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Add to My Citations To Joseph J. Albright
17 July 1874 • Elmira, N.Y.
(MS: NBuHi, UCCL 01112)
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figure slc/mt em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spacefarmington avenue, hartford.

This certificate entitles the holder, Mr. Joseph S. Albright, to first-class complimentary passage for the round trip, per comet, with the privilege of exploring the constellations at his leisure.

By Order—

Mark Twain

Joseph S. Albright, Esq1
em spaceem spaceDear Sir:

I am cheerfully furnishing complimentary tickets to all the hard-coal people (for the round trip,) because my wife owns in a soft-coal mine & she wants to get rid of the opposition.2

The comet will call for you in due season, & you shall be delivered at home again, whole & sound & glad you went, when the voyage is done.3

Ys Truly

Sam. L. Clemens


Joseph S.4 Albright Esq
Pa. [in upper left corner:] Personal.
[rule] [postmarked:] elmira n. y. [jul ] 17 [docketed:] Mark Twain [and in pencil, in another hand:] Clemens | [rule]

Explanatory Notes | Textual Commentary

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1 Joseph Jacob Albright, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was an iron manufacturer. He was connected to the Langdon family through his son, John Joseph Albright (1848–1931), who was married to the former Harriet Langdon (1847–95), Olivia’s first cousin. Clemens mistook his middle initial (see note 4).

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2 Olivia’s bituminous (soft) coal interest was in her family’s McIntyre Coal Company (see 15 June 74 to Brown, n. 1). Albright’s son, John, had first become active in the wholesale anthracite (hard) coal trade after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1868. Within a year he had earned $100,000 by shipping anthracite to the West. Since 1871 his wife’s brother, Andrew Langdon (1835–1919), had been his partner, first in Harrisburg, then in Lewiston, Pennsylvania, and currently in Washington, D.C.

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3 The comet—first sighted by Jerome Eugene Coggia (1849–1919), a prominent astronomer at the Marseilles observatory, on 17 April 1874—was clearly visible over the northeastern United States by 19 June and remained conspicuous there for about a month. (According to the Elmira Advertiser, it had “passed out of sight” by 24 July [“Topics Uppermost,” 24 July 74, 2].) On 6 July Clemens published a sketch entitled “A Curious Pleasure Excursion” in the New York Herald, which read in part:


This is to inform the public that in connection with Mr. Barnum I have leased the comet for a term of years; and I desire also to solicit the public patronage in favor of a beneficial enterprise which we have in view.

We propose to fit up comfortable, and even luxurious, accommodations in the comet for as many persons as will honor us with their patronage, and make an extended excursion among the heavenly bodies. We shall prepare 1,000,000 state rooms in the tail of the comet (with hot and cold water, gas, looking glass, parachute, umbrella, &c., in each), and shall construct more if we meet with a sufficiently generous encouragement. We shall have billiard rooms, card rooms, music rooms, bowling alleys and many spacious theatres and free libraries; and on the main deck we propose to have a driving park, with upwards of 10,000 miles of roadway in it. We shall publish newspapers also.

departure of the comet.

The comet will leave New York at ten P.M. on the 20th inst., and therefore it will be desirable that the passengers be on board by eight at the latest, to avoid confusion in getting under way. . . . No dogs will be allowed on board. . . .

first class fare

from the Earth to Uranus, including visits to the Sun and Moon and all principal planets on the route, will be charged at the low rate of $2 for every 50,000,000 miles of actual travel. A great reduction will be made where parties wish to make the round trip. . . . The entire voyage will be completed, and the passengers landed in New York again on the 14th of December, 1991. (SLC 1874)

The article was widely reprinted, among other places in the Elmira Gazette on 10 July and the Elmira Advertiser on 14 July. Albright had seen one such reprint and written to Clemens about it. Barnum himself wrote on 16 July, telling Clemens, “I owe you a thousand thanks for taking me into partnership” (CU-MARK; Peter Lancaster Brown, 84, 127; Kronk, 58, 60–61; “Brief Mention,” Hartford Courant, 20 June 74, 2; “The New Comet,” New York Times, 21 June 74, 5; “A Curious Pleasure Excursion,” Elmira Gazette, 10 July 74; “Mark Twain’s Enterprise,” Elmira Advertiser, 14 July 74, 3).

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4 Corrected in pencil to “J.,” possibly by Albright himself.

glyphglyphCopy-text:glyphMS, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Archives (A64–1, Mark Twain Letters), Buffalo (NBuHi).

glyphglyphPrevious publication:glyph L6, 191–192.

glyphglyphProvenance:glyphdonated in 1942 by Robert W. Bingham, the director of NBuHi from 1929 to 1952.

glyphglyphEmendations and textual notes:glyph

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