About CMTS

Brief Overview

The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies was founded on December 31, 1982 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College by the Langdon family, Mark Twain’s in-laws. 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.

Mission Statement

The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) is dedicated to fostering and supporting scholarship and pedagogy related to all aspects of Mark Twain.  The primary purpose of CMTS is to serve an international community of scholars and educators.  The responsibilities of CMTS also include oversight and preservation of two historic landmarks: Quarry Farm, which has been designated a cultural humanities site dedicated to scholars and writers working in Mark Twain Studies, and the Mark Twain Study, now located on the Elmira College campus.  Starting in 1871 and for over twenty consecutive summers, Twain lived at Quarry Farm and worked in his octagonal Study.  It was here that the author wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many other important works, signifying his most productive and successfully creative time of his life.

In addition, CMTS closely collaborates with the Elmira College Mark Twain Archive, the home of primary and secondary sources dedicated to Twain and his circle.  CMTS also seeks to enrich local and regional community members and organizations by promoting and preserving the legacy of Twain and his deep connection to Elmira.  CMTS fulfills its mission through the sponsorship of academic and creative research fellowships-in-residence; the creation of content for MarkTwainStudies.org, the website of CMTS; and through the facilitation of a number of scholarly events, including annual symposia, academic lectures, teaching institutes, and the quadrennial International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, the world’s largest scholarly conference focusing on Mark Twain.

During the year, the Center for Mark Twain Studies sponsors a variety of activities, including:


To find out more about these programs, contact:

The Center for Mark Twain Studies
Elmira College
One Park Place
Elmira, NY 14901
Phone: (607) 735-1941
Fax: (607) 735-1756
E-mail: [email protected]

Organizational History

The Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies is known and respected world-wide as one of the premier sites for the research and study of Mark Twain.  Following a long tradition of associations between Mark Twain, the Langdon family, and Elmira College, CMTS was established in 1983 with the gift of Quarry Farm to Elmira College from Mark Twain’s great-grandnephew, Jervis Langdon, Jr.

In 1867, Samuel Langhorne Clemens secured funding from the Alta California newspaper to travel to the Europe and the Middle East and write about his journey. On June 8th, Clemens, who was by then already known by his “Mark Twain” pen name, left New York City aboard a steamship named Quaker City. The series of letters he wrote between then and his return on November 19th, were later immortalized in 1869 as Mark Twain’s first book The Innocents Abroad. This hugely successful work brought Clemens fame and fortune, and was the best-selling of his books during his lifetime.

Charles Langdon

This trip was also significant for Mark Twain because it was aboard the Quaker City that he met Charles Langdon, the brother of Clemens’ future wife. The Langdons were a wealthy Elmira, New York family, and the eighteen-year-old “Charley” Langdon had been sent by his father Jervis to the Mediterranean in order to gain worldly perspective. Despite the age difference between Charley and the thirty-one-year-old Sam Clemens, the two became friends. One day aboard the Quaker City, Charley Langdon felt compelled by homesickness to show Clemens a miniature portrait of his sister Olivia.

After the Quaker City returned to New York, Charles Langdon introduced Mark Twain to his father and sister in person. As the story goes, Clemens fell in love with Olivia at that first meeting. Clemens travelled to the West Coast for business soon after, but in August of 1868 followed up on an invitation to visit the Langdon family, arriving in Elmira by train. He was smitten with “Livy,” and, after a couple botched marriage proposals and hundreds of letters between the couple, Samuel Clemens and Olivia Langdon were married in Elmira in 1870.

Susan Crane

Starting in 1870, at the prime of his creative life, Mark Twain summered at Quarry Farm, the home of Susan and Theodore Crane in Elmira.  Susan Crane was Clemens’s wife’s sister.  Each year, the Clemens family members divided their time between their own home in Hartford, Connecticut, and Quarry Farm.  While life in Hartford was happy, hectic, and very social, in Elmira, life was slower.  At Quarry Farm the family was more isolated and away from distractions, creating an environment that was conducive to relaxation and where Twain could concentrate on his writings.  Additionally, Livy could be close to her family.  All three of Twain’s daughters were born in Elmira, two at Quarry Farm.

In 1874, after Mark Twain had already successfully published his best sellers, The Innocents Abroad (1869) and Roughing It (1872), Susan and Theodore Crane surprised him with a small octagonal study.  The Study was built on a secluded high knoll, one hundred yards from the Quarry Farm main house.  In this small structure Mark Twain wrote many of his best works, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), A Tramp Abroad (1880), The Prince and The Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889).  A number of important short stories and essays were also inspired and composed at Quarry Farm, including “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It,” a short story recounting the life of ex-slave Mary Ann Cord, who was the housekeeper at Quarry Farm.  The dialogue in this story contained the first instance of an American author using an African-American dialect in a non-comedic way.  The Clemens family spent its last summer at Quarry Farm in 1903.  Mark Twain spent the rest of his life abroad and in various places in the United States until his death on April 21, 1910.  He was buried in the Langdon plot in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery, alongside his wife and four children.

