News Release 515

Celebrate the life of Mark Twain at Sept. 4 festival at Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site

“My parents removed to Missouri in the early 'thirties; I do not remember just when, for I was not born then and cared nothing for such things.” - Mark Twain's Autobiography

Volume 38-515 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Sue Holst

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, SEPT. 2, 2010 – This year is a special year for Mark Twain enthusiasts and a festival Sept. 4 at the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site in Florida, Mo., will give everyone a reason to celebrate. The event, sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the site on Mark Twain Lake in Monroe County.  A special ceremony will be held at 11 a.m.

The festival will be celebrating 2010 as the 175th anniversary of his birth (Nov. 30, 1835), the 100th anniversary of his death (April 21, 1910), and the 125th anniversary of the publication of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the book that established Twain as a renowned author. It is also the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Mark Twain Memorial Shrine, which is a part of the historic site and houses the birthplace cabin where Samuel Clemens was born.

“This event is truly a celebration of many milestones in Mark Twain’s life and his connection to Missouri. We are fortunate that the Missouri state park system can share these connections and his life with the public,” said Bill Bryan, director of the department’s Division of State Parks. 

During the event, Henry Sweets and Cindy Lovell of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home in Hannibal will present special programs on Mark Twain and impersonator Tom Gilding from Burlington, Wisc., will share his impressions of the famous author. Crafters will demonstrate their trade and make their wares available for sale. Visitors can bring a lawn chair and listen to bluegrass music by The Curry Family and purchase a lunch of barbeque or fish with trimmings.

Previous site administrators have been invited to the festival. Ralph Gregory, the first curator of the Mark Twain Shrine, has been invited as an honoree. Gregory was instrumental in getting the initial museum and interpretive programs established from 1960 to 1974.

Special recognition will be given to Mr. Merritt A. “Dad” Violette who initially purchased the Mark Twain Birthplace cabin in 1915 to preserve the humble origins of this great author.  Mr. Viollete was also instrumental in establishing the Mark Twain Memorial Park Association, which raised funds to create Mark Twain State Park, the first Missouri state park north of the Missouri River.

Visitors will be able to tour the museum and visit the cabin where Mark Twain was born. The museum contains exhibits that interpret details of Samuel Clemens’ life, first editions of Mark Twain’s works, a handwritten manuscript of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and furnishings from Twain’s Hartford, Conn. home. About his birthplace cabin, Twain once wrote, “Recently someone from Missouri sent me a picture of the house I was born in. Heretofore I have always stated it was a palace, but I shall be more guarded now.”

Both the museum and the cabin are located in the Mark Twain Memorial Shrine, which was the largest building that the Missouri state park system had ever built when it opened in 1960.  It is an unusually designed building with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof line that Twain’s  daughter Clara saw as fitting to someone as forward looking as her father.

The building’s unusual roof makes it stand out in the area, and marks the most prominent building in the small village of Florida.  Twain once remarked about his hometown, “The home was made in the wee village of Florida, in Monroe County, and I was born there in 1835. The village contained a hundred people and I increased the population by 1 per cent. It is more than many of the best men in history could have done for a town. It may not be modest in me to refer to this, but it is true. There is no record of a person doing as much--not even Shakespeare. But I did it for Florida, and it shows that I could have done it for any place--even London, I suppose.”

Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site is located at 37352 Shrine Road in Florida on Route U in Mark Twain State Park. For more information on the event, call 573-565-3449 or the Department of Natural Resources toll free at 800-334-6946. For information on state parks and historic sites, visit