Mark Twain wrote many of his most beloved works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in Elmira, New York while spending summers at Quarry Farm with his family.
Today, the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies is responsible for the Octagonal Study where Twain wrote (and now located on the Elmira College campus), as well as the Quarry Farm property, where the Clemens family spent more than twenty summers.
We are also committed to promoting the unique history of the city and region which Twain chose to make both his writing retreat and permanent resting place. Below you will find a collection of resources that explore this rich history.
The Gospel of Revolt in Elmira
As a resident of Elmira, Mark Twain would come in contact with stationmasters and conductors on the Underground Railroad, Women’s Rights activists, radical theologians, prison reformists, and philanthrocapitalists. Many prominent citizens from Elmira were on the cutting edge of the political and social movements which came to define U.S. history during Twain’s lifetime. Our resident scholar, Dr. Matt Seybold, explores the “gospel of revolt” in Elmira in the following:
In this episode of the podcast hosted by The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Dr. Seybold provides an audio-tour of Park Church, Woodlawn Cemetery, and other important Elmira landmarks with the aid of Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor, Hal Holbrook.
In this essay, delivered on the 150th anniversary of Twain’s first visit to Elmira, Dr. Seybold explores the community of which Twain became a part through its residents, many of whom came together for a Dickens-themed costume party in 1905.
Dwane Eutsey discusses the life of one of Elmira’s most famous historical figures, Thomas. K. Beecher. Mark Twain was profoundly impressed with this man of faith and long time leader of The Park Church
Jillian Spivey Caddell tells the history of a vital member of Elmira’s Underground Railroad community, John W. Jones. Born into slavery, Jones escaped and proceeded to assist in the freedom of over 800 people. During the Civil War, Jones meticulously buried hundreds of Confederate soldiers at Elmira’ Woodlawn National Cemetery.
Thanks to the Ohio History Connection and the Chemung County Historical Society, we are able to share some letters written by Susan Crane and John W. Jones to a historian working on a book about the Underground Railroad.
First produced by Robert D. Jerome and Herbert A. Wisbey in 1977, then substantially revised by CMTS Director Barbara Snedecor, Mark Twain in Elmira contains both primary and secondary sources, photographs, and various appendices related to Twain’s life in Elmira.
The Courtship of Sam & Livy
Sam Clemens fell hard of Livy Langdon. He pursued her despite several initial rejections. They were eventually married in Elmira on February 2nd, 1870. Together, they would endure the loss of two children, a bankruptcy, and much other adversity, but would remain mutually adoring spouses until Livy’s death in 1904.
Susan K. Harris, author of The Courtship of Olivia Langdon & Mark Twain, provides a spirited summary of their romance on the occasion of their 150th Wedding Anniversary.
Matt Seybold focuses on a holiday letter Twain wrote to his fiancé in which he makes a portentous promise.
A brief summary of Twain’s description of the wedding in his Autobiography also features a high-quality image of the marriage certificate courtesy of Chemung County Historical Society.
An account of the wedding published in the Cleveland Herald.
150 Years Ago Mark Twain Celebrated New Years Eve By Debating How Drunk He Had Been During The Preceding Year & Listening to Charles Dickens Read David Copperfield With His Future Wife
Dr. Seybold’s account of Sam and Livy’s first date.
A Virtual Tour of Mark Twain’s Elmira
The Center for Mark Twain Studies creates and hosts resources to help digital visitors explore the community of Elmira.
This interactive map introduces a series of landmarks and community members affiliated with Twain and his extended family.
Mark Twain and most of his extended family are buried in the Langdon-Clemens plot at Woodlawn Cemetery. The Center for Mark Twain Studies has created a geo-located map of Woodlawn which also features short bios of many of the prominent Elmirans buried there.
The Center for Mark Twain Studies has digitized this copy of a rare manuscript which circulated in the 1930s and features firsthand accounts of the social culture of Elmira during Twain’s life. Matt Seybold provides a detailed discussion of the manuscripts authors and subjects.
We published a 2017 talk by Thomas Reigstad which traces the development of Jervis Langdon’s sometimes controversial company, the headquarters of which was located in downtown Elmira.
In his introduction to a 2019 performance of “Mark Twain’s Music Box” at the Park Church, Dr. Seybold provides an overview of religious institution which the Langdon family founded.
