Catching Up With The Clemenses

What was it like to live and work in a Gilded Age home like this one? And how do we take care of that home and tell its stories today?

In our ongoing “Catching Up With The Clemenses” series, School Programs Coordinator Erin Bartram and Director of Collections Jodi DeBruyne take you inside the home to answer these questions and more. The series is hosted on the museum’s kid-safe education channel on YouTube, but you can also find each individual episode embedded below with guiding questions, themes, and links to related material. Each episode contains a challenge question for the next.

If you have a question, you can send us an email at or mail us a letter at The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT 06105. Make sure to include your first name (or class name) and where you’re from so we can give you a shout out when we answer your question in a video!

Click here to watch the most recent video!

Tell Us How You've Used Catching Up With The Clemenses in your Classroom!

Episodes Coming Soon

How did the Clemenses play outside in the winter?

What is a conservatory?

Chapter 0

Welcome To Catching Up With The Clemenses!



In this episode, Jodi and Erin introduce themselves, and introduce you to the house and the kinds of questions they think about in their work there.

They ask you to look at the house from the outside and answer two questions:

  • How many people do you think lived and worked in this house?
  • What made you guess that number?

After you’ve watched the video and made your guesses, you can explore the house virtually to see if that changes your answer before moving on to the next video!

Take the Virtual Tour

Chapter 1

Who Lived And Worked In This House?



In this episode, Jodi and Erin introduce you to the Clemens family and some of the most important people who worked for them at their house.

They also tell you about all of the jobs those people did, and ask you questions like:

  • Does your family pay people to do some of these important jobs for them?
  • If not, who does this valuable work where you live?

You’ll also learn why it’s called the Mark Twain House even though the Clemens family lived there!

Learn More About The Clemens Family

Chapter 2

What's Behind The Screen?



This episode focuses on one of the people who worked for the Clemens family in their Hartford home for nearly 20 years: their butler George Griffin. Jodi and Erin explain what a butler’s job is, show you the rooms where George did his work, and ask you questions like:

  • Who cooks and serves the meals where you live?
  • Who does the dishes after you eat those meals?

They also talk about why it can be hard to learn about the lives of Black Americans like George, who had been enslaved by a white family when he was younger.

Learn more about George Griffin

Chapter 3

How Did The Clemens Family Celebrate Birthdays?


In this episode, Jodi and Erin tell you how the people who lived in this house liked to celebrate birthdays. To the Clemens family, birthdays meant two things: parties and presents! They tell you about some of the gifts they gave and received, as well as the delicious food they ate, and ask you questions like:

  • If your family celebrates birthdays, what are some of your traditions?
  • What are the differences between summer and winter party activities where you live?
  • What are your favorite birthday treats? (Jodi and Erin tell you theirs, too!)

They also tell you some of the ways the Clemens family members celebrated birthdays when they weren’t all able to be together.

Chapter 4

Where Did The Clemenses Get Their Fruit, Flowers, and Vegetables?

In the last episode, you learned how the Clemens family celebrated birthdays, with parties that had lots of fruit and flowers. This time, Jodi and Erin tell you about the fruits and vegetables the family ate, the flowers they loved, and the people who grew those flowers. They’ll ask you questions like:

  • What kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables do you like to eat? Where do you get them?
  • Are there people who grow fruits and vegetables near where you live? Do you know what they grow?
  • Do you have a favorite flower?

They’ll also tell you how many pounds of potatoes the Clemens family purchased at one time. Hint: it was a lot.

Chapter 5

Where's The Toilet Paper?



In this episode, Jodi and Erin look at the bathrooms in the Twain house to explore how the things we use in our homes–and our homes themselves–change over time. They’ll ask you questions like:

  • What things do you expect to see in a bathroom?
  • Do you know where the water you use comes from?
  • Why would you want to avoid having pipes running all over your house?

Turns out there’s a lot to say about Gilded Age bathrooms, so we’ll be back with more on the subject in the next episode!

Take a look at the bathroom!

Chapter 6

Where's the Toilet Paper? Part 2



In this episode, Jodi and Erin look at the products in the bathrooms and pantry in the Twain house to explore how and why those products–and the forms they came in–changed over time. They’ll ask you questions like:

  • Why did the Clemenses use toilet paper that came in a book instead of on a roll?
  • Why do we buy things like tomatoes and peaches fresh—but also in cans?
  • Why do we put things in the containers and forms we do?

You’ll also learn all about the invention of toothpaste—and the tube you squeeze it out of!

Peek Into The Pantry!

Chapter 7

How Did They Celebrate Christmas?



In this episode, Jodi and Erin explore how the family prepared for and celebrated Christmas in their Hartford home, including selecting, making, wrapping and delivering the perfect presents They’ll ask you questions like:

  • What is a memoir?
  • Do you know how to make the decorations the Clemens girls made?
  • If you could receive a book with a message from the author, what book and author would you choose?

Filmed from the beautifully-decorated house–complete with real snow!

See More Of The House Decorated For Christmas!

Chapter 8

How Do We Care For Museum Collections?



In this episode, Jodi and Erin explain how the people who work in museums take care of the objects in their collections, including furniture, photographs, books, letters, and even whole houses! They’ll also ask you questions like:

  • How do you fix a historical object that’s in poor condition? Who does that job?
  • Why do we keep the museum so cool?
  • How should you treat your books so you make sure they don’t get damaged?

Take a peek behind the scenes and learn how you can be part of making sure the museum is here for everyone to enjoy.

Learn About How The House Was Restored

Chapter 9

Why Is It So Dark In Here?

In this episode, Jodi and Erin explain why it’s so dark in the Mark Twain House and how that helps us preserve the house so it looks great when you visit! They’ll also ask you to think about questions like:

  • How did people in the Gilded Age light their houses?
  • Why would the Clemens family’s plumber look after the lights in their house?
  • Why can’t you take photos while on tour of the house?

They’ll also talk about how time affects much light the house gets—and how they film!

Check Out One Of The Original Chandeliers In The Home!

Chapter 10

What pets did the Clemens family have?

In this episode, Jodi and Erin tell you about the most important members of the Clemens households–their pets! They’ll take you through all the animals the Clemens girls kept as pets–or at least tried to. They’ll also ask you to think about questions like

  • Why might it be expensive to keep a pet?
  • Why do towns want people to get licenses for their dogs?
  • Where do different kinds of pets live?

They’ll also talk about some of the interesting animals they encountered in their travels, including one that ate Sam Clemens’ coat!

Chapter 11

What was school like for the Clemens girls?

In this episode, Jodi and Erin explore what school was like for Susy, Clara, and Jean growing up in the Gilded Age. They’ll take you through all the subjects they learned, and where they learned them, from gymnastics at home to languages at Hartford Public High. They’ll also ask you questions like:

  • Have you ever done school in your own home?
  • What subjects do you learn?
  • Which subjects are your favorite?

They’ll also talk about how Sam and Livy Clemens taught their children–including the games they invented!