Mark Twain in the the Study at Quarry Farm (1903)

After Twain’s death, the Langdon family took two important steps to help preserve the legacy of Mark Twain.  First, in 1952, Twain’s niece, Dr. Ida Langdon, a professor of English at Elmira College, presented Twain’s Study to Elmira College locating it at the heart of the Elmira College campus where it remains on display for the general public.  It is one of the most well-known literary landmarks in the United States.  Second, in 1983, Jervis Langdon, Jr., the great-grandnephew of Twain, donated Quarry Farm to Elmira College.  In a document entitled “The Four Party Agreement,” Jervis Langdon, Jr. bequeathed Quarry Farm to Elmira College with two basic purposes: first, “to assure that Quarry Farm, as a residence, will be properly maintained and preserved, and the grounds included in the donation will be cared for and protected, including the trees, lawns, shrubbery, flowers, and wild life;” and second, “to have the residence at Quarry Farm available as a center for the study of Mark Twain and as a temporary home for such members of the faculty of the College, visiting scholars, and graduate students as may be designated, from time to time, by the President of the College, because of their interest in Mark Twain, his works, his philosophy, and the environment in which he lived.”  These words created the Center for Mark Twain Studies.  While Jervis Langdon, Jr. and Elmira College constituted the two primary members of “The Four Party Agreement,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Chemung County Historical Society rounded out the other two.  It became the responsibility of these two secondary organizations to assure that Elmira College carry out Jervis Langdon, Jr.’s intentions.  As a result, Elmira College must submit an annual preservation report to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Chemung County Historical Society.

Jervis Langdon, Jr.

Jervis Langdon Jr.’s gift of Quarry Farm included the contents of the main house with many nineteenth-century association pieces of furniture and other treasures, such as the books in the Quarry Farm library that often reflect the reading habits of an erudite family.  Of particular interest are the books from the Langdon and Crane collections that were read by Mark Twain.  Numerous annotations, often dated and written in pencil by Mark Twain, have been discovered in the margins of many of these books.  Not surprisingly, Twain scholars continue to be struck by the Quarry Farm setting, still peaceful and conducive to relaxation and to work, with a view of the surrounding hills, the Chemung River, and the city of Elmira below, much like it must have been almost one hundred and fifty years ago.

Honoring Jervis Langdon, Jr’s vision, Quarry Farm offers fellowships-in-residence to scholars pursuing research or writing in the field of Mark Twain Studies.  As one of the most important literary landmarks in American history, Quarry Farm is cultural humanities site, a building whose sole purpose is to provide inspiration and resources to scholars, writers, and artists working in the field of Mark Twain Studies.  Quarry Farm Fellows have access to twenty-first century workspaces, a nearly complete Mark Twain Studies reference collection on the premises, including the complete Oxford Mark Twain facsimile edition and Mark Twain Project publications as well as up-to-date secondary and reference works dedicated to Mark Twain Studies, while at the same time being surrounded by nineteenth century books, furniture, textiles, and painting, almost all of which were present during Twain’s time at Quarry Farm.  Furthermore, Quarry Farm Fellows have access to one of the best collections of secondary scholarly material dedicated to Mark Twain Studies shelved on the premises.

In addition to the Quarry Farm fellowships, the Barn and the grounds at Quarry Farm are used for several academic programs, including annual symposia on a wide variety of specific Mark Twain Studies topics, workshops for teachers who wish to incorporate Mark Twain into their curricula, “The Trouble Begins” spring and fall lecture series, and dozens of school field trips every year.  The lectures and field trips are offered free of charge to the schools and general public. While the main house at Quarry Farm is reserved solely for Mark Twain Studies scholars and artists, the nineteenth century barn and nearby housekeeper’s cottage have been adapted for program use and serve as classrooms and lecture space.

Finally, CMTS houses some of its Twain material in the Mark Twain Archive on the Elmira College campus.  In conjunction with CMTS, the Mark Twain Archive affords scholars the uniquely rewarding experience of ready access to a collection of primary and secondary sources on Twain.  In addition to various editions of Twain’s works, the Mark Twain Archive collection includes photographs; books from Twain’s personal library and the library at Quarry Farm; secondary source books, articles, and collections related to Mark Twain, his literature, and his circle; and microfilm letters and manuscripts from the Mark Twain collections at the Bancroft library in Berkeley, the Mark Twain Memorial in Hartford, Vassar College, and the Huntington Library.  Through the generosity of donors over the years, the collection has also a fine collection of Mark Twain titles in languages other than English, the Love Collection of framed photographs and autographs, correspondence between Twain and members of his Elmira circle, such as E.M. Van Aken, Dr. Frank Darby, and Julia Jones Beecher, letters written by Twain at the end of his life, and other photographs and memorabilia that add greatly to the scope and interest of the collection.  The Mark Twain Archive itself contains period furnishings, rich woodwork, and marble accents from Klapproth’s Tavern, an establishment which Twain was known to frequent during his summers in Elmira.  The Mark Twain Archive is available to anyone with a research need that can be served by the collection.

