Submitted by scott on Tue, 04/14/2020 - 10:15

March 25 - April 9 - Midwest Lecture Tour: 5 engagements - "Sandwich Island


From San Francisco Alta California, May 26, 1867


I went up to Hannibal, Quincy and Keokuk, on the Upper Mississippi. The first and the last named are enjoying a season of rest, but not refreshment - the railroads have stricken them dead for a year or two, and I cannot help fearing for Quincy also, now that she is going to build a bridge and let her trade cross the Mississippi, and go through without stopping. St. Louis is doing the same, and somebody has got to suffer for it some day, no doubt.

The railroads have badly crippled the trade of the Keokuk packets, too. They used to go crowded with passengers and freight all the time, but they have room and to spare now. And they don't set a good table any more, either. They never did set a very good table, for that matter, but it was at least better than it is now. Their officers are princes, though.


The ups and downs I have exaggerated a little in Hannibal's case will fit a good many towns in the Mississippi Valley, and Marysville and one or two others on the Pacific Coast. Keokuk, Iowa, was one of the most stirring and enterprising young cities in America seven years ago, but railroads and land speculations killed it in a single night, almost, and for six years it has been sleeping. It is reviving, now, though, and a new and vigorous prosperity is promised it. Its chances are more to be depended upon than Hannibal's, I think.

But Quincy is a wonderful place. It has always thrived - sometimes slowly and steadily, sometimes with a rush - but always making an unquestionable progress. It claims a population of 25,000 now, and it looks as if the claim were well founded. It is the second city of Illinois, in population, business, activity and enterprise, and high promise for the future. I have small faith in their project of bridging the Mississippi, but they ought to know their own business.

I spent a night at General Singleton's - one of the farmer princes of Illinois - he lives two miles from Quincy, in a very large and elegantly furnished house, and does an immense farming business and is very wealthy. He lights his house with gas made on the premises - made from the refuse of petroleum, by pressure. The apparatus could be stowed in a bath-room very conveniently. All you have to do is to pour a gallon or two of the petroleum into a brass cylinder and give a crank a couple of turns and the business is done for the next two days. He uses seventy burners in his house, and his gas bills are only a dollar and a quarter a week. I don't take any interest in prize bulls, astonishing jackasses and prodigious crops, but I took a strong fancy to that gas apparatus.

Following the  Midwest lectures  Clemens returned to New York “in an express train ... a distance of nearly twelve hundred miles by the route I came,” probably arriving on the day before he wrote this letter.    SLC to Jane Lampton Clemens and Family, 15 Apr 1867., New York, N.Y. (UCCL 00122), n. 1. 

Scharnhorst writes that Twain departed Quincy on the express train and traveled through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and into New York, arriving on the 16th of April.