The Hartford House Presents A New Exhibition Focusing on Twain’s Summer Destinations

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The Mark Twain House & Museum is proud to present an exhibition titled For Business or Pleasure?: Twain’s Summer Sojourns which will focus on the Clemens family’s American summer vacations while discussing the overarching themes relating to Gilded Age leisure and travel. The exhibit will roughly cover a time period between 1870-1910 and visitors to the exhibit will be “taken” to places such as Elmira, Saranac Lake, and the Onteora Club, all in New York; Old Saybrook, Connecticut; and Dublin, New Hampshire. 

With the rise of America’s middle class in the 1820s and 1830s and the expansion of passenger line railroads, the concept and practice of “taking vacations” emerged as a possibility for those who had the financial means to escape their work and home life for health and leisure pursuits. The Clemenses were among these of upper-middle class families who left their urban homes in the summer for cooler climates either at the seaside or on mountaintops. However, not all people could afford or were allowed to partake in the same vacation activities as the Clemenses. In this exhibit we will explore what summer leisure activities were available to the Clemens’s servants while left behind to work and care for the Hartford home, as well as investigate the variations in opportunities based on gender, class, ethnicity, and religion during this time.  

While the Clemenses did live abroad for a few summers, the majority of their summer holidays were spent here in American at Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York with Olivia Clemens’s family. They also spent one summer each at Old Saybrook, CT, Saranac Lake, NY, and the Onteora Club, NY, and two summers in Dublin, NH. These respites were opportunities for leisure, sporting activities, creative pursuits, academic study, and for Samuel Clemens an opportunity for uninterrupted time spent writing. It is no wonder that during their summer vacations, Clemens was the most productive at writing his most famous works. 

The exhibition will run from March 2023 through December 2023 and will be accompanied by a variety of leisure-themed programs and events for adults and families. 

Exhibitions are supported by the Maximillian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation.