Mark Twain was revered and celebrated on postage stamps in some of the world’s most unlikely countries.
Courtesy Carson City Chamber
What was it about Mark Twain that made him one of the most famous, beloved and prolific writers in the world?
So respected and beloved was he that countries around the world have celebrated his likeness and his books on stamps and coins, and cities have remembered him through local celebrations and memorials. Many of his books were and still are best sellers, some gaining more attention today for being deemed controversial — though, at the time of writing, the books were considered some of the best literature in the world.
Countries you would never even think of — such as Bhutan, Israel, Mauritius, Russia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paraguay, Hungary, Bissau Guinea, San Marino, Germany, and the Turks & Caicos Islands — have honored the man and his most famous novels, “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” on their stamps. I had to look up Bissau Guinea, which is on the coast of West Africa, and also found out that San Marino is a microstate surrounded by north-central Italy and is the world’s oldest surviving republic. It makes one wonder how he found these countries and what tales he spun to make such an impact.
Of course, he was featured a number of times on U.S. postage stamps, as well.
Twain hobnobbed with world dignitaries such as Nikola Tesla, Helen Keller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Winston Churchill, and many famous writers of his time. Upon his exit from Carson City in 1864, the humorist traveled the world regaling audiences with his tall tales and electric personality. He was a family man through and through and quite the romantic, as shown in his letters to his wife Olivia.
In 2016, the U.S. Mint struck two commemorative Mark Twain coins — 350,000 in $1 silver coins and 100,000 in $5 gold coins, which are hard to find.
He might not have been a William Shakespeare or an Oscar Wilde, but Mark Twain — a pseudonym for Samuel Langhorne Clemens — is right up there with the very best when it comes to being one of the most quoted authors ever. Actually, by many, he is considered the best American writer ever.
His words are often quoted. On a recent CBS interview with Mitch Albom, who wrote the best-seller “Tuesdays with Morrie,” journalist Ted Koppel asked the author why he thought his book had such enduring popularity stating, “You are a good writer, Mitch, but you are not Mark Twain, for God’s sake!”
At the end of each travel segment, Joseph Rosendo (travel author and host of Rosendo’s Travelscope) signs off his PBS show with part of the oft-used Mark Twain quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
Search the internet for a Mark Twain quote on almost any subject and you’ll find one, some of which are a bit “cheeky.” He is the author of at least 28 books, plus more than 100 short stories. He’s been the subject of countless term papers and scholarly articles. His writing in “Roughing It” is a memoir of his time in Carson City and other parts of Nevada, as well as his time in California. It’s worth the read.
For newcomers, and those living here who might have forgotten, Mark Twain was actually born here in Carson City after using his pen name for the first time on Jan. 31, 1863, to write an editorial to the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, for which he later worked. It was Samuel Langhorne Clemens who was born in Florida, Mo., on Nov. 30, 1835. Sam left his birth name when he left Carson City to seek fame and fortune.
On April 21, 2023, Mark Twain Days will be held in Carson City to celebrate the man, the myth, and his legend on the 113th anniversary of his death.
In the interim, be sure to join the organizing committee for an evening with McAvoy Lane as Mark Twain at the Brewery Arts Center on Oct. 22 to hear the words of Mark Twain’s Nevada. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at breweryarts.org. Don’t miss this prelude to Mark Twain Days.
Ronni Hannaman is executive director of the Carson City Chamber. You can find many of Twain’s books at the Carson City Chamber (1900 S. Carson St.)