The Misguided Investment of Mark Twain’s Samuel Clemens

Like so many writers, one of my early literary influences was Samuel Clemens, the guy who successfully branded himself as Mark Twain and gained unprecedented worldwide recognition as an author.

So inspired by him, that on my only two visits to Connecticut, I made certain to visit The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford.

The museum was the author’s home, where his family lived from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote his most important works during the years he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

One of my favorite bloggers, Phil Strawn from Granbury, Texas, who reminds me of a cross between Clemmons and the founder of Luchenbach, Texas, an old Hill Country storyteller of yesteryear that I met in the ’70s. Strawn’s observations in TALES FROM THE CACTUS PATCH have a Mark Twain from Baby Boomer Texas type feel to his posts.

Anyway, I digress. Clemmons was driven to financial dissolution in a bid to develop an efficient mechanical typesetting machine.

It was called a Paige Compositor and was designed to eliminate the need for human intervention while typesetting.

The result? It was a debacle and the only working model with 18,000 separate parts. It ended up as a museum piece in the Twain House.

Clemens’ career included a stint as a journeyman printer and compositor. He clearly understood the potential of the machine. From the moment Clemens encountered the typesetting machine in James Paige’s workshop, he was dazzled by the possibilities and convinced that this revolutionary device represented a golden financial opportunity.

While the Paige Compositor was truly an engineering marvel, and could successfully and precisely set and distribute type, Paige was fixated on enhancing the machine so it could create justified lines of type.

His insistence on including this complex feature (that he could never get to work reliably) fatally delayed its release. A simpler machine from Linotype grabbed the market.

In the meantime, Clemens’ investments in the project topped $170,000 by the close of the 1880s, leaving him in deep financial straits, exacerbated by other bad investments.

To pay off creditors and restore his financial equilibrium, the 60-year old Clemens, his wife Olivia, and daughter Clara set off on a five-year tour, dubbed the “Round-the-World Comedy Tour” by author Richard Zacks, delivering stage performances to welcoming audiences in India, South Africa, Australia, and other countries.

The tour, however, was capped by tragedy upon the family’s return to London: the death of daughter Susy at the family home in Hartford, CT during their absence.

With long time friend John Lewis, who inspired “Jim” in Tom Sawyer

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Clemens recorded in his notebook, “The cloud is permanent now,” and Olivia, exhausted from the travel, was traumatized to the point that she would never return to their Hartford home and never fully regained her health.

Clemens did not forget the role Paige played in his misfortunes, and wrote in his autobiography: “Paige and I always meet on effusively affectionate terms; and yet he knows perfectly well that if I had his nuts in a steel-trap I would shut out all human succor and watch that trap till he died.”

With the proceeds from his round-the-world tour and the release of a book of his collected works, Clemens successfully turned the corner on his financial woes. He died, debt free, in Redding, Connecticut in 1910.

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Jack Dennis often reports on politics, crime, history, travel, nostalgia, entertainment, immigration, drugs, gang activities, and human trafficking. Please support our efforts to provide truth and news that corporate media will not. 🔹Dodie Dennis, retired RN and health instructor, writes about health, nutrition, Big Pharma, nature, travel and everyday hacks-tips-hints.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

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Clever Journeys in San Antonio and Texas Hill Country

A trip to San Antonio, the “Alamo City” isn’t just about the destination. The true beauty of this region can be found in the journey through and around it. Rolling hills, natural springs, meandering rivers and, come springtime, the beauty includes vibrantly painted landscapes of wildflowers up and down the highways and backroads.

As you head northwest west toward Boerne, Kerrville and  Fredericksburg, you’ll begin to see the landscape open up before you, with rolling tree-covered hills, exposed limestone cliffs and an array of colorful wildflowers.

In this area, known as the Hill Country, you’ll also find Johnson City, home to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Here you can tour the family ranch and view artifacts such as his boyhood home and first school. This is also the final resting place of LBJ, our 36th president.

Johnson City is also the heart of the Hill Country wine region. Why not take a detour and sample some of the best wineries in Texas on the 290 Wine Trail? Ab Astris Winery and Kuhlman Cellars are a couple of our favorites.