The Center for Mark Twain Studies represents one of four Mark Twain “centers” in the United States that include Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, MO; Twain’s home in Hartford, CT; and the Mark Twain Project in Berkeley, CA.  However, CMTS is unique in its mission to foster and support scholarship and pedagogy related to all aspects of Mark Twain.

The Significance of the Quarry Farm Collection

Quarry Farm Today

Quarry Farm, on the U.S. Register of Historic Places, remains today much as it did at the time of the donation, containing original 19th century furnishings, artwork, textiles, books, wall finishes, and architectural features and objects that have historic and cultural significance that continue to be unraveled by scholarship.  At the time of the Langdon gift in 1983, Quarry Farm had been owned by four generations of the Langdon family, starting in 1868.  As a result, most of the collection was present when Mark Twain resided at Quarry Farm. The books on the shelves in the library contain marginal notes and markings from Mark Twain with bookplates and inscriptions of the Langdon family, the Crane family, and Ida Langdon, Mark Twain’s niece, who was a longtime professor at Elmira College.  While the collection was established with the original gift, it is not static.  The CMTS continues, on occasion, to receive books bearing the Langdon bookplate or books inscribed by Langdon family members.  Interest in the marginalia and books to which Mark Twain had access has long interested scholars.  A nineteenth century furniture expert, Walter Ritchie, Jr., recently conducted research and produced articles about the furnishings of the Langdon Mansion in downtown Elmira, and established that a number of the Langdon furnishings were moved to Quarry Farm before the home was demolished in 1939.

Quarry Farm in the 1880s
Quarry Farm in the 1880s

The collection also contains a number of reference works, first editions, and other rare books which are hard to find outside university libraries and special collections. For many fellows-in-residence, this may be the first time they have had access to such resources. Few scholars at any career stage have the opportunity to peruse such materials at their leisure over the course of several weeks, all without leaving the quiet, private, and picturesque domestic space in which many, starting with Twain himself, have found the ideal conditions for writing.  Current residents share the same spectacular view of the Chemung River Valley as the famous author, his family, and his in-laws.  Many scholars believe that contemplating this view and watching his young daughters play and grow up at Quarry Farm inspired Twain to write about parts of his childhood on the Mississippi River that resulted in the creation Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, America’s most iconic characters of childhood.

19th century furniture in the Quarry Farm library

The collections at Quarry Farm provide fellows-in-residence the unique opportunity to have full access to a world-selection of primary and secondary sources related to nineteenth century United States literature and history while offering them a unique, and at times inspirational, experiences of living in the same space, and perhaps partaking the same daily routine, as Twain himself.  Between sixteen and twenty scholars are in residence every year, either as Quarry Farm Fellows or contributors to the various CMTS lecture series.  More than half of the residents stay for a period of two weeks or more.  These residents represent a wide range of demographic and disciplinary backgrounds and come from across the country and the globe.

Due to its unique ambiance and ideal writing environment, scholars have a practice of acknowledging Quarry Farm in their publications, often stating that Quarry Farm was as inspirational for them as it was for Twain.  Judith Yaross Lee, author of Twain’s Brand: Humor in Contemporary American Culture (2012, University Press of Mississippi), admits to being at times overwhelmed by “what I found on the shelves in the library at Quarry Farm.” Joseph B. Fulton extends his gratitude when he states “I would like to thank Jervis Langdon, Jr. and his family, whose generosity has done so much for our understanding of Mark Twain” in Mark Twain in the Margins: The Quarry Farm Marginalia and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (2000, University of Alabama Press. Shelley Fisher Fishkin in Lighting Out for The Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain & American Culture (1997, Oxford University Press) calls Quarry Farm a “haven for scholars.”   Paula Harrington and Ronald Jenn point out that “as all scholars know, no better place exists than Clemens’s own family summer home, Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York.  We cannot imagine how we would have completed our book without repeated stays there as fellows-in-residence” in Mark Twain and France (2017, University of Missouri Press). In The Courtship of Mark Twain Olivia Langdon (1996, Cambridge University Press) Susan K. Harris writes that “most important is my debt to Quarry Farm itself.  One of the scholars’ few perks is the occasional chance to actually live in a historical house, and I know that I speak for the Twain community when I say that staying at Quarry Farm has been among the most moving experiences of my life.”

Without a hint of exaggeration, CMTS and Quarry Farm have been acknowledged in scores of book-length publications, most from university presses, along with dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles.  CMTS continues this proud tradition in the present-day with fellows and lecturers already scheduled for 2020.  All biographies and projects of the Class of 2020 Quarry Farm Fellows, and past classes of Fellows, can be found HERE.

Testimonials from recent Quarry Farm residents, detailing their time at Quarry Farm and its importance to the scholarly and creative writing community can be found HERE.

View from the Quarry Farm Porch