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Tom Sawyer: Fireman, Policeman, Customs Inspector, Alcoholic Superman
September 24, 2012 7:56 PM   Subscribe

The Adventures of the Real Tom Sawyer " Mark Twain was nursing a bad hangover inside Ed Stahle’s fashionable Montgomery Street steam rooms, halfway through a two-month visit to San Francisco that would ultimately stretch to three years. At the baths he played penny ante with Stahle, the proprietor, and Tom Sawyer, the recently appointed customs inspector, volunteer fireman, special policeman and bona fide local hero."
posted by artof.mulata (21 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've never been able to get past Tom Sawyer's total assholishness at the end of Huck Finn.
posted by sallybrown at 8:15 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, you know, at the beginning of Huck Finn.
posted by Catchfire at 8:21 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good to hear the story of the real Tom Sawyer.

I knew he had to be at least an acquaintance of Mark Twain, because I've often heard that what Twain said about his company is what he said about society.
posted by borborygmi at 8:27 PM on September 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


I was going to look up the locations mentioned, but the Smithsonian has beaten me to it.
posted by zamboni at 8:35 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pretty great stuff - I'm a Twain aficionado, have read several biographies and and almost all the published writings, and never knew about this.

Still, I'm poking around the damn thing going "CITATIONS! Where are the damn CITATIONS?" I'd really like to see the research trail here. There's at least some fictionalizing -"Twain slumped as he played poker, studying his cards, hefting a bottle of dark beer and chain-smoking cigars" - sure, reasonable extrapolation, but were you there? No. - and so I'd just like to see the sources this was extrapolated from.

Super cool though. Nice find. That Smithsonian Magazine is great - if you haven't picked one up in a while, check it out again. Consistently interesting, if not as slick as some other reads that offer similar "how about that" content.
posted by Miko at 8:39 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nice find... thanks...

Miko's comment made me realize (AGAIN) how gullible I am sometimes.. I read that and found myself transported to SF, a participant in that steambath.

None-the-less, a fascinating tidbit and a fun read.
posted by HuronBob at 8:47 PM on September 24, 2012


thanks that was a great way to end the day. That whole Smithsonian website is amazing. Each independent section is good (History & Archaeology, People & Places etc.) but it's the blogs, especially Design Decoded, that i find myself coming back to. I recently filled out a pop-up survey on their website in the course of reading an article and i think i used the word delightful with no irony whatsoever.

i post from it constantly on Facebook and proselytize continuously because I'm afraid it will go away.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 10:04 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Neener neener neenerrr
NEEEner neener neener
Neener neener neenerrrr
NEEEner neener neener

bump-bump ba-DOWWWWWWW
posted by Madamina at 10:14 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was back then but today's Tom Sawyer he gets on you and the space he invades he gets by on you.

His mind isn't for rent either. To any god or government.
posted by Talez at 10:16 PM on September 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Though his mind is not for rent, don't put him down as arrogant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:17 PM on September 24, 2012


Miko, the Smithsonian post appears to be a synopsis of material in the author's own upcoming Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer--and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco.
posted by dhartung at 11:32 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


No mention of The Lightkeeper!
posted by unliteral at 11:36 PM on September 24, 2012


On non-preview, jinx dhartung.
posted by unliteral at 11:37 PM on September 24, 2012


Some differing detail in The Exempt Firemen of San Francisco: Their Unique and Gallant Record, with a Resume of the San Francisco Fire Department and its Personnel; Historical, Biographical. [San Francisco: H. C. Pendleton], 1900: pp. 100-101.
posted by unliteral at 11:51 PM on September 24, 2012


I didn't realize I live a few blocks from Mark Twain's home!
posted by mike3k at 12:34 AM on September 25, 2012


Mark Twain is an untrustworthy liar. Firstly, that's not even his real name. And secondly, you always read about his saying that "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," but the fact is - they're not. That dude is seriously dead. If anything, reports of his death underplay that fact.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:04 AM on September 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks, dhartung. I'm gonna put that on my list.
posted by Miko at 6:01 AM on September 25, 2012


Q: You know what Mark Twain said about being dead?

A:
posted by chavenet at 9:34 AM on September 25, 2012


Although it's fascinating to read about the real Sawyer as a fireman who also collected firefighting memorabilia (and impressive that he retired from his job at sixty-five), I find myself disappointed that a story about Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer, set in nineteenth-century San Francisco, does not involve a copious number of whores.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:39 PM on September 25, 2012


The name is the name, but there are other important antecedents for the character Tom Sawyer. I learned all about this when I led The Big Read about the book. The idea of a misbehaving boy named Tom was first floated by now-has-been but used-to-be-super-famous author Thomas Bailey Aldrich, who was a good friend of Clemens' as an adult. Aldrich had written a memoir supposedly about his own childhood called Story of a Bad Boy, which Twain absolutely loved and admired. And which, as a book, was a big hit. Turns out that even Aldrich was cribbing the idea from an older humorist, B. P. Shillaber, whose Ike Partington stories were also about a wayward kid. Twain didn't have a lot of thoughts in his head about writing literature about kids until he took up with this crowd after already becoming famous - so, though Tom Sawyer the San Fransciscan may have inspired an homage to their friendship in the naming of his character, there was a lot of other sourcing going on as well.
posted by Miko at 2:03 PM on September 25, 2012


SMITHSONIAN UNCOVERS THE TRUTH -- REAL TOM SAWYER IS MORE AWESOME THAN FICTIONAL ONE -- QUESTIONS ABOUND
posted by Red Desk at 4:39 PM on September 25, 2012


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