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. The Center was established in 1983, with the gift of Quarry Farm to the College from the Langdon family, the in-laws of Mark Twain. This gift followed a long tradition of associations between Mark Twain, the Langdon family, and Elmira College.
We have devoted a separate page to a concise history of Quarry Farm. However, this evolving history can be explored in greater detail through the following resources.
While Quarry Farm remains an active residence, reserved for the production of Twain scholarship, with the help of SmallTown360 we have created a virtual tour of the entire house, as well as the grounds and the Langdon-Clemens gravesite.
Matt Seybold reverse engineers the recipes which went into a Thanksgiving menu created by Susan Crane in 1897.
Frances Millard traces the provenance and restoration of a carpet in the dining room which is older than the State of California.
Led by Dr. Heidi Dierckx, students unearthed several artifacts from the era when the site was a working dairy farm.
Elmira College Connection
Elmira College has a unique legacy and association with Mark Twain and his family. Founded in 1855, the college is the oldest college still in existence which granted male-equivalent degrees to women. Mark Twain’s father-in-law, Jervis Langdon, was a member of the first Board of Trustees. Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, was a member of the Class of 1864, and later belonged to the Elmira College Alumnae Club of New York City.
Much later, the Clemens’ niece Dr. Ida Langdon became a Professor of English Literature at the College where she taught for twenty years.
History of the Mark Twain Study
Susan and Theodore Crane surprised their brother-in-law Samuel L. Clemens with this study in 1874. It was placed about 100 yards from the main
house at Quarry Farm on a knoll overlooking the Chemung River Valley. In this octagonal building, Mark Twain wrote major portions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, A Tramp Abroad, and many short pieces.
In 1952, the Mark Twain Study was moved from Quarry Farm to the Elmira College campus. The Study is staffed by trained student guides daily throughout the summer and by appointment in the off-season.
Visit the Mark Twain Study
If you are interested in the life and writings of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, consider a summer visit to his octagonal writing building – now called the Mark Twain Study.
The Mark Twain Study, still on the campus of Elmira College, is free to visit and open to the public during the summer months. The Study is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day every year: Monday through Friday, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm (Closed for Elmira College holidays). Currently both the Study and Exhibit are closed for renovations.
If using GPS to locate the Study, the College address is: One Park Place, Elmira, NY 14901.
The Mark Twain Exhibit
Next to the Mark Twain Study is Elmira College’s recently renovated Cowles Hall. In this historic building is a Mark Twain Exhibit that houses photographs, stereoscopic views, and memorabilia from the summers Mark Twain and his family spent in Elmira. The Exhibit also contains association furniture and clothing. Trained student guides are on hand to speak with visitors daily throughout the summer and by appointment in the off-season about Elmira’s unique place in Mark Twain’s life.
The Exhibit has the same hours as the Study.
The Mark Twain Statue
The statue was a gift of the Elmira College Class of 1934, who have a long standing interest in Mark Twain and the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Made of bronze, the statue weighs 376 pounds. From the base to the top of the structure, it is 12 feet high, which is two fathoms or, as riverboat pilots would say, mark twain. The statue was created by Gary Weisman of Roseville, Pennsylvania.
The Olivia Langdon Statue
Visitors to Elmira College’s campus will also find a statue of Olivia Langdon near that of Mark Twain. The statue was a gift of the Elmira College Class of 2008. Made of bronze, the statue weighs almost 600 pounds. Olivia, once a student at Elmira College, is attired in a dress that is part of the collections at the Chemung County Historical Museum on Water Street in Elmira. At the time when she wore the featured dress, Olivia had a twenty-inch waist (corseted) — this after bearing four children. The statue shows Olivia with her hand extended toward the nearby statue of her husband while her glance takes in the Study some distance away. The statue was created by Gary Weisman of Newfield, New York.
Mark Twain Burial Site
When Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, he was buried next to his wife in Elmira at Woodlawn Cemetery. A large granite monument was later erected by his daughter Clara as a memorial to her father and her husband, Ossip Gabrilowitsch. The monument is exactly twelve feet or two fathoms tall, corresponding to the call of “mark twain” made by leadsmen on Mississippi River boats from which Samuel Clemens adopted his pen name. Bronze, bas-relief, profile portraits of Twain and Gabrilowitsch adorn the granite. Clara decided that the portrait of Samuel Clemens be labeled Mark Twain, as he was and remains best known to most.