Letter from Mark Twain to Governor Francis about Exhibiting His Portrait at the St. Louis World's Fair, 1904

Summary

The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, commemorating the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, featured agricultural, scientific, and industrial exhibits from the United States and around the world. This tongue-in-cheek letter documents folksy writer Mark Twain's submission of a portrait to the fair for a competition. Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, and had fond ties to the area.

The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, commemorating the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, featured agricultural, scientific, and industrial exhibits from the United States and around the world. This tongue-in-cheek letter documents folksy writer Mark Twain's submission of a portrait to the fair for a competition. Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, and had fond ties to the area.

Entire text of letter:

"Villa di Quarto, Florence, Italy" stationery

May 26, [19]04

Dear Governor Francis:

It has been a dear wish of mine to exhibit myself at The Great Fair & get a prize but circumstances beyond my control have interfered, & I must remain in Florence. Although I have never taken prizes anywhere else I used to take them in school in Missouri half a century ago, & I ought to be able to repeat, now, if I could have a chance. I used to get the medal for good spelling every week, & I could have had the medal for good conduct if there hadn't been so much corruption in Missouri in those days, still, I got it several times by trading medals & giving boot. I am willing to give boot now, if--however, those days are forever gone by in Missouri, & perhaps it is better so. Nothing ever stays the way it was, in this changeable world.

Although I cannot be at the Fair, I am going to be represented there, anyway, by a portrait by Professor Gelli. You will find it excellent. Good judges here say it is better than the original. They say it has all the merits of the original, & keeps still besides. It sounds like flattery, but it is just true. I suppose you will get a prize, because you have created the most prodigious & in all ways most wonderful Fair the planet has ever seen. Very well, you have indeed earned it, & with it the gratitude of the State of The Nation.

Sincerely Yours

[signed] Mark Twain

Detailed Description
Material

Paper (Fiber product)

Color

Black-and-white (Colors)

Dimensions

Height: 6.125 in  (Letter-unfolded)

Width: 7.25 in  (Letter-unfolded)

Portrait of Mark Twain, by Edoardo Gelli, 1904

Details
Connect 3

Discover curious connections between artifacts.

Learn More