Mark Twain is one of the most beloved of all writers in the world. What was it about this man that his legacy remains so strong that 112 years after his death everyone still knows the name?
Kudos to the communities that have capitalized on the fact that Mark Twain slept, lived, ate, made a speech, or just rode on a trail within their boundaries. Twain fans know he spent most of his mid-late 20’s in California and Nevada trying to find his fortune in silver and gold before traveling the world.
But, how many know that Samuel Langhorne Clemens lived in Carson City arriving with his brother Orion in this fair city on Aug. 14, 1861, or that he finally found his fortune by morphing into the storied Mark Twain in Carson City thus launching his infamous world-wide career?
Yes, it was on Jan. 31, 1863, that he penned the letter to the editor published in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise on Feb. 3 that he first used his pen name Mark Twain. That lengthy letter detailing his attendance at the party of former California Gov. J. Neely Johnson can be read by logging on to http://www.twainquotes.com/18630203t.html. Thus we can truthfully state that Mark Twain was truly born in Carson City, for the name bestowed upon him in Florida, Missouri soon was to become but a trivia question.
Carson City has never truly capitalized on the fact that Twain’s first home in the west was here, and that home built by his brother Orion Clemens still stands today along the Kit Carson Trail at 502 N. Division Street in the historic downtown. You’d think with all the history of this man here, there would be more than a mere few lines on a map or a historic marker in front of the house acknowledging the Clemens home.
The Gold Country of California, on the other side of the Sierra’s, could teach us a lesson on how to capitalize on anything and everything Twain to attract visitors from all over the world thereby increasing local fortunes.
When the vagabond already known as Mark Twain left Nevada in 1863 to seek his fortune elsewhere, he settled only for three months in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties around the Angel’s Camp area. Realizing the magic of the Twain legacy, multiple signs can be found attesting to the fact that Twain slept at Murphy’s Hotel in Murphys and occupied a one-room cabin with fellow writers on Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County where he penned his captivating short story about the jumping frog.
His short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” became as sensation and earned him a permanent statue in Angels Camp, home to the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee held the third weekend each May.
Clemens/Twain spent six years in the west and, according to his writings in “Roughing It,” those were quite some three years in Nevada with the remaining three in California where he is so revered and is but an afterthought here.
However, Twain might not be an afterthought for long, for planning is currently underway to celebrate Mark Twain Days in Carson City on April 21, 2023, a mere 112 after his passing in 1910. It seems Carson City may finally learn how to capitalize on the legend while relaying to the world that the true history of Nevada was -and still is – made in Carson City. Maybe a Twain statue will be erected somewhere?
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was not the only intriguing resident to find fame and fortune by calling Carson City home.
At the corner of Third and Division streets lived George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. who spent his youth here arriving in this city in 1864. He was the inventor of the Ferris Wheel, but that’s another story for another column. So much history in this little capital city!
Bottom line to all this is that communities can gain fame and fortune by celebrating their long-gone-but-not-forgotten world-famous famous residents, for these celebrities give the community the uniqueness not found anywhere else and should not be a footnote in a history book.
Ronni Hannaman is executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.