Interpretive Center – 415 North Main Street
Begin your museum tour in our newly redesigned Interpretive Center. Follow young Sam Clemens on his rambles through Hannibal. Meet his family and friends and get to know the town during the time young Sam lived there. Continue the experience as you learn about Sam’s first outing as a writer. Then see which of the town’s people, places and events he later transformed into stories. Enjoy stories from Twain’s past and his imagination as you tour the exhibits.
Boyhood Home – 208 Hill Street
This small frame house was occupied by the John Marshall Clemens family from 1844 to 1853. Sam grew up here and used many incidents from his real life as patterns for Tom Sawyer and other of his characters.
From 1853 to 1911, the home was a rental property. When the home was scheduled for demolition in 1911, the local Hannibal Commercial Club started a campaign to purchase the home, but progress was slow. A local attorney, Mr. George A. Mahan, purchased the home and gave it to the City of Hannibal on May 15, 1912. At the dedication Mr. Mahan related:
“Mr. Mayor, I take pleasure in presenting the boyhood home of Mark Twain to the city and the people of Hannibal with the hope and in the full belief that it will be maintained and used, as to be an inspiration to them, to the people of Missouri and to the world as well.”
The home was opened to the public in 1912 and has been open continually since, making it one of the earlier historic house preservations in the country.
In 1984, as the town was preparing for the Mark Twain Sesquicentennial in 1985, it was determined that the home had structural defects. The wear and tear of visitors had taken a toll, so a viewing platform was installed that allowed visitors to look into the rooms without walking on the floors. A full restoration in 1990-1991 addressed the structural concerns and rebuilt two rooms removed in the 1880s.
Boyhood Home Gift Shop – Hill Street, just uphill of Boyhood Home – Hannibal celebrated the centennial of Mark Twain’s birth in 1935. A temporary museum was set up in a bank lobby. The museum proved very popular and the permanent museum was built as a WPA project in 1937. This small building beside the boyhood home is now used as a gift shop, offering a variety of Mark Twain’s books, photographs, postcards and much more.
Becky Thatcher House – 211 Hill Street
The home of the Elijah Hawkins family. Laura Hawkins was three years younger than Sam Clemens and was immortalized in Tom Sawyer as Becky Thatcher. Childhood friends, they stayed in touch through the years. Mark Twain enjoyed seeing Laura on his last visit to Hannibal in 1902.
Laura Hawkins married Dr. James Frazer and moved to the Renssalear, Missouri area, west of Hannibal. After Dr. Frazer’s death, she moved back into town and became the matron for the Home for the Friendless orphanage in Hannibal. The building has undergone restoration. Temporary exhibits await you as permanent exhibits are being planned and installed
Judge Clemens Justice of the Peace Office – 205 Hill Street
John Clemens began to practice law while the family lived in Florida, Missouri. After moving to Hannibal, he used this building as his justice of the peace office. It was originally located on Bird Street and closer to the river.
In the late 1930s, David Selznick came to Hannibal while producing a film version of Tom Sawyer. To show appreciation for the assistance local officials provided, Warner Brothers Studios purchased the justice of the peace office and gave it to the City of Hannibal. Over the next few years it remained on its original location. In the mid-1950s it was moved to its current site across the street from the Boyhood Home, was restored, and opened on Law Day, May 1, 1959. The office’s front room is displayed as a courtroom. Mr. Clemens became Justice of the Peace in Hannibal and did hold investigations and court sessions. One account describes Judge Clemens as “a stern, unbending man of splendid common sense… the autocrat of the little dingy room on Bird Street where he held court… here on court days when the Judge climbed upon his three-legged stool, rapped on the box with his knuckles and demanded “Silence in the court” it was fully expected that silence would reign supreme.”
This room provides the setting for the trial of Muff Potter in Tom Sawyer. The rear room was recalled by Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad when he had played hookey from school and crept into his father’s office to spend the night. He did not know a dead man lay on the floor. His description of awakening during the night and finding the body is well worth reading (Chapter 18).
This building has had structural restoration and will be open to the public in late spring, 2016, with new interpretation.
Grant’s Drug Store/Pilaster House – 325 North Main Street
Currently closed awaiting restoration.
This structure is said to have been prefabricated in Cincinnati, Ohio, and shipped by steamboat. It arrived in 1836 and was erected by James Brady, later the first mayor of Hannibal.
Dr. Orville Grant, his wife and his mother-in-law lived upstairs. In 1846, because of financial problems, the Clemens family was forced to leave their home and moved across the street with the Grants. In March, 1847, Mr. Clemens rode by horse to the county seat of Palmyra, Missouri, and was caught in a sleet storm. He contracted pneumonia and died in one of the upstairs rooms. Currently the first floor is accessible. The first floor is restored as an early drug store, complete with patent medicines, invalid feeding bottles and tooth hooks for extracting teeth.
The Pilaster House (pilasters are the flat columns on the exterior) was given to the City of Hannibal in 1956 by Mrs. Sarah Mahan. It was restored and opened to the public in 1959. Due to structural concerns, the building is currently closed. Plans are underway to fully restore the endangered building when funds are raised.
This building dates back to the 1850s and was formerly Sonnenberg’s Department Store through 1959. It was acquired by the Mark Twain Home Foundation and has been in use since 1995.
On the main level, visitors experience scenes from five of Mark Twain’s books: In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer exhibit, ‘paint’ the fence with Tom’s gang, visit the scary graveyard with Tom and Huck, see Tom’s schoolhouse antics, meet Injun Joe with the treasure, and get lost in the cave as Tom and Becky’s candle goes out with bats overhead. Step through the pages of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and on to a raft tied at the river bank. Watch a film clip of Huckleberry Finn which examines the relationship between Huck and Jim on the raft. Cross the ocean on the first pleasure cruise aboard the Quaker City in the The Innocents Abroad , Mark Twain’s first novel. Clemens met Charles Langdon on this cruise and fell in love with the picture of his sister Olivia Langdon, who would later become Clemens’ wife.
In the Roughing It exhibit, climb in a stagecoach and share the mining experiences of Sam Clemens and the characters, both human and animal, that he brings to life. Travel back in time in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court as the Yankee saves himself from burning at the stake by predicting a solar eclipse, test the ‘modern’ inventions that he brings to the Knights of the Round Table, and view the social injustices and political inequities of the time through original pen and ink illustrations by Dan Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts.
Sam Clemens was a riverboat pilot from 1857 to 1861. Celebrating this portion of his life, a replica of a steamboat pilot house is located on the mezzanine level. Here visitors can view the great river that had such an influence on Clemens and his later writings, grasp the pilot wheel and tug the steamboat whistle or engine room bells. You can almost hear the call Mark Twain!
A favorite visitor attraction is the Norman Rockwell Gallery. In 1935, Norman Rockwell was commissioned by Heritage Press to illustrate special editions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He visited Hannibal to prepare his preliminary sketches and returned to New York to paint the illustrations. After being on loan at the museum for several years, Rockwell donated the 15 original paintings to the museum and they are on permanent display here. Also on display are the artist proof lithographs of the Tom Sawyer illustrations which have been signed and numbered by Rockwell. The special editions of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn illustrated by Norman Rockwell are only available for purchase in our museum gift shops.