Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) in Buffalo, NY

Etching courtesy of Old Editions Book Shop and Café

Thomas J. Reigstad, Excerpts from Scribblin' For a Livin': Mark Twain's Pivotal Period in Buffalo

The Mark Twain Room in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library:
Kobra, "Mark Twain and John Lewis" mural

See also:  
Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain in Buffalo. Excerpt from The Boys' Life of Mark Twain   (online July 2019)

Life for Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and his new bride in their house at 472 Delaware Street traced an arc rising in romantic bliss, then plummeting into chaotic despair. The thirteen months from February 1870 to March of 1871 that Sam and Olivia spent there seemed evenly split into six months of happiness and six months of misery.

Much like a character in a novel by Charles Dickens - a favorite author of Clemens as a teen - the domestic scene at 472 Delaware for the Clemens family represented the "best of time and the worst of times."

- Excerpt from Tom Reigstad's essay, Summer 2004 Western New York Heritage Magazine, p. 18. S

Mark Twain's house at 472 Delaware was built in 1864 for Henry M. and Elizabeth Kinne. It became the Twain home when Clemens' wealthy father-in-law, Jervis Langdon, conspired with Clemens' bride, Olivia "Livy" Langdon, to purchase and furnish the house as a surprise wedding present for Sam. The couple moved in after their wedding in February 1870.

The generous gift allowed the Sam & Livy to live on Buffalo's most prestigious avenue, above the means of a newly-wed newspaper editor at the time. It is said that Clemens hung a plaque on the front door which read: "Mark Twain lives here and my father-in-law pays the rent."

Unfortunately, illness and death haunted the Clemens household. Jervis Langdon passed away shortly after the wedding. Olivia's friend visited the couple, fell ill, required extensive nursing, and died in their home. Sam and Olivia's first child, Langdon, was born there, but was sickly and did not survive infancy.

The couple sold the house in 1871, never to reside in Buffalo again. It housed several owners until it was badly damaged by a fire on Feb. 8, 1963 and was demolished on July 2, 1963.

- Cynthia Van Ness

Mark Twain lived in Buffalo from 1869-1871. His time here was significant and worthy of recognition as it shaped him as a writer and as a person.

His time in Buffalo was the longest period that Twain had lived in one place since early childhood and the city was a place of firsts for him. Buffalo was the first place he lived as a married man, the birthplace of his first child, the first place he owned a home and the first place that he became co-owner of a newspaper.

While Twain’s stay in Buffalo was difficult personally, it spurred a time of great productivity. During his tenure here, his father-in-law, Jevis Langdon, suffered from cancer and his wife, Olivia, became dangerously ill with Typhoid.

A collection of his writings from this traumatic period is titled Mark Twain at The Buffalo Express: Articles and Sketches by America’s Favorite Humorist (Northern Illinois University Press; 1999).

The Express

In Western New York, Twain sharpened his writing abilities as editor of The Buffalo Express newspaper. His co-editor at The Express was Joseph Larned, with whom he often collaborated on articles and columns. Larned, a lifelong friend to Twain, subsequently became director of the library in Buffalo in 1877.

Another co-editor at The Express and close friend to Twain, David Gray was a well-known poet and long-standing member of the Buffalo Library board. In Twain fashion, he honored his friend by naming the central character in "A Murder, a Mystery and a Marriage" after Gray. The Gray Chair of Letters at the State University of New York at Buffalo was founded in his honor...

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn manuscript

Larned and Gray were not the only Express contributors involved with Buffalo’s library. Twain was an active member of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s predecessor, the Young Men’s Association and honored the Library with the manuscript of what is viewed by many as the greatest American novel. In 1885, Twain donated the second half of his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn manuscript, believing the first half had been lost by a printer.

In 1991, the missing manuscript turned up in a steamer trunk in a Los Angeles home. It was among the possessions of James Fraser Gluck, the lawyer for the Buffalo Library who had requested the manuscript from Twain a century earlier. Twain eventually mailed the missing half of the manuscript, but Gluck, who had apparently taken it home to have it bound, died with it among his belongings in 1897. After gaining possession, the B&ECPL united the manuscript in 1992 for the first time in more than 100 years and showcases this cultural treasure in its Mark Twain Room with a special collection of Huckleberry Finn editions, Twain writings and other memorabilia.

- Reprinted from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library's "Mark Twain Writing Competition"

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2015
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