James Burton Pond was born in upstate New York in 1838, but his family moved to Illinois, and then Wisconsin before he was ten years old. As he reached adulthood, he became a staunch abolitionist and helped the efforts of the Underground Railroad, reportedly assisting John Brown in raids that assuredly posed the threat of violence, if not actual violence against slave holders.
In 1861, he was commissioned as an officer for the Union Army during the American Civil War. His most lauded act during this time was during the Battle of Baxter Springs (October 6, 1863) in Kansas, when he fought against William Quantrill and his raiders, sometimes known as the “bushwhackers,” a notoriously violent, pro-Confederacy guerrilla outfit, whose numbers included Frank and Jesse James. During the engagement Pond showed exceptional bravery and leadership abilities. For his actions during the battle, he would eventually be awarded the Medal of Freedom. He was honorably discharged in 1865 with the rank of major.
In 1874 Pond began a career as a lecture manager and eventually joined James Redpath’s Lyceum Bureau, the management firm of Mark Twain’s lectures. Pond and his partner bought out Redpath in 1875 and formed their own separate lecture agencies.
After the financial panic of 1893 and a number of key unsuccessful business decisions, Mark Twain was facing bankruptcy. In order to pay off his financial debts, Twain took on a massive lecture tour of the global spanning British Empire. This lecture tour would span from July 1895 to July 1896. Pond managed the first leg of the lecture tour and accompanied Twain through 22 stops in the United States and British Columbia. This lecture tour would eventually result in Mark Twain’s fifth and last travel book, Following the Equator, published in 1897.
Pond recorded the North American section of the historic tour with photographs and text. The camera recording the journey was a box-shaped relatively new invention introduced by George Eastman of Rochester, New York with the slogan – “You press the button, we do the rest.”
For more information on the photographs, texts, and Twain’s North American lecture tour, see Overland with Mark Twain: James B. Pond’s Photographs and Journal of the North American Lecture Tour of 1895. Edited by Alan Gribben and Nick Karanovich, Center for Mark Twain Studies, 1992. A Quarry Farm Volume.
The following photos are available for the general public. For most of the photographs, please make sure to include the credit line “Courtesy of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College, Elmira, New York” in all publications. If you have any questions, please contact Joseph Lemak at [email protected]
Location and Date Unknown
July 17 & 18, 1895 – Leaving Cleveland, Ohio and Aboard the S.S. Northland
Around July 24 & 25, 1895 – Headed to Gretna, Manitoba
July 26, 1895 – Gretna, Manitoba
July 27, 28, and 29(?), 1895 – Winnipeg, Manitoba
July 31, 1895 – Great Falls, Montana
August 4, 5, & 6 – Helena, Montana and Missoula, Montana