Hannibal had a year-long celebration in 1935 to observe Mark Twain’s Centennial year.
A special edition of the Hannibal Courier-Post and Hannibal Journal was published March 6, 1935.
The following details are from this edition.
The first event of the centennial was described, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House pressing a gold telegraph key on Jan. 15 to turn on the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse on Cardiff Hill. This was shared with the public during a nationwide radio broadcast.
The Courier-Post included a letter dated Feb. 15, 1935, from President Roosevelt. He wrote: “Mark Twain enabled us to focus our minds upon our extravagancies, our shortcomings and our idiosyncrasies. We were taught by him to know ourselves, to despise shame, to cherish the genuine and to gain a sense of proportion in work and at play.”
Former President Herbert Hoover had recently visited Hannibal and wrote to congratulate the people of Hannibal “for this enterprising movement, which brings back to millions memories of their youth – and of one of the greatest Americans.”
Hannibal Courier-Post Publisher E.L. Sparks had written to state governors and congressional leaders and received many replies, some of which were published in the special edition.
One was from Vice President John Garner, who wrote he had enjoyed few books as much as “The Innocents Abroad” and “Life on the Mississippi,” which he read when he was ill. He said they contributed to his restoration to health.
Sen. Harry S. Truman wrote that he read “the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books as a school kid,” and in his opinion, Twain shared, “the spirit of the west in all his writings.”
Truman said Twain’s “Roughing It” “is the most authentic history of the stagecoach and pony express days across the plains. His ‘Life on the Mississippi’ is a historical record of the steamboat days on the river.”
Celebration continues all year
On Jan. 15, in addition to the lighthouse ceremony by Roosevelt, 300 people attended a banquet at the Mark Twain Hotel, including Gov. Guy B. Park, George Mahan, Dr. C.J. Armstrong, Morris Anderson, Sen. George D. Clayton Jr., I.C. Yates (the speaker), Rev. W.G. Schwehn and Rev. E.C. Abernathy.
The centennial schedule listed dedication of the Mark Twain Museum in the Hannibal Trust Co. building by Twain’s daughter Clara Clemens Gabilowitsch on April 26. The museum was to be open all year.
Also, Tom Sawyer Day was planned for May 25, with events offering “boyish pleasures for modern Tom Sawyers.”
The Mark Twain Centennial Pageant, a $4,000 production, was tentatively scheduled at the high school stadium.
A Mark Twain Homecoming week was scheduled for September.
Another event was a Mark Twain Literacy Contest in November for students under age 16, with contestants invited from each state.
The Mark Twain Memorial Bridge in Hannibal was under construction and was to be dedicated on his birthday, Nov. 30.
The final official event was a birthday banquet, also on Nov. 30, with celebrities attending, and additional events in Florida, Mo., Mark Twain’s birthplace.
The special edition also listed members of the Honorary Committee of Centennial Celebration.They were Clara Clemens Gabilowitsch, George A. Mahan, the late Admiral Robert E. Coontz, Morris Anderson, Dr. C.J. Armstrong, Gov. Guy Park, W.B. Pettibone, Congressman M.A. Romjue, U.S. Sen. Bennett Clark, U.S. Sen. Harry S. Truman and Mayor J.B. Robinson.
Reach reporter Bev Darr at firstname.lastname@example.org.