This short, silent clip is doubly rare: not only is it the only known film of humorist and author Mark Twain (1835-1910), but it was shot by his friend, inventor and pioneer filmmaker Thomas Edison (1847-1931). While it seems ironic to have no more than a silent record of Twain, a man known for his keen wit and entertaining public speaking, this minute-and-a-half still manages to capture his personality. You can imagine Twain joking with Edison while he strolls down the path, puffing on his cigar as the wind ruffles his white hair, and imagine him, too, laughing with his two daughters as they drink tea – or at least pretend to. And don't miss one of his daughters anchoring her hat against that same breeze with a lethally long hatpin!
Mark Twain with Daughters Clara & Jean at "Stormfield," Redding Connecticut, 1909, by Thomas Edison. From the Internet Archive.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.