Legacy

"A discriminating irreverence is the creator and protector of human liberty."

—Mark Twain, The American Claimant

Samuel Clemens was a famous man, but Mark Twain was a superstar. One hundred years after his death, his books remain in print, with many of the now public-domain works available in full text online for free. Remembering him as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and the “jumping frog” story, we sometimes forget how prolific he was. The recently released paperback version of The Oxford Mark Twain consists of fourteen thousand pages in twenty-nine volumes.

White suits. Cigars. “Report of my death was an exaggeration.” Mark Twain has become an American icon and a cliché. He is a brand name, a commodity, and a tourist attraction. His friend, the writer and editor William Dean Howells, reminds us of how his peers wanted him to be remembered:

Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes—I knew them all and all the rest of our sages, poets, seers, critics, humorists; they were like one another and like other literary men; but Clemens was sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature.

Samuel Clemens enjoyed being a famous author, but he probably would have preferred to be better known as a successful businessman. As he said in his autobiography, “We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.”

Mark Twain portrait. A. F. Bradley, New York, c1907.
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Gift of Jon A. Lindseth

Mark Twain Cigar box. Pennsylvania: Wolf Bros., ca. 1913-1930.
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Cigar manufacturers have long capitalized on the public association of Mark Twain with cigars. While various brands of “Mark Twain Cigars” had been marketed since the 1870s, the Wolf Brothers did not register their trademark until 1931. The box is emblazoned with a phrase—“Known to Everyone - Liked by All”—which was written by Mark Twain. Curiously, the word “cigars” is absent from the box, emphasizing that it was Mark Twain, and not necessarily a tobacco product, that was “Liked by All.”

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain cigar sign. “Liked by All.” Baltimore: Parker Metal Dec. Company, ca. 1913-1931.
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This is the sign used to advertise the five-cent Wolf cigars that bore Twain's name from 1913 into the late 1930s. “Mark Twain” appears in prominent red letters, flanked by “Liked by All” and “5¢ Cigars 5¢,” a motto that echos the words emblazoned on the cigar boxes themselves: “Mark Twain: Known to Everyone-Liked by All.”

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain Cigar Sign. Advertising sign with slogan, “Mark Twain: Known to Everyone—Liked by All.” Pennsylvania: Wolf Bros., ca. 1913-1930.
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No evidence links Clemens to the production of Mark Twain Cigars, but his fame and popularity were used to market this product. This advertisement contains some “stretchers” as Huck Finn would have called them. Under the phrase “Known to Everyone - Liked by All” the Wolf Brothers have added their copyright statement, but the phrase was coined by the author and appeared on handbills to promote Mark Twain lectures in the 1880s. The artwork used for the portrait was based on a photograph taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1893, a photograph that Clemens was not particularly fond of and which he called that “damned old libel.” The sign also contains a script-like autograph that was not Mark Twain’s signature.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

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