Picturing Mark Twain in West Hartford

Back in 1895, Mark Twain signed a picture of himself. No doubt he did that a lot.

One of the photographs somehow landed in a file at the West Hartford library long ago, where it was quickly forgotten until librarians unearthed it as they moved everything out in preparation for the ongoing expansion. Pretty neat find, I’d say.

But what happened next is peculiar and troubling.

According to a story in the Courant, the town shipped off the pictures and other artifacts to an auction gallery in New York City to find out their value and perhaps sell them. Library officials planned to put them up for sale if they could get enough money, though it’s unclear who set the minimum value or why.

Well, I’m here to tell you that we shouldn’t be selling off a signed picture of Mark Twain that belongs to my town. We should be hanging it on the wall of the library as an inspiration to generations to come, a small tribute to the nation’s finest writer, who happened to live just down Farmington Avenue for many years.

I’m perplexed why officials would think of selling it — assuming it’s not worth a vast fortune (which it isn’t) — and am horrified that they are talking about donating it to some kind of charity auction. Yes, really. They apparently think it would be best to let it vanish into some rich man’s home instead of putting it on display in a place of honor in our library, where it clearly belongs.

Twain was a neighbor. Let’s treat him like one, even now.

The picture isn’t a way to raise money. It’s a way to raise our eyes.

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9 Comments

Filed under Library, Mark Twain, News, Town government

9 responses to “Picturing Mark Twain in West Hartford

  1. They have sold off everything else – why not Twain’s picture?
    History has less and less value in West Hartford.
    It’s a shame..

  2. RandN

    I’ve been checking out some of the comments on previous posts and one person’s always seem to jump out. I’m always amazed by those people who seem to loathe everything about WH but still can’t seem to make themselves leave. Presumably they stick around to keep their disgust fresh.

  3. Peter G

    I understand our blogging host to be saying something other than just “let’s hold onto our history.” He can speak for himself if I’ve misinterpreted him, but I think it’s more like “let’s hold on to our heroes.” I suppose even if it were just a matter of history I’d be inclined to agree, but I think the latter point is the one that’s more worth making.

    Mark Twain was a great writer, a great thinker, and an important social commentator. His insights into racism, religion, nationalism and war, and his belief in the power of ordinary human beings to grasp what is important in life were extraordinary.

    I would want to see anything connected with Twain presevered in a public space, and even more so here in West Hartford, because doing so might help us to remember not just the Great Man but — far more important — his Great Thoughts.

    “The picture isn’t a way to raise money. It’s a way to raise our eyes.” Beautifully expressed.

  4. Yes, Peter G, it’s mostly a way to honor a genuine America hero. You don’t pay homage to a hero by consigning him to the auction block.

  5. You really don’t get it RandN – I don’t loathe West Hartford at all, it’s just sad to see it become like every other town, especially when we had such special things here, including prudent leaders. Now we’ve sunk into such commercialism that we are even selling off Mark Twain. We obviously disagree on what makes our town special and livable. You seem to like commercialism and traffic – I do not. You appear to enjoy more taxes and bigger government – I do not. Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty to love in West Hartford, however it is losing much of what made it charming and different. But don’t worry – some day I will have to leave and you can celebrate in mediocrity. The freedom and liberty of a quiet New Hampshire town is looking mighty tempting. Until that time – you can skip my posts because I am still entitled to an opinion whether you agree with it or not. The only thing I am disgusted with is your lack of respect for a dissenting voice. My thanks to Whdad for providing a forum and presenting interesting local issues.

  6. Don’t go, Judy. We need people like you right here in not-yet-hopeless West Harford. New Hampshire’s going downhill, anyway.

  7. RandN

    Judy – Did I say I was talking about you? Deep breaths, ok?

    WHdad is doing a great job by the way, I seriously hope he isn’t contemplating a move to the granite state.

  8. Nah, I think I’ll stay put right here. Moving’s quite impossible with all the crap I’ve piled up in the basement, garage, attic and seemingly everywhere else.

  9. whdad – your reason (accumulated stuff) is also a big consideration for us after 25+ years in the same place…

    and RandD… who else could you be talking about ? Your comments came right after my post ! But if you weren’t referring to me, I then direct my comments to those few who have expressed those sentiments about me in the past. 🙂

    as far as I can tell NH is doing just fine – they have even opted out of the RealID 2005 Act ! My kind of state.

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