Mark Twain in the West: An Exhibition
Introduction and Chronology

About “Mark Twain in the West”

This exhibition, published online here for the first time, was produced by Victor Fischer and Sharon K. Goetz of the Mark Twain Papers and Project of The Bancroft Library and Brooke Dykman of the Library Applications and Publications group of the Library Systems Office, all at the University of California, Berkeley. It was originally created by Victor Fischer for the Seventh International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies held at Elmira College, in August 2013. We wish to thank Robert H. Hirst, General Editor of the Mark Twain Papers and Project; Elaine C. Tennant, Director of The Bancroft Library; Lynne E. Grigsby and Casondra Sobieralski of the Library Systems Office; and Barbara Snedecor of Elmira College.

Where did these materials come from?

The images in this exhibition, taken almost entirely from materials in the Mark Twain Papers of The Bancroft Library, show a sample of the surviving items from Clemens’s years in the West. Clemens kept many of the items, including letters, notebooks, and autobiographical dictations, until the end of his life. They formed part of the original Mark Twain Papers collection, with Albert Bigelow Paine acting as Clemens’s first literary executor. Other items shown here, including letters, scrapbooks, mining deeds, and photographs, were acquired by the Mark Twain Papers in 1954 as part of the Anita Moffett Collection—the portion of family papers given by Pamela Clemens Moffett, Clemens’s sister, to her son, Samuel Moffett, and passed to his daughter Anita. The collection was found and identified in a warehouse sale in 1953, a year after Anita’s death, and purchased by the University of California. (The papers passed by Pamela to her daughter, Annie Moffett Webster, now make up a portion of the Jean Webster McKinney Family Papers at Vassar.) Copies of the Robert M. Howland photographs were given to the Papers by Howland’s grandson, Robert M. Gunn, and Mrs. Gunn. The photographs of Dan De Quille and Bret Harte are from the photographic archives of The Bancroft Library. Other sources for images are identified in the captions. Clemens’s manuscript images are copyright © 2001 by the Mark Twain Foundation, which reserves all reproduction or dramatization rights in every medium.

What more is out there to find?

A great number of items which bear on the Western years are irretrievably lost, including “almost four trunks” of letters “from Mark Twain to his mother, running through many decades, from youth to worldwide fame.” These letters were burned in 1904 by the executor of Mollie Clemens’s estate, John R. Carpenter. “He had a treasure of incalculable value and an imperative order to destroy it. . . . It took him several long evenings to complete the job thoroughly” (“Mark Twain Letters to Mother Burned at Direction of Author,” unidentified clipping, datelined 14 December 1935). A great deal of Clemens’s early newspaper writing is also lost—three complete archives of the Territorial Enterprise were destroyed by fires, one in Virginia City in 1875 and the other two in San Francisco in 1906. Scholars have searched local libraries and collections for much of the last century unearthing and identifying lost items. And yet letters and photographs are still being found, along with newspaper printings or reprintings of Clemens’s early journalism and sketches, as family collections of letters and photographs come to light, and especially as nineteenth-century local newspapers and other materials become available on the web.

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