Mark Twain lectures to a capacity crowd in Seattle on August 13, 1895.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • Essay 2052
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On August 13, 1895, Mark Twain (1835-1910) gives a 90-minute solo performance to an audience of 1,200 at the Seattle Theater, located in downtown Seattle at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Cherry Street. The lecture is part of a 12 month worldwide speaking tour that Twain began that July.

"A CONTINUOUS LAUGH" was the headline of a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article that went on, "To tell the story of such a lecture is like trying to narrate a laugh. Those who heard it enjoyed it, and those who did not cannot conceive of it."

The American writer Mark Twain, whose given name was Samuel Clemens, wrote the classic American novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, among others.

In Seattle, Twain expounded on stories from his books Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, and Roughing It. His Seattle stop was part of a 12-month worldwide speaking tour that started on July 14, 1895. He went on tour to earn money to pay off debts incurred by his publishing company, which failed in part because of the Panic of 1893.

He said, "I cannot hope to build up another fortune now ... . I am getting too old for that. I shall be more than satisfied if within the next five years I can pay off my creditors." His subsequent performances were in New Whatcom, Washington (later renamed Bellingham) and Vancouver, British Columbia, his last stop in North America. He then headed to Australia. Mark Twain's tour was so successful that he was able to pay off his debts by 1898.


Ruth A. Burnet, 187-202" Mark Twain in the Northwest, 1895," The Pacific Northwest Quarterly Vol 42, No 3 (July 1951), 187-202; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 14, 1895, p. 8.

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