGraw Hall.

Ashley’s essay is also under review at the Chemung Historical Journal

The runner-up for this year’s prize was Emma Freedenberg ’17 for her essay “Proto-Feminism in The Gilded Age.” Emma won the contest in 2016.

Congrats to Ashley, Emma, and the rest of the Elmira College Class of 2017!

Joseph Csicsila To Kick Off The Spring 2017 “Trouble Begins” Lecture Series

The spring portion of the 2017 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series, presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies, starts Wednesday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m., in Peterson Chapel, Cowles Hall at Elmira College.  The lecture is free and open to the public.

The first lecture, “‘These Hideous Times:’ Mark Twain’s Bankruptcy and the Panic of 1893,” presented by Joseph Csicsila, takes a look at an old standby of Twain biography that Mark Twain was a bad businessman, plain and simple. Critics routinely cast him as a reckless speculator, a foolish investor, a failed entrepreneur as they advance the notion that Twain was hopelessly irresponsible with his wealth, making poor financial decisions one after another throughout much of his adult life, and that this led inevitably to his well-publicized and personally humiliating bankruptcy in April 1894. Twain studies, however, has yet to consider in any detailed fashion the context of the Panic of 1893 and the considerable role that it played in Twain’s financial ruin. The country’s first major industrial collapse, what many historians regard as America’s first full-scale economic depression, the Panic of 1893 took down thousands of businesses and ruined millions of Americans in truly historic fashion. As it turns out, Mark Twain’s bankruptcy may have had less to do with his financial decision-making than the times in which those decisions were made.

Joseph Csicsila is Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University. His writings include Canons by Consensus: Critical Trends and American Literature Anthologies (2004); Centenary Reflections on Mark Twain’s No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger (2009), co-edited with Chad Rohman; and Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain (2010), co-authored with Lawrence Berkove. Csicsila is also editor of the Modern Library edition of Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age (2005) and the Broadview Press teaching volume of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Forthcoming 2017). He is currently at work on a full-scale study of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which will appear in 2018.