Mark Twain and Albany

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His first major nationwide lecture tour began in 1868; near the end of that tour he made his first appearance in Albany on January 10, 1870, at Tweddle Hall (the northwest corner of State and N. Pearl). At the last minute, Twain changed the subject of his lecture to his favorite: “Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands”, based on his stay in Hawaii.

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The lecture was part of a subscription series in Albany sponsored by Union Veterans to raise money for the widows and orphans of dead Union soldiers. In his letter of January 10 to the love of his life, Olivia (who was to become his wife less than a month later) he says that he expects the lecture’s audience to be the largest of season’s tour.

Twain appeared in Albany several more times; lecturing in 1871 and testifying before the NYS Assembly on behalf of the osteopathic profession in 1901.

One more Twain/Albany delicious tidbit: Twain’s first novel, “Innocents Abroad” (1869) lampoons American tourists in Europe and the Holy Land, and is based on a trip Twain took in 1867. One of the characters, The Oracle (a know-it-all windbag who spouts all sorts of wrong information at the drop of a hat with great authority), was modeled on Albany’s Dr. E.Andrews, a passenger on the trip. Maybe that’s why he switched the topic of lecture?

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(BTW: Twain was, for many years, fast friends with Albany’s own Bret Harte, writer of “The Outcasts of Poker Flats”, and other wonderful short stories, but in the 1870s that friendship foundered on money issues. More about Bret at a later date.)

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor