HANNIBAL — Paul Krewson has collected close to 1,000 pieces of Mark Twain artwork and memorabilia over the past two years, adding a one-of-a-kind sculpture to the displays throughout his Hannibal bed and breakfast.
Krewson recently bought an original bust of Mark Twain created by Frederick Hart in 1991. The sole example of the artwork is installed prominently in the front room of his bed and breakfast. The Twain Museum: Hannibal House on Summer Street features displays in every room of rare photographs, postcards, artwork and other memorabilia devoted to Mark Twain and Hannibal. Krewson grew up in Hannibal, and he now lives in Columbia with his wife and three daughters. He returns regularly to the vacation home the couple purchased two years ago, using profits from hosting the bed and breakfast on Airbnb to organize the growing collection and purchase more items from eBay.
“I love Mark Twain and I love Hannibal, and I wanted to create something special that would honor both,” Krewson said. “I am passionate about Mark Twain and the history of Hannibal.”
The plaster sculpture brims with expressive details, like the letters M and T and Twain's hands clutching a cigar and an ashtray. Levenger commissioned the artwork in 1991, when it started out as a supplier of reading and writing materials. Krewson said he can stare at the artwork for hours, marveling at how Hart fashioned the realistic depiction of Twain from plaster. On the back, the sculpture bears the signature F.E. Hart for Levenger 1991. Krewson said visitors share his sentiments that the sculpture is “just amazing.”
“I'm very proud because it's the only one in the world, and there are no reproductions,” he said.
Krewson spent several hours Tuesday evening displaying the latest addition to the collection — one of seven sets of 288 photos taken by Mark Twain's daughter, Jean Clemens. The scenes contained in the books show family homes, a vacation in Italy, family members and friends and animals like Jean Clemens' beloved horse and dog, Prosper.
Another book is filled with rare postcards, many bearing postmarks before Twain's death in 1910. The cards include images of Lover's Leap with the lumberyard and railroad tracks beneath, Main Street, Huckleberry Finn's home, steamships and the first ferry boat in Hannibal. In each room, commemorative plates, framed photographs, coins and famous Twain quotes adorn walls, shelves and tables.
Krewson looks forward to cataloguing all the inventory he's collected so far, and he regularly visits eBay to check for more artifacts to add to the collection. He said Twain's journals and writings are still popping up, stressing that he traveled all over the world and wrote for hours every day.
And Krewson will continue to search for the sound of Twain's voice — no recording of him speaking has been found yet, but Thomas Edison's wax cylinder recording technology was established in the 1880s.
Krewson held up a hardcover children's book titled “The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine” by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, with illustrations by Erin Stead. The manuscript had been lost until the book's publication in 2017.
“Lost Twain is still being found,” he said. “It's exciting to be a Twain scholar and collector when you see stuff like that happening.”
More information about The Twain Museum: Hannibal House on Summer Street is available by visiting http://bit.ly/2ki6nD6 .