I'm searching for clues and/or speculations as to Sam's whereabouts
related to his departure from New York City and eventual arrival in
Cincinnati, where he began his short-lived but famous career on the
Mississippi River. I have elsewhere noted that Sam could not have
arrived in St. Louis by train, as there were no trains to speak of in
St. Louis at this time. St. Louis was a river-city. I have hypothesized
that he rode in a smoking car(s) from New York to Cincinnati and from
there a steamer to St. Louis. He later returned to Cincinnati, where he
came under the tutelage of Horace Bixby. Why and how he went to
Cincinnati is the subject of William Baker's article from 1979.
What I know about these events are covered in pages in Twain's
One interesting aside from Baker's article is that Sam's future friend,
William Dean Howells was in Cincinnati at about the same time as Sam.
They apparently never met there nor did they at any time in the future
reminisce about the city.
From Baker's article:
/"Clemens's official biographer, Albert B. Paine, says Clemens had
planned to go directly to Cincinnati from St. Louis, "but a new idea--a
literary idea--came to him and he returned to Keokuk." Where did he get
the money for that steamer trip and the subsequent train passage to
Cincinnati? Perhaps he found fifty dollars, as he reports, although he
might have borrowed it from his sister Pamela's husband, William A.
Moffett, with the request to keep it a secret; hence the invention of
finding fifty dollars. River travel to Cincinnati via Cairo and then
east on the serpentine Ohio River, a distance of 600 miles, would have
cost only nine dollars, while the trip by railroad via Terre Haute and
Indianapolis, a distance of 350 miles, would have cost about fifteen
dollars. But parts of the Ohio were too low for steamers in the fall of
1856, though he probably could have made a steamer trip as far as
Louisville. And although the trip by railroad would have necessitated
three changes of rail lines (the direct 322-mile route was not open
until April 1857), the rail route was clearly the logical alternative.
He ended up by taking a crazy zig-zag route that cost about thirty
dollars (about $25.24 fare plus food, hotel, and porterage). It was a
sizeable expense for a man who had been working for five dollars a week
plus room and board, even more remarkable since he claims he never got
any money at all." /
/"Now it is the dating that concerns us. If I am correct in guessing
that Clemens took the Snodgrass letter to Keokuk on the day after it was
written, he would have arrived on 19 October. In his eagerness to see
Rees he would not have waited longer. Fred Lorch says he spent "a day or
two" in Keokuk. If we say two days, 20 and 21 October, that would put
him on the river packet to Quincy on 22 October, arriving by train in
Chicago that night, where he stayed in "the Massasawit House,"
entraining for Indianapolis on the 23rd. Then he took "the midnight
thunder and lightning train" from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, arriving
on the morning of 24 October 1856. If my assumptions are correct, he
arrived in the center of the western publishing industry about five
weeks before his twenty-first birthday on 30 November."/
Page 3 and 4 of "Mark Twain in Cincinnati: A Mystery Most Compelling" by
William Baker published in American Literary Realism, 1870-1910 ,
Autumn, 1979, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Autumn, 1979), pp. 299-315, University of
Illinois Press. Available on JSTOR - Stable URL:
Suggestions that new information may be found in the Day By Day pages is
duly noted, however Fears found nothing from the period that other
scholars haven't found.
/Unaffiliated Geographer and Twain aficionado/