Bowery Boys Bookshelf Gilded Age New York

Mark Twain was here: Mapping a trail of his misadventures

Last year at this time, I did a podcast on Mark Twain in New York and featured this map of notable places Twain worked, lectured, lived and played. Today is the author’s birthday — he was born 176 years ago — so I thought I’d reprint the map in case you wanted to revisit a few places in his honor, with stops in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. (And even places on Governors Island and Randall’s Island!) The three key destinations are his two residences near Washington Square Park and his cliff-side respite up at Wave Hill in Riverdale, Bronx. But the boarding house where he first lived, as a teenager? It’s on Duane Street, in today’s TriBeCa.

View Mark Twain in New York in a larger map

He also seemed to have had an altercation on a streetcar in 1890 that rankled him most severely, according to a letter he wrote to the New York Sun. The author jumped on the streetcar at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street. An excerpt:

 “Of course there was no seat — there never is: New Yorkers do not require a seat, but only permission to stand up and look meek, and be thankful for such little rags of privilege as the good horse-car company may choose to allow them

…After a moment, the conductor, desiring to pass through and see the passengers, took me by the lappel and said to me with that winning courtesy and politeness which New Yorkers are so accustomed to: “Jesus Christ! what you want to load up the door for? Git back here out of the way!”…..This conductor was a person about 30 years old, I should say, five feet nine, with blue eyes, a small, dim, unsuccessful moustache, and the general expression of a chicken thief — you may probably have seen him.

I said I would report him, and asked him for his number. He said, in a tone which wounded me more than I can tell, “I’ll give you a chew of tobacco.”

 I went up to Sixth avenue and Forty-third street to report him, but there was nobody in the superintendent’s office who seemed to want to converse with me. A man with “conductor” on his cap said it wouldn’t be any use to try to see the President at that time of day, and intimated by his manner, not his words, that people with complaints were not popular there, any way.

 So I have been obliged to come to you, you see. What I wanted to say to the President of the road was this — and through him say it to the President of the elevated roads — that the conductors ought to be instructed never to swear at country people except when there are no city ones to swear at, and not even then except for practice. Because the country people are sensitive. Conductors need not make any mistakes; they can easily tell us from the city people. Could you use your influence to get this small and harmless distinction made in our favor?”

Oh, Samuel.

Courtesy Twain Quotes

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