The Only Footage of Mark Twain in Existence

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Thomas Edison once said, “An average American loves his family. If he has any love left over for some other person, he generally selects Mark Twain.”

Edison and Twain were close friends. In 1909, Edison visited Twain’s estate in Redding, CT and filmed the famous author. The silent footage is the only known recording of Twain in existence. It first appeared in a 1909 production of Twain’s “The Prince and Pauper,” and it shows Twain wearing his trademark white suit, puffing a cigar. Twain would die one year later.

If you’re looking for similar recordings of Twain’s voice, don’t hold your breath. In 1891, Twain tried to dictate his novella, “An American Claimant,” into a phonograph, but he gave up after burning through 48 wax cylinders, now lost. Later in 1909, Twain read his stories into a phonograph at Edison’s laboratory in New York. Those recordings were destroyed in a fire in 1914.

Mark Twain was born 179 years ago today. This post originally appeared in 2012.

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November 30, 2014 - 12:00am
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