Hannibal is on the eastern edge of Missouri on the shores of the Mississippi River, about 100 miles north of St Louis. Hannibal has a colorful history and was, of course, the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain. Hannibal was founded in 1819 and by the time Clemens was born in 1835 it was a busy frontier river port that rivaled St Louis. In 1846 the town built a bridge across the Mississippi and lured the Wabash RR to make Hannibal it's river crossing point. At one time Hannibal had 12 tracks running along its waterfront, 25 trains arriving each day, and a repair yard for 24 locomotives and 200 railcars. All kinds of industry were encouraged throughout its history and as of 1950 it held the world's largest shoe factory and cement plant. The railroad went out of business and the shoe factory closed in 1960, and Hannibal is now a small quiet town with a great history.
Samuel Clemens grew up here and became a newspaper printers apprentice at 12, even writing a few stories for the paper. At 20 he began his studies to become a riverboat pilot and was granted his license 2 years later. The start of the Civil War put an end to river traffic and he left Hannibal for good, going west to Nevada as a silver prospector.
Clemens used his experiences as the inspiration for his writing. He authored many novels littered with memories of his life, but his best known novels "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" were taken directly from his life in Hannibal. The town and landmarks were given new names and even the characters were well known boyhood friends, also with fictional names, but their real names were well known locally. Clemens kept in touch with some of them throughout his life.
The result is that Hannibal today is a small town filled with landmarks and scenery from Mark Twain novels. The house he lived in is now on display along with the homes of Becky Thatcher across the street and Huck Finn around the corner. They played on Cardiff Hill, now topped with the Mark Twain Lighthouse, and in the limestone caves outside town, which were prominent in the TS novel and are now named Mark Twain Caverns.
At the Mark Twain Gallery there are various paintings and works of art inspired by Twain novels. The second floor is a highlight because in 1932 Norman Rockwell was commissioned to illustrate a new printing of both Sawyer and Finn, and he spent over a year turning out paintings for the books. The entire second floor of the gallery is taken up by many of the original paintings as well as the rough draft sketches.
It is hot here but also very humid, something we have not experienced for a while. Everywhere we have been for the last 7 months, if there was heat there was little or no humidity. In dry weather it also cools off quickly at night, something we now miss.