Kevin Mac Donnell is a leading Mark Twain scholar and collector of books and memorabilia who lives in Austin, Texas. He’ll be speaking May 30 in The Trouble Begins at 5:30 pm free lecture series on the topic, Was Huck Quaker?
Mac Donnell’s entrepreneurial spirit was launched at age 8 in his swampy backyard in Houston when he collected snakes and turtles and sold them to local pet stores.
He has been collecting rare books since the 1970s, selling off other New England authors such as Thoreau and Longfellow to concentrate on Mark Twain in the 1980s.
“Twain was taking over my collection,” Mac Donnell says.
He was a rare book librarian at the University of Houston for four years and moved to Austin to work for the Jenkins Company before starting his own business in 1986.
His Twain collection has taken over the third floor of his home and includes original advertising illustrations, first editions and signed photos, including one of Twain in his bed that the author autographed for Marion Schuyler Allen, his hostess in Bermuda shortly before he died in 1910. He has a writing desk Twain used at Quarry Farm in Elmira, New York where the family summered; a card table originally from Hartford that was moved to Stormfield in Redding; and 1000 letters written by Twain to his daughters and wife. He acquired Twain mugs, some books and ephemera from the estate of Nick Karanovich of Fort Wayne, Indiana, who claimed to have the largest inventory of gee gaws and tourist trinkets.
His collection includes a mirror and came up for auction that originally hung in the Hartford house.
“I won the bid,” he says, “but later I found out Hartford was my competition.”
Register for Mac Donnell’s The Trouble Begins at 5:30 pm lecture here.
Sponsored by Connecticut Natural Gas Company.