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  • "Mark Twain"

Historical Perspectives (25)

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Arthur surprised everyone. In an America torn by Garfield’s assassination and party politics, he immediately set to work proving he was above partisan squabbles.

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American Tourists in the Holy Land, 1865-1900

October 18, 2020
LEVEL: 11th grade U.S History
LESSON LENGTH: One 90-minute period or two 45-minute periods.

COMPELLING QUESTIONS: How were Americans able to visit the “Holy Land” in increasing numbers in the 1865-1900 period? What reasons did they have for going?

Description: Students take on the role of running a travel business in the United States in the 1880s. Their business will advertise travel itineraries to the “Holy Land,” (then called Ottoman Palestine, present-day Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory). Using primary sources and secondary sources as their “guide” students will develop a reason for traveling, the route and transportation, and where they will visit. Students will work in groups to create a brochure or other advertisement complete with travel posters, tickets, and maps that will communicate the travelers’ motivation for taking the trip (alternatively, teachers may have students create a digital brochure or advertisement or a tour using Google Earth).

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The 20th Anniversary of the Transfer of the Panama Canal

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 30, 2019

It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century when the United States, led by the intrepid Theodore Roosevelt – ever mindful of naval power – decided that it was not only a vital matter of American lives, time and money, but national principle, to create an American-controlled waterway across the Panamanian isthmus.

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Map of Mark Twain’s “Great Pleasure Excursion” itinerary to Europe and the Holy Land.

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Mark Twain and the Holy Land

December 11, 2019
October 25, 2019 - February 2, 2020

Of all the topics that might have engaged young Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ imagination in 1867, none was less likely or less promising than Palestine, the Holy Land. Known for his biting satire and humorous short pieces on California and the West, Clemens (1835–1910) found the subject that would propel him to national acclaim almost by accident. His serendipitous discovery of a “pleasure cruise” to Europe and the Near East, his success at inveigling his way onto the journey, and reactions to his fellow passengers and to the people and places he visited came to happy fruition in The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress. No book of his ever sold more copies in his lifetime.

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Mark Twain and the Adams Colony

By Karen Chernik | November 12, 2019

American colonists followed preacher George J. Adams from New England to Ottoman-ruled Palestine on a messianic mission to prepare the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. “We are going to become practical benefactors of the land and the people,” Adams stated, “to take the lead in developing its great resources.” A year after arriving, some of these impoverished colonists wanted a ticket home. It was at that moment that author Mark Twain came to town while on a five-month pleasure trip through Europe and the Middle East.

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The Bicentennial of Herman Melville’s Birth

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 1, 2019

It wasn’t until he visited the Holy Land and wrote the longest poem in American literature about it, though, that he  gave up the idea of ever publishing again. He was finished: Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land did him in.

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Father’s Day: Mark Twain to Daughter, Jean

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 16, 2019
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Jerusalem Day: The Reunification of Jerusalem

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 30, 2019
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The Assassination & Funeral of Robert F. Kennedy

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2018
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December 2010 - March 2013
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Mark Twain in Jerusalem and the Holy Land

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | September 26, 2017

American literature, travel writing, and international tourism would never be the same.

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General View of Jerusalem ca.1890-1900. Source: Library of Congress.

The vision of the Holy Land in 19th-century America was shaped by religious and cultural sentiment, and influenced by the experiences of those groups who traveled there: missionaries, pilgrims and tourists, explorers, settlers, and consular officers, all of whom had different motives for their journey and reports.

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The Birth of Humorist Mark Twain, Née Samuel L. Clemens

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 30, 2015

Young Mark Twain, in Maui, on horseback, arranges to meet shipboard friends.

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Mark Twain Eulogizes General Grant, Whose Memoirs He Would Publish

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 11, 2015

Twain on the heroic writing, and fantastic success, of Grant’s memoirs – Grant’s fame, he predicts, will last two-thousand years.

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California Earthquakes: “The Spirit of Humanity” and Mark Twain

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | January 17, 2014

The shock of the earthquake which struck San Francisco on the morning of April 18, 1906 – leveling countless buildings, starting a fire that lasted three days, and taking hundreds of lives – was felt all across the country.

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Samuel Clemens – Mark Twain – Arrives in Nevada

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 12, 2012

Arriving in Nevada Territory, Mark Twain began one of the greatest careers in the history of literature.

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Mark Twain, 1907. A.F. Bradley. Library of Congress.

It’s noble to teach oneself, Mark Twain once remarked, but still nobler to teach others – and less trouble.

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The Alfred Dreyfus Degradation Ceremony – Paris, France

By Sara Willen, Resident Historian | January 5, 2012

The Dreyfus Affair was “one of the great commotions of history. ” It began in 1894 against a backdrop of espionage and antisemitism, when Jewish French Army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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What Education Teaches

January 31, 2011
April 2007 - August 2007

“What Education Teaches” is an exhibit of the original letters of famous people discussing, explicitly or implicitly, what they’ve learned, why they’ve learned it, and how that knowledge has informed their actions. The exhibit featured the autograph material of Mark Twain, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and others.

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