"The proverb says: Separate not yourself from your baggage."
[Mark Twain]. Stagecoach Trunk once owned by Samuel L.
Clemens. St. Louis, Missouri: J. Barwick Trunk Manufacturer,
circa 1865. Dome-top, single compartment stagecoach trunk, likely
purchased by Clemens in 1867 while he was in St. Louis, with
"Property of / Samuel L. Clemens" painted in black on the outside
of the lid. Approximately 9500 cubic inches, measuring roughly 18 x
18 x 30 inches. Original leather covering, geometric patterns
tooled in black, with six wooden slats and two center-bands and
matching binding, four edge clamps, lock, hinges, handle caps;
interior lined with patterned paper, original tray fitting, later
woven strap affixed to right side of interior to prevent further
over-opening. General wear, as expected, lacking original handles,
latches and interior tray; large portion of paper lining removed
from interior of lid, dampstain to the bottom interior. An
astounding artifact from arguably the most important author in
-Mark Twain, Following the Equator
This trunk served Twain during the sweet spot of his career, those prolific years from when he published his first major work, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches in the same year that this trunk was acquired, and right through Tom Sawyer in 1876 and Huckleberry Finn in 1885. One can't help but think that such important manuscripts were likely housed in this trunk during his travels.
Though remembered today primarily for his literary efforts and association with the Mississippi River, some of the best-loved books of Twain's career were his travel writings, including his first two book-length works, The Innocents Abroad, about his journey on the steamship Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Land, published in 1869, and his 1872 follow up, Roughing It, about his adventures in the American West. Alan Gribben inspected a similar trunk owned by Twain, also with the paper scraped away from the interior of the lid, and argued that he opened it to its fullest position and used it as a provisional writing desk, writing notes on the wood ("Mark Twain's Travel Trunk: An Impromptu Notebook" with Gretchen Sharlow, published in Mark Twain Journal). Conceivably, this trunk similarly functioned as a desk, potentially during the composition of his early travel works. It appears the interior paper lining was deliberately removed at an early date with roughly ninety-degree angles and is approximately the size of notebook paper (before further wear extended the right edge).
Twain continued travelling, and writing about travelling, throughout his life. According to Roy Morris's American Vandal, Twain made twenty-nine transatlantic crossings, in addition to circumnavigating the globe and his jaunts throughout the United States, writing along the way. Morris suggests Twain would frequently return to travel writing, when "he found himself financially embarrassed." According to a September 3, 1879, New York Times article, upon Twain's arrival back in the United States after a year and a half in Europe, Twain's party had twelve trunks, and one of them contained the manuscript for the spiritual successor to The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, published in 1880. Due to the importance of the contents of his trunks, and a general reverence for the art of travelling, Clemens was heavily critical of those who handled trunks and luggage, calling them "baggage smashers" and saying, "Oh! How I do wish one of those trunks were filled with dynamite and that all the baggage destroyers on earth were gathered about it, and... hurled into Kingdom Come!" (Cooper) His care for his own luggage is evident in the lack of shipping labels and wear that would be experienced by most other common trunks.
Purchased in a regional auction in Kansas City, Missouri, before undergoing rigorous testing in an effort to establish provenance by the consignor, outlined in the Fine Books and Collections article "Unpacking Twain's Trunk," and in great detail in the consignor's electronically published work, The Adventures of Mark Twain's Travelling Trunk.
Jonathan Shipley. "Unpacking Twain's Trunk" (Fine Books and Collections, accessed online); Alan Gribben and Gretchen Sharlow. "Mark Twain's Travel Trunk: An Impromptu Notebook" (Mark Twain Journal, accessed online). Roy Morris. American Vandal, pp 1-7. Robert Cooper. Around the World with Mark Twain, chapter 5.
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