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Exhibitions & Film

Current Exhibition

Twain's Attic: 90 Years, 90 Treasures

Take a peek at 90 objects from our collection that cover the saving of the Mark Twain House and our founding; Nook Farm players; Tiffany, pop culture; the Langdon family; and Clara Clemens and Ossip Gabrilowitsch (with their home movies). Also artworks, letters, books, and signatures.

In 1929, Katharine Seymour Day, grandniece of Twain’s neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe, helped persuade the Connecticut General Assembly to establish the Mark Twain Memorial and Library Commission. The Friends of Hartford lobbied the state for many years to stop the demolition of the historic Twain House.

The house officially opened as a museum in 1974, 100 years after Samuel Clemens and his family took possession of their new Victorian-era mansion, where they lived until 1891

The exhibition includes a Tiffany folding screen, a Cabbage Patch Huckleberry Finn doll, and a Twain portrait by James Carroll Beckwith.

Samuel Clemens, with his wife Olivia, had the house built for them and raised their three daughters in what Twain called the happiest and most productive period of his life.

The house changed hands many times after 1891 and its future was uncertain until Day and her friends intervened.

The exhibition includes a Tiffany folding screen, a Cabbage Patch Huckleberry Finn doll, and a Twain portrait by James Carroll Beckwith.

The exhibition runs March 21 through January 21, 2012 in The Webster Bank Museum Center on the second floor of the exhibition center.

United Technologies is the exhibition sponsor.

Additional support:

Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

The Greater Hartford Arts Council.

Past Exhibition

Tails of Twain

Exhibition Ran March 2019-January 2019

Mark Twain’s affection for all creatures, whether they had paws or claws, wings or whiskers, was one that he shared with his family – and with his readers. His beloved cats, family dog, horses, donkeys, and calf won the affections of his three daughters at their Hartford home. As a boy in Missouri, he reveled in knowing the creatures of the woods and prairies – and in old age, he felt a deep kinship with the animals large and small that he encountered in his travels.

Inevitably, these critters slithered, hopped, and galloped their way into Twain’s stories, essays, novels, and travel tales. There they were fleshed out as characters and served as vehicles through which Twain commented on society – and, in typical fashion, the joke was on us, the humans.

“Twain and his family had a real and deep passion for animals,” says Tracy Brindle, Beatrice Fox Auerbach Chief Curator at The Mark Twain House & Museum. “We are thrilled to present yet another captivating and relatable facet of his life through this exhibition.”

The exhibition is rich with items from the museum’s collections, including the Clemens family’s horse-drawn sleigh, recently partially restored; a copy of a book called The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten, “signed” by the family cat; an extraordinary drawing of a dachshund going around a corner, rendered by Twain himself; a cement lion’s head from Twain’s final home in Redding, Connecticut; an Audubon Society pin from the era when daughter Jean was a devoted member; and many other rarely displayed treasures.

Stories and excerpts from letters, journals, and published works bring to life the snakes of Hannibal, the street dogs of San Francisco, the camels of Syria (who ate Twain’s coat, he claims), and the cats of Hartford (with names like Soapy Sal, Pestilence, Famine, Zoroaster, Satan, Sackcloth, and Ashes). There are the ants he studied for hours on the floor of Germany’s Black Forest and the crows he observed minutely from a veranda in India.

Other objects on view outline the new-found passion for pets in the Victorian era and the battle against cruelty to animals: Twain became the most famous American celebrity of his day to speak out against such practices with his famous “pen warmed up in hell.”

Tails of Twain: How Animals Shaped the Man & His Work was sponsored by United Technologies Corporation. It was on view at The Mark Twain House & Museum through January 21, 2019.

The Aetna Gallery

Opened in 2003, our museum features The Aetna Gallery permanent orientation exhibition, “I Have Sampled this Life,” a video introduction by acclaimed director Ken Burns, annual exhibitions exploring Twain’s work and influence, two classrooms, and a 178-seat auditorium for special programs.