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May 5, 1907: Report of Twain's death 'greatly exaggerated'

  • Blog Post by: Ben Welter
  • March 27, 2013 - 3:51 PM
 
“TWAIN AND YACHT DISAPPEAR AT SEA,” a New York Times headline blared on May 4, 1907. Trouble was, they hadn't. Samuel L. Clemens was at home that night, resting in his Fifth Avenue home in Manhattan after "a most pleasant" sea journey from Norfolk. The Minneapolis Tribune set the record straight:
 

MARK TWAIN PROBES
OWN DEATH REPORT

 
DOES NOT KNOW THAT HE IS DEAD FROM PRESENT FACTS.
 
Promises to Inform Anxiously Waiting Public After Thorough Investigation.
 
HUMORIST HUMOROUSLY HUMORS INQUISITIVE REPORTER ON RUMOR OF BEING AT SEA.
 
 
  Mark Twain in 1907, perhaps waiting for a newsboy to deliver his morning paper.
NEW YORK, May 5. – (Special.) – “So far as I can make out, from the facts of the case as presented to me,” said Samuel L. Clemens, erstwhile pilot, otherwise known as Mark Twain, when he was awakened yesterday morning at an unseemly hour at his home, 67 Fifth avenue, “the report that I have been lost at sea on H.H. Rogers' yacht, Kanawha, has been greatly exaggerated.
 
“However, you can assure all my friends that I will make any exhaustive and rigid investigation of the rumor, and, if there is any foundation for the story, I will at once apprise an anxious public of the facts.
 
“I sincerely hope that the report is not true and I suggest that all my friends suspend judgment until such time as I can ascertain the true state of affairs.”
 
THOUGHT TO BE LOST.
 
Visions of Mark Twain lashed to a raft and tossed about in the angry waves of the Atlantic had been affrighting all the admirers of the genial humorist, who had chanced to read a story in a morning newspaper to the effect that the Kanawha had left Norfolk, Va., Wednesday morning and had not been seen since. The harrowing details were to the effect that the humorist and others had gone to the Jamestown exposition as the guests of Mr. Rogers on the latter's palatial steam yacht, and that when the party was ready to return to New York last Monday the fog came on and prevented the boat starting. Mr. Rogers and his son, having important business engagements in New York, elected to return by train, but Mark Twain, having a horror of railroad travel, said he would stick to the ship.
 
The fog was good enough to clear away after a two days' visit, in which the humorist is said to have fretted about his long absence from Fifth avenue, and the yacht then headed for the battery.
 
SLIPS HOME QUIETLY.
 
The erstwhile pilot was so quiet on his arrival home that no one knew he was in the city and, as the yacht had not done any great amount of tooting, there seems to have been deep and widespread ignorance of her coming. Then came the story to the effect that the unfortunate Mississippi river navigator was adrift on the angry ocean, battling for his life in mountainous waves, while sharks and other ravenous fishes were nibbling at their prey.
 
As a matter of fact, however, the trip home was an uneventful one and most pleasant. Indeed, the skipper of the yacht had assured Mr. Clemens when they glided out of Hampton Roads, that he would have the boat under the Williamsburg bridge by 10 minutes to 9 o'clock that night, and he did.
 
 
Industrialist H.H. Rogers' steam-powered yacht Kanawha in 1899. The 200-foot vessel cost $350,000 to build and had a top speed of 22 knots. It later served in the U.S. Navy during World War I.

 

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