The Mark Twain House & Museum Announces New Exhibition: For Business or Pleasure? Twain’s Summer Sojourns
Exhibit Chronicling the Clemens Family’s Summer Holidays Opens March 23
March 3, 2023, Hartford, CT | The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT announced today the opening of a new exhibition entitled For Business or Pleasure?: Twain’s Summer Sojourns. The comprehensive exhibit will focus on the Clemens family’s American summer vacations and the diverting aspects of Gilded Age leisure and travel. The museum is hosting a Grand Opening event on Thursday, March 23 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. This special event is free and open to the public.
For Business or Pleasure? will then be on view from March 24 through December 31, 2023 during the museum’s normal operating hours. Exhibition admission is included with tour admission to Mark Twain’s National Historic Landmark home located at 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford. A separate “museum center only” admission is available for guests who would like to view the exhibition without touring The Mark Twain House. To make reservations or for hours of operation, please visit MarkTwainHouse.org.
The exhibition will be augmented with fun programming that highlights the type of leisure time activities people would likely have enjoyed during The Gilded Age. Featured events will include a “paint and sip” evening, board games and brews, a drag performance by demented diva Dina Martina, a night of Bawdy Twain performed by Sea Tea Improv, and a trivia night. For dates and registration, visit MarkTwainHouse.org/Events/.
For Business or Pleasure? roughly covers a time period between 1870-1910. Visitors will be whisked along with Mark Twain to such places as Elmira, Saranac Lake, and the Onteora Club, all in New York State; Old Saybrook, Connecticut; and Dublin, New Hampshire. The exhibition will feature dozens of period artifacts including one of his iconic white suit coats (on loan from The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, MO), and a wooden glove box that was intricately hand-carved by the youngest Clemens daughter, Jean.
While the Clemenses did live abroad for a few summers, the majority of their summer holidays were spent at Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York with wife Olivia Clemens’s family. To provide Twain with the necessary quiet and focus to write (as well as to get his cigar smoking out of the house), his sister-in-law constructed a secluded writing study on her property. For Business or Pleasure? will feature a stunning replica of Twain’s Octagon Study (constructed by the scenic artists at TheaterWorks Hartford) where he wrote most productively during his summers in Elmira. The exhibit will also include a marble statuette that overlooked Twain on a shelf in his Octagon Study (on loan from Kevin Mac Donnell, one of the preeminent collectors of Twain memorabilia).
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.
Jodi DeBruyne, MTH&M’s Beatrice Fox Auerbach Director of Collections states, “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.”
The family 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.
For Business or Pleasure: Twain’s Summer Sojourns is supported by the Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation. Additional support is provided by Connecticut Humanities Council, State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and Webster Bank.
Contact: Jacques Lamarre
Phone: (860) 965-9418