Mark Twain’s 185th birthday: His life and legacy in Elmira


ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Today is Mark Twain’s 185 birthday and his legacy still lives strong across the nation but also right here in Elmira.

Portions of his most popular works like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were formed in Elmira according to the Chemung County’s official website.

The Archivist at the Chemung County Historical Society, Rachel Dworkin, walks 18 News through the life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens also known as Mark Twain.

“He was originally from Missouri,” said Dworkin. “As a child, he was not well off his family was pretty poor. He dropped out of school, and he became associated with Elmira because he married a local girl whose family was very wealthy. His life sort of picked up, and then they spent 20 summers here, where he would write up at Quarry Farm, and he was fairly well known locally, spend a lot of time here.”

Elmira was Mark Twain’s escape from the world and where he wrote parts of his most acclaimed works like Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Prince and the Pauper, and A Tramp Abroad according to the Chemung County website.

“He’s kind of considered the quintessential early American humorist,” said Dworkin. “In later years [he] went on a world tour, where he basically did stand up. And right from his books, he would read excerpts but then he would also just like tell funny stories about stuff that happened to him or remarks that he had on American politics. So effectively, it was stand up comedy, but it just wasn’t called that. And a lot of this sort of American voice of comedic writing gets its start with him. He’s also really famous for the way that he sort of wrote and talked about race relations in America. And he’s just a really central figure in American literature. “

This is also where he met Mary Ann Cord, the woman who inspired “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It”. Twain tells the tale of Cord’s life as an enslaved woman losing her husband and children only to reunite with her son later in life. Eventually, the two went to Elmira and made it home.

The Chemung County Historical Society has done a series leading up to his birthday called, “Mark Twain Aloud,” where different people read their favorite sections by him. You can find that series by clicking this link here.


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