In the quaint town of Fredericksburg, you’ll want to visit two unique museums: the National Museum of the Pacific War, dedicated to those who served in the Pacific Theater of World War II, and the Pioneer Museum, honoring the lives of the early German settlers of this region.

Heading back south toward San Antonio, a worthwhile scenic route offers serene Hill Country views through wildflower-lined back roads.

Look for Luckenbach. It’s a stretch to call it a town, but for country music fans, it’s a mecca. It was made famous in the ’70s by outlaw country musicians like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. You can still regularly catch country acts performing on the outdoor stage.

Continue on the backroads south around Canyon Lake on your way toward New Braunfels. Just outside the city, stop at Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall, Gruene Hall.

Families will love a stop at Schlitterbahn Waterpark, but check their schedule online as they’re open seasonally. Families will also love exploring the vast caves at Natural Bridge Caverns and the exotic animals at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch about 20 minutes west of New Braunfels.

Back in San Antonio. The Alamo is the Spanish mission made famous as a battle site in the war for Texas independence. But it is just one of five historic Spanish missions in San Antonio that make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other four comprise the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. All five offer an incredible look back at the history and culture that still influence this proud city.

Just 10 minutes north of downtown, you will find the revitalized historic Pearl district. This area used to be the home of the Pearl Brewery. Today, you can walk the Pearl to explore trendy shops, delicious dining and even a weekend farmers market. Nearby is Brackenridge Park, Witte Muesum, Children’s DoSeum, Japanese Tea Garden and San Antonio Zoo.

Dating back to 1919 – and receiving major updates throughout the years – the Japanese Tea Garden features a lush year-round garden and a floral display with shaded walkways, stone bridges, a 60-foot waterfall and ponds filled with Koi. The garden’s entrance is punctuated by a moon gate created by a Mexican artist renowned for crafting wood-look concrete sculptures. Free admission.

When mean it when we say the River Walk is a must to experience. One of the nations’—most famous attractions is the vibrant River Walk. Restaurants and shops line the banks of the San Antonio River, which you can explore on foot or take a boat tour on one of the colorful river barges.

Sightseeing, shopping, food, and fun. All on this world-renowned 15-mile urban waterway. The River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a San Antonio treasure and the largest urban ecosystem in the nation.

Tucked quietly below street level and only steps away from the Alamo, it provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the city. Explore by foot along the river’s walking path or jump aboard a river barge for a ride and guided tour. In the heart of downtown, explore nearby attractions like the Alamo, the King William Historic District and more. Or, shop local favorites along the river’s Museum Reach at the historic Pearl.

A good way to see downtown is by catching a ride with City Sightseeing San Antonio’s double-decker buses for tours and curbside drop-off to many of thw downtown attractions and landmarks.

If you missed the rodeo and February, be sure to end the night at Tejas Rodeo Company, where they hold live rodeos every Saturday night from March – November. You can also eat like a Texan at Tejas Steakhouse & Saloon and enjoy fun, and entertainment for all. 

If you are staying downtown, don’t miss Mi Tierra Café and Panaderia is the perfect place for a traditional Tex-Mex breakfast, with everything from huevos rancheros to breakfast tacos.  Schilo’s has been serving German-Texan fare since 1917 and is the oldest restaurant in San Antonio.  You can’t go wrong when you order the Pioneer pancakes or biscuits. In the mood for some schnitzel and homemade root beer? Check Schilo’s out for lunch. 

From this are you can take a walk through La Villita Historic Arts Village, San Antonio’s first neighborhood. Today La Villita is a cultural hub, home to local artisans, shops and restaurants. Walk down the river to the Briscoe Western Art Museum for stories of the cowboy, the vaquero, Native Americans and the western landscape. 

San Antonio also features theme park giants- Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld & Aquatica San Antonio.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

These Vintage Trailer Transformations Will Leave You Smiling

We love to travel and especially enjoy roadtrips across America. Since we’ve been married in 2019, the two of us–along with Mr. Beefy, our “King of the Hill Country” canine–have been to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland.

We also enjoyed Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia…and we’ve just started.

Both of us have peculiar little quirks of interests, individually and those we share: museums, historical sites, camping, amusement parks, birdwatching, theater, concerts and roadside attractions.

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One in particular is viewing restored pieces of history, especially trains, planes and automobiles. When it comes to restoring things from the past, such as an antique or junk someone left behind, there’s plenty of room to let the imagination run wild.

Being Baby Boomers, it’s not so hard to enjoy seeing what others have done by restoring vintage travel trailers. We hope these make you smile.

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Flagstaff, Arizona Through Dust Storm to Meteor Crater

Sedona, Arizona, was extremely busy and has grown since my last visit in 2016. Always beautiful, we stopped briefly to live in the moment of this enchanting destination, but elected to move on. That took a while as we endured the traffic jams.

I will seriously think twice about going through again and thought it sad that one of my favorite places ever has become far too popular.

It was melancholic realizing future generations will never experience the magic many of us did.

Commercialized and extensively developed, Sedona is well on her way to a busy future.

Flagstaff, Arizona

We drove on north to the mountain town of Flagstaff, a truly charming place to stop for a while. We spent the night on May 20th. Dodie’s favorite hotel there is Little America, but we didn’t make reservations this time.

We will be back, perhaps this fall, in our camping van to explore the historic downtown area, where various art galleries, enticing boutiques, Native American shops, outdoor outfitters, eateries, and microbreweries dwell amid the 19th-century streets.

Dodie’s son, Jackson, graduated from Northern Arizona University there, so she is familar with university’s museum, the intriguing Lowell Observatory, and the turn-of-the-20th-century Riordan Mansion State Historic Park.

There are three national monuments located within 7.5 to 33 miles of Flagstaff: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, and Wupatki National Monument. We’ll be back.

Meteor Crater

Almost 50,000 years ago a giant fireball streaked across the North American sky from east to west before it struck the Earth with a force 150 times bigger than the atomic bomb.

The last time I visited Meteor Crater was in June 1979. My, it is a far better experience seeing and learning from it as a man in my 60s (vs 20s).

We discovered, through their museum, two quick movies and visitor center, that the impact “generated immensely powerful shock waves in the meteorite, the rock and the surrounding atmosphere. In the air, shock waves swept across the level plain devastating all in their path for a radius of several miles. In the ground, as the meteorite penetrated the rocky plain, pressures rose to over 20 million pounds per square inch, and both iron and rock experienced limited vaporization and extensive melting. Beyond the melted region, an enormous volume of rock underwent complete fragmentation and ejection.”

Dodie sought protection and stability from the high winds within the Meteor Crater complex.

“The result of these violent conditions was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity. In seconds, a crater 700 feet deep, over 4,000 feet across, and 2.4 miles in circumference was carved into this once-flat rocky plain. During its formation, over 175 million tons of limestone and sandstone were abruptly thrown out to form a continuous blanket of debris surrounding the crater for a distance of over a mile.”

Before we drove east on IH-40 (old Route 66) to visit the Crater, we ate breakfast at IHOP. As I walked out the front door, I heard a loud crack-pop burst. I thought it was lightning.

The winds were so hard it popped the top third of a 40 foot Juniper tree in two. We were parked less than 30 feet from it.

Highway warning signs advised of hard winds and dark dust storms ahead. The five mile drive from the highway to the Crater Visitor Center was surreal as if we were on Mars. I could barely stay on the two lane road with red dirt and heavy gusts fighting me all the way.

When Dodie took Mr. Beefy to the visitor center’s dog kennel, I went to purchase tickets. Again, I heard a loud crash and whirling noise as I was about to enter. I held the door open for a man who was exiting and he yelled, “Oh my God!”

He saw the front windshield blow out of his truck and watched it fly over 400 feet away–luckily, away from the parking area into an empty pasture.

Roland, an employee, told us the reported winds were 45-55 mph with gusts into the 90s. Before we proceeded into the museum, a young couple drove up and the front grill and bumper blew off their car. Roland remained busy filling out incident reports that afternoon.

For us, it was a long day on Route 66.

Elvis Presley, Colonel Parker, Tom Hanks and Lida Keijzer

Elvis Presley remains front and center in the hearts and minds of millions of fans from around the world. 

GRACELAND

Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee consistently receives between 600,000 to 750,000 visitors a year over the last decade. In the four years prior to pandemic 2020, attendance was up roughly 35,000 visitors annually. A couple of years ago, Elvis Presley Enterprises opened 200,000 square feet of new exhibits, museums and performance space across the street at Graceland Plaza.

