The historical town of Hannibal is located on the west banks of the Mississippi River in northeast Missouri. With boutique shops, bakeries, coffee houses, historical attractions and dining there is much to see.
Tourism is a major part of Hannibal’s economy, mainly due to the legendary writer, Mark Twain, often referred to as “the Father of American Literature”. His boyhood home where he grew up from 1844 to 1853 (now a museum) and Mark Twain’s Cave are two of the city’s major attractions.
His 1876 novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” was the best selling of Twain’s works during his lifetime and is considered by many to be a masterpiece of American literature. It’s sequel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” along with many other novels were based on the fictionalized version of characters who lived in the town. At the base of Cardiff Hill, erected in 1926 by sculptor Frederick Hibbard, The Tom and Huck Statue is one of the earliest known statues erected to honor fictional characters. A full size statue of Mark Twain is in Riverview Park and another Mississippi River’s water edge Glascock’s Landing as a steamboat pilot.
Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens – in 1863 he adopted the pen name when he was a newspaperman in Nevada. His pen name was derived from his steamboating days, when the measure of the depth of the water was expressed with a crewman’s cry “mark twain!,” meaning 12 feet or two fathoms. In 1848, Clemens went to work full-time as an apprentice printer at a newspaper in Hannibal. Five years later, he left Hannibal at 17 years of age and spent the next several years living in places such as New York City, Philadelphia and Keokuk, Iowa and Nevada working as a printer.
Around 1857, he abandoned his writing to pursue a lifelong dream to become a riverboat pilot. He asked Steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby to teach him the Mississippi river between New Orleans and St. Louis. For a fee of $500 (equivalent to $17,000 today) and after 18 months of hard work apprenticing, he earned his pilot’s license.
In 1958, while employed on “The Pennsylvania”, he got his younger brother Henry a job on the steamboat. On June 13, disaster struck near Memphis when the Pennsylvania experienced a boiler explosion and Henry was among one of the people killed. This devastated Mark Twain, but he continued to work on steamboats 4 more years until the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, when commercial traffic along the Mississippi was halted. In 1862, he left Missouri traveling west to Nevada and took a job as in Virginia City, Nevada. This is where he started use the pen name “Mark Twain” for the first time. Prior to that, he had tried out other alias such as W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab and Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.
At Mark Twain Riverboat Company you can experience the Mississippi River with a river boat cruise including storytelling, views, and dinner.
Another famous socialite bron in Hannibal in 1867, was Margert “Molly” Brown, survivor of the Titanic which sank in 1912. She was nicknamed dubbed “Unsinkable Molly Brown” after surviving the Titanic disaster. Her childhood home, restored to its original appearance, has a Titanic gallery.
Another notable person from this town was, Robert Masterson, a veteran of the War of 1812 who played a significant part in the early settlement of the area. The Masterson house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, is about 193 years old. The home was fully restored after 50 years of abandonment by the owners and River City Restoration and was a rare example of a limestone and brick Georgian cottage.
Rockcliffe Mansion built in 1898 by John J. Cruikshank, Jr, a Scottish lumber tycoon is a massive 13,500 square foot Georgian Revival Style residence with large columns and porches circling the building. Listed on the the National Register of Historic Places, it was known as the most commanding and costly residential structure in that part of the state. It was almost demolished in 1967 after being abandoned for 43 years. Situated high on a rocky bluff, overlooking the Mississippi River and the town, the Mansion is open restored and open to the public for guided tours daily from April 15th through November 15th.