Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Hannibal, MO

Mark Twain at Wikimedia Commons

This tintype, the earliest known photograph of Mark Twain, shows him as a 15-year-old printer’s apprentice.

Hannibal, about 100 miles up the Mississippi River from St. Louis, served as home to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) from 1839 to 1853. His family moved several times during that period, but by 1844 lived in a house at 206 Hill Street that is now known as Twain’s boyhood home. Hannibal, a growing transportation center, supported two churches (Twain attended Protestant Sunday schools), brothels, sawmills, slaughterhouses, pork-processing plants, book dealers, saloons, hotels and several newspapers (Twain worked as an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier and later two papers owned by his brother Orion, the Hannibal Western Union and Hannibal Journal, for which Twain also occasionally wrote sketches). Twain’s idealized version of his Hannibal childhood found its way into Tom Sawyer and other fiction. Twain’s sister Pamela married and left Hannibal for St. Louis in 1851. Twain followed in 1853.

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Posts from Hannibal, MO

Hannibal exhibits ‘invisible’ black population

In some ways the Hannibal, Mo., that Faye Dant, 62, grew up in no longer exists. Dant remembers when schools in Hannibal were still segregated. Around town, there was an unspoken knowledge of the places where … Read more >>

Being gay in America’s Hometown

What’s it like to be gay in Hannibal, Missouri, a town of 17,606 that bills itself as America’s hometown? Mary Lou Montgomery, editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post, says sexual orientation is not discussed: “It’s pretty quiet—not … Read more >>

An evening of Twain-inspired bluegrass

On my first night on the trip, I met Mark Twain’s spirit at a midnight record release party. Loren and Alyssa, already two days into the project, picked me up at the St. Louis airport. After … Read more >>

Mississippi Sunset

View from the upper deck of the Mark Twain Riverboat.