Pop Culture Influence

“Alive and Well - and Almost as Well Known as He Ever Was”

by Patti Philippon‚ Beatrice Fox Auerbach Chief Curator |

His name‚ likeness‚ characters and words have been used to advertise products and inspire songwriters‚ artists and novelists. “Mark Twain” has appeared as a brand on cigars‚ clothing and motorboats. Schools‚ casinos‚ hotels‚ parks‚ restaurants‚ lakes and bridges have all been named after him. Monuments and memorials have been erected worldwide to honor America’s most famous writer and humorist.

Sam Clemens was actively engaged in shaping the public’s perception of ”Mark Twain.” He was acutely aware of the commercial value of his persona and sought to capitalize on it. He worked to become known not only as a humorist‚ but also as a political commentator‚ family man‚ international diplomat‚ philosopher and all-around American.

More than hundred years after his death‚ the continued use of the Mark Twain name and image confirms his lasting popularity and legendary status.

As Shelley Fisher Fishkin wrote in Lighting Out for the Territory‚ “As a legend‚ Mark Twain is alive and well - and almost as well known as he ever was.”

Twain Fun Facts

 

Twain was born and died in years when Halley's Comet passed by Earth: Twain says, "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'"

 

Schools in at least 16 states have been named after him, as well as Mark Twain International Schools in Romania and Argentina.

 

Twain met activist Helen Keller, who could neither hear nor see, and her teacher Anne Sullivan. It is Twain who is credited with calling Sullivan a "miracle worker," a nickname which later became the inspiration for Tony Award-winning writer William Gibson's play and movie.

 

The term "The Gilded Age" was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their 1873 book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, and references the extravagant displays of wealth and excess by America's upper class during the post-Civil War years of the late 19th century.

 

Hal Holbrook has been performing his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight! annually since 1959, with each show somewhat different in Twain content.

 

There is a variety of African violet named after Mark Twain.

 

Bands in many musical generes have named themselves after Mark Twain, including The Mark Twain Chorus and Orchestra (show tunes); Mark Twain's Dog (folk); MC Mark Twain; Mark Twain, Joggy Crew (rap); and The Mark Twain Ringers (handbell ringers).

 

There is a Facebook application called "Which Mark Twain Character Are You?"

 

Twain's name and image have been used to market many products. During his lifetime, Mark Twain allowed his name and image to be used on such things as flour, pens, cigars, and Oldsmobiles. After his death in 1910, his brand has been used on lemons and oranges (in 1923), a line of clothing (1940s), and coal (1950s).

 

Mark Twain as a character has appeared in many TV shows, including Bonaza, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Family Guy, Touched by an Angel, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Late Show with David Letterman, Fantasy Island, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and The Rifleman. Cartoon animator Chuck Jones based his character, Wile E. Coyote, after a description of the animal in Twain's book about the American west, Roughing It.

Celebrities and Mark Twain

Just as Mark Twain is known to have made comments concerning just about everyone and everything‚ it seems that celebrities old and new can’t stop talking about him. Here are some notables commenting on America’s favorite author:

 

I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. He makes you feel his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.

 

Mark Twain’s humor was painful, his fantasies dense and difficult to follow. By them, one may estimate the exact distance which separates the Yankee country from the civilized world.

 

Mark Twain gave pleasure - real intellectual enjoyment - to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come.

 

All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn...

 

He was the first American author of world rank to write a genuinely colloquial and native American.

 

To my mind Mark Twain was beyond question the largest man of his time, both in the direct outcome of his work and more important still, if possible, in his indirect influence as a protesting force in an age of iron philistinism.

- Letter in centennial year of Mark Twain's Birth, 1935

 

His genius is the synthesis of the sparkling and useful characteristics of the people of the United States. Mark Twain has been and remains one of my preferred authors.

 

The average American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person, he generally selects Mark Twain.

 

The father of American Literature

 

The nation's first rock star.

 

There isn't a subject in the world that makes a difference that he hasn't taken ahold of and had a lot to say about.

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Suggested Reading

An opinionated guide to books on Mark Twain, his life in Hartford, and his times.

Writing at the Mark Twain House

Improve and develop your writing where Twain wrote. Our Writing at the Mark Twain House programs, launched in 2010, have created deep bonds among participants and instructors alike. Click here.