Just When did Twain and the White Suite Meet?

A postcard signed by Samuel Langhorne Clemens, more commonly known by his nom de plume, ‘Mark Twain’, has been acquired by Fraser’s Autographs, London. The photograph, depicting Twain in his trademark white suit, can be dated to the 1880s, potentially disproving the ‘theory of the white suit’, synonymous with the author. Twain was famous for wearing white suits.

However, the generally accepted theory is that Twain did not start wearing them until after his wife Olivia had passed away in 1904; most notably, appearing before Congress in December 1906 creating a stream of headlines from the press that had nothing to do with his speech and everything to do with the color of his clothing.

Prior to his appearance, he explained to Capitol Hill journalists why he wore white: “I have found that when a man reaches the advanced age of 71 years, as I have, the continual sight of drab clothing is likely to have a depressing effect upon him. Light-colored clothing is more pleasing to the eye and enlivens the spirit.”

The recently acquired postcard proves that Clemens wore white suits long before pundits started commenting upon it. According to the Mark Twain House and Museum website, ‘Twain disdained the standard black suit which society required of professional men’ and was quoted as saying: “What can be more depressing than the somber black which custom requires men to wear upon state occasions? A group of men in evening clothes looks like a flock of crows, and is just about as inspiring.’

Twain published 28 books and various collections of short stories in his life as well as numerous articles under the pen name, ‘Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass’ before settling on the pseudonym, ‘Mark Twain’. His tales have been recreated and re-imagined all over the world, including several memorable mentions in various episodes of ‘The Simpsons’. Manager of Fraser’s Autographs, Ania Polyniak, said, ‘It is very rare for us to be able to offer Mark Twain items. They are not very common and, due to his popularity, especially amongst American collectors, they don’t tend to be available for long…’

The postcard is a dignified 3.25 x 5.6” full length image of Twain, signed in the lower board in black ink, “Very truly yours, Mark Twain, Apl/04” and is available from Fraser’s Autographs for £4,950 ($7625 at time of writing).

About UAA Team

Urban Art and Antiques first published in 2007. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, let us know. Email urbanartantiques (at) gmail.com

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