A few years ago I did something that as a longtime St. Louis resident I had never done before: I took a short riverboat cruise on the Mississippi. Well, I had done it once before, but it was on the Casino Queen back when riverboat casinos were not allowed to be stationary. I didn’t even notice the ride, so I don’t count it. 2011 became a chance to photograph the famous Arch from the middle of the river. As a prelude to our visit to Hannibal, Missouri, home of author Mark Twain, the next day, Jennifer and I took to the water on a boat named after one of his most famous characters:
It was a relaxing and very scenic ride, but you almost have to close your eyes to imagine the simpler time when ferries and steamboats were much more common on the river; a time before the stainless steel monument and skyscrapers behind it filled the western side of the Mississippi at St. Louis.
We only spent part of a day in the birthplace of Samuel Clemens, the man better known as Twain. We thought we were seeing the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, but I just discovered that we only saw the annex and introduction to the museum. It was an informative stroll through Twain’s early life, but apparently there is much more to see in the main building. The main museum is only two blocks away, but it is currently hard to find on any map! It’s at the corner of Center and Main Streets, as Google shows us:
But we didn’t make it that far, as we left the Interactive Center and walked a short distance to the boyhood home. We explored the exhibits inside, walking in the footsteps of the author-to-be, and bought a couple of things in the neighboring gift shop. Outside was a photo op, at a fence inspired by Tom Sawyer’s punishment-turned-enterprise. There was no real paint to use–I guess that would have cost me extra.
Across from his home, on the same street, are the “Becky Thatcher” house and Clemens’ father’s law office. Nearby sits the “Tom Sawyer” house. Both houses are the real homes of childhood friends who inspired the creation of Mark Twain’s characters.
Our last destination in Hannibal was Mark Twain Cave. It is mentioned in some of his stories, and once served as a hideout for Jesse James after a bank robbery.
Hannibal is a beautiful town and it is worth a trip to learn more about the life and times of Samuel Clemens, his town, and his family and friends who would become characters in his books. We will have to return some time, and see the rest of the museum!
Here is a webcam facing the boyhood home: