Mark Twain arriving in Seattle 1895

Mark Twain's Visit to Bellingham Bay
August 14, 1895
 
In the summer of 1895 Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) was 59 years old and deeply in debt.  To avoid bankruptcy he embarked on a worldwide lecture tour in spite of various physical ailments.
 
Twain was near the end of his North American tour when arrived in Seattle on August 13th.   He would perform to a sold-out and enthusiastic audience  that evening.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer headlines described it this way:
 
A CONTINUOUS LAUGH
 
Mark Twain Again Proves His Greatness as a Humorist.
FLOWING STREAM OF DROLLERY
The following day Twain headed north to Fairhaven, Washington.  He stayed at the Fairhaven Hotel, guests of C.X. Larrabee and his wife Frances Payne Larrabee who lived in the hotel.  Mrs. Larrabee missed an opportunity to meet Twain, as her son Charles Francis was born just the previous day.  
 
Later that evening Twain entertained an audience of 700 townspeople in the town of New Whatcom, just north of Fairhaven.  (Both towns would become the city of Bellingham in 1904.)  The performance was held at the Lighthouse Hall, formerly on the southeast corner of Holly and Cornwall, now a branch of Bank of America.  

Mark Twain used one basic talk the whole way around the world, a comic sermon on building up one's moral character by committing all 462 possible sins. 
 
This structure allowed him to use as illustrations many different pieces of material, from all phases of his career.   The kind of performance Mark Twain perfected on this tour  -- anecdotal, meditative, intimate, and above all humorous -- is what his 20th century impersonators have based their versions of Mark Twain on. 
 
 

Unfortunately, wildfires filled the air with smoke during Twain's visit obscuring the natural beauty of the area surrounding the towns along Bellingham Bay.   Hoarse from his lecture the evening before, this was not helped by the smoky atmosphere and the beginning of a cold.    
 
The performance did not go as well as planned, documented in the journal of his manager, Major J.D. Pond:
 
Wednesday, August 14th, Seattle to Whatcom.  

"Mark's" cold is getting worse (the first cold he ever had). He worried and fretted all day; two swearing fits under his breath, with a short interval between them, they lasted from our arrival in town until he went to sleep after midnight. It was with great difficulty that he got through the lecture. The crowd, which kept stringing in at long intervals until half-past nine, made him so nervous that he left the stage for a time. I thought he was ill, and rushed back of the scenes, only to meet him in a white rage. He looked daggers at me, and remarked:

"You'll never play a trick like this on me again. Look at that audience. It isn't half in yet."

I explained that many of the people came from long distances, and that the cars ran only every half hour, the entire country on fire causing delays, and that was why the last installment came so late. He cooled down and went at it again. He captured the crowd. He had a good time and an encore, and was obliged to give an additional story.

 
 An Evening in Fairhaven

After the performance, it was time for a late night cigar and drinks with a few prominent citizens which included Roland Gamwell.  Returning to the Fairhaven Hotel, Twain would discover that teetotaler C.X. Larrabee had no liquor available on the premises. Consequently, he was escorted by his hosts across the street to the all-male Cascade Club on the third floor of the Mason Block, now Sycamore Square, where he could smoke and imbibe in a more tolerant environment.

Twain traveled north to Vancouver, B.C. the next day for his last scheduled performance before heading to Australia.  A sailing delay provided several days of well-needed rest in Vancouver, which included interviews to reporters and publicity photos from his hotel bed.  

Mark Twain's tour ended in Capetown, South Africa on July 15, 1896 after 120 performances.  
 

Remembering Mark Twain Today in Fairhaven


Dedicated in 2018,  the bronze sculptue of Mark Twain seated on a bench is located in front of Village Books.  The corner at 11th Street and Mill Avenue is just a few blocks from the 12th Street and Harris Avenue location of the Fairhaven Hotel and the Cascade Club.  The hotel was demolished in 1956.  The location of the former Cascade Club is now a hair salon.
 
The sculpture was designed and executed by Gary Lee Price of Arizona and was donated by Michael Botwin, former California Deputy Attorney General, who retired to Bellingham in 2002.

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08/06/20


 
 
 

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