Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum curator will explore great author's pen names

Henry Sweets
Posted: Jan. 30, 2013 10:25 am Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 11:15 am

By MAGGIE MENDERSKIHerald-Whig Staff Writer

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Samuel Clemens signed the name Mark Twain on a letter written to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise newspaper in 1863.

While that pen name is known as one of the most famous pseudonyms in history, Henry Sweets said few realize the extent of the identities Clemens used throughout his writing career.

To help celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Mark Twain name, Sweets, who is curator of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, will lecture on Clemens' various pseudonyms at 2 p.m. Saturday in the museum gallery.

"We've reached a point where there are a lot of interesting anniversaries that we can trace back to and bring some interesting facts and information to the public," Sweets said of Twain, who was born in Florida, Mo., in 1835 and died in 1910.

The curator has used newspapers to track the patterns of the author's pen names. As a teenager, Clemens assumed editorial duties of his brother Orion's newspaper. While acting as the editor of the Hannibal Journal, Clemens experimented with several identities.

In his research, Sweets has examined the meanings of false names such as Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass and Rambler. During Saturday's lecture, he will present a Powerpoint presentation with images of original newspaper pages from Clemens' time. The articles and stories have helped preserve Clemens' varying identities.

"I'm going to begin by discussing the former pen names he had used and the situations that he had chosen to used them," Sweets said.

During his lecture, Sweets will identify meanings of the names and explain why the author finally settled on Mark Twain. While the curator acknowledged that a pen name allows the writer to express thoughts and opinions they might not otherwise place under their own name, he said that as Clemens grew in popularity, he began answering to "Mark."

The lecture is free and open to the public. For reservations, call Mai Conrad at (573) 221-9010, ext. 401.