Jack & Dodie, Graceland June, 2020

The redevelopment was part of a $137 million master-planned overhaul of the Graceland campus, which began in the fall of 2016 with the opening of 450-room resort hotel The Guest House at Graceland. The economic impact of Graceland’s expansion has been estimated at more than $1.1 billion.

“My view is that Elvis, along with a few other people, started pop culture as we know it,” Joel Weinshanker, Graceland’s managing partner said before the pandemic hit hard. “We will have more visitors this year than we did in the first year Graceland was opened…It will be his best year.”

“Our largest specific demographic is 20-something women,” Weinshanker said. “That’s who’s interested in Elvis. Also, with the expansion, we’ve seen the number of children and families doubling. Young couples in their 20s and 30s, that’s a demographic we’ve had forever, but now with the hotel, they’re bringing their kids. And in the process, they’re fostering a new generation of Elvis fans.”

NEW MOVIE, COLONEL PARKER

A new biopic movie about Elvis and his controversial manager, Colonel Tom Parker is currently filming and is due to be released November 5, 2021.

To play the role of Elvis’ manager, Tom Hanks has shaved his head bald and admitted he doesn’t look anything like The Colonel.

The 64-year-old said: “Let’s just say the people who played gorillas in Planet of the Apes spent less time in the make-up chair than I did on this movie.”

According to the official synopsis, Elvis is “seen through the prism of [Presley’s] complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The film delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America. Central to that journey is one of the most significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley.”

Colonel Tom Parker was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk on June 26, 1909, in Breda, Netherlands.


At age 20, he came to America by ship and kept his identity secret. He worked for circus carnivals and joined the U.S. Army. Later, he launched a career as a country music promoter.

About 160 miles northeast of Breda, is Veendam, Netherlands where one of the most remarkable Elvis Presley fans of all time, Lida Keijzer lives.

LIDA KEIJZER, SUPER FAN

Lida Keijzer was born in March 1968, just three months before Elvis began filming and recording at the Burbank Studios in California for what is now known as his “’68 Comeback” television special. 

Lida has been a lifelong and devoted Presley fan. Little did her family realize the talented Lida would grow up to become one of the most loyal and steadfast fans in Elvis Presley history.

Beginning in May 2015, Lida began a meticulous project that has earned her worldwide recognition and the opportunity to meet Priscilla Presley and many others who were a part of the Elvis’ life before his death on August 16, 1977.

Her goal was to build a miniature dollhouse-like version of Graceland, the Memphis, Tennessee mansion of Elvis that he bought for his family in 1957.

Virtually every day for years–based on photographs and any printed material she could find–Lida began sawing, cutting, sculpting, sewing and painting an elaborate, detailed mini-Graceland.

Keijzer’s Graceland replica.

When I first wrote about her in 2016,  the articles took off like Elvis’ first release out of the army:  “It’s Now or Never,” a bullet racing up the Top Ten charts of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and Billboard. One of the articles was read by over a million people around the world in a matter of days.

In January 2017, through a GoFundMe account set up by Kathy Savelio, other Elvis fans and a friend, Lida was able to travel to the United States and visit Graceland, Sun Studio in Memphis and the Elvis Presley Birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi.

She met Elvis Presley Enterprise officials, musicians, singers, people in Elvis’ life and many fans she had been corresponding with through social media.

In Europe, she met Priscilla Presley during a concert tour with a live band and orchestra performing to a backdrop of Elvis singing on giant screens.

Lida didn’t stop with just the Graceland mansion. She expanded it to include the famous gates, guard house, and stone wall, landscaping, the drive, the swimming pool, Meditation Gardens and the burial site of the Presley family.

She sculpted the “Lisa Marie,” Elvis’s personal jet he named after his daughter.

Painting steps of Tupelo birthhouse.

Then, out of popsicle sticks, she built a replica of the Tupelo birth house.

More recently, Lida has built her detailed replica of Sun Studio and Vernon Presley’s (his father) office building, Lisa Marie’s swing set and the smokehouse-target practice room.

Replica of SUN Studio