Mark Twain Publishes Huckleberry Finn

U.S. #2787The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was honored in 1993 in the Children’s Classics set.

On February 18, 1885, Huckleberry Finn was released in America.

Growing up along the banks of the Mississippi River, Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) longed for a life of excitement. By the time he was 30, he’d worked as a steamboat pilot, served briefly during the Civil War, and tried his hand at searching for gold. While working for a newspaper, Twain discovered his knack for story telling and he knew he found his calling.

Twain’s first brush with national fame came in 1865, when his story about life in a mining camp, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” was printed in papers across the country. In the following years, he became one of the nation’s most popular writers. Then, in 1876, he published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a book inspired by his childhood town of Hannibal, Missouri.

U.S. #4545 – Mark Twain stamp from the Literary Arts series.

That same year, Twain began working on a sequel with pages he’d removed from Tom Sawyer. He originally titled his new story Huckleberry Finn’s Autobiography, planning to follow Finn’s life into adulthood. However, Twain was often sidetracked with other projects and put Finn’s story aside for long periods of time. Then, after taking a trip down the Hudson River, his excitement for the project was renewed. He dropped the idea of following Finn to adulthood and completed the book in 1883.

The book was first released in Canada and the United Kingdom on December 10, 1884. Two months later, on February 18, 1885, it was released  in America. The story provides a vivid record of 19th century America.  It follows the adventures of two runaways – Huckleberry Finn and a slave named Jim – as they travel on a raft down the Mississippi.

U.S. #863 – Twain stamp from the Famous Americans series.

Told from Huckleberry Finn’s point of view, Twain used realistic language to make Huck’s speech sound like actual conversation, and imitated a variety of dialects to bring the other characters to life. It was this realistic use of speech that set Twain’s work apart from other writers of the day, and influenced numerous other modern American authors.

Huckleberry Finn was harshly received when it was first published. Several libraries banned the book. According to the Concord Library in Massachusetts, “One member of the committee says that, while he does not wish to call it immoral, he thinks it contains but little humor, and that of a very coarse type. He regards it as the veriest trash. The library and the other members of the committee entertain similar views, characterizing it as rough, coarse, and inelegant, dealing with a series of experiences not elevating, the whole book being more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people.” Upon hearing this, Twain was excited, believing the attention would sell another 25,000 copies.

U.S. #UC60 – A 1985 aerogram honoring Twain’s birth pictures Finn with a fishing pole.

While today it is often considered by many to be one of the greatest American novels ever written, Huckleberry Finn still receives criticism for Huck’s lack of morals, as well as his unrefined manners and careless grammar. Its deeper themes, however, argue for equality and universal opportunities for all races.

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  1. The history of the author, books and reactions to them all, like this short piece reflect life in a very real manner. The information about it all, including the author as a person has meant more than the stories. The stories however, need to be read again, all these years later, as the visions of the words are clearly of another time. The writing reflects the authors personality and ability to tell a story. Fact or fiction like life blends into something more than we often expect. The stamp of the day is a fabulous example of the variety of life. Looking to the future aware of the present the past definitely matters. Thank you for the reminders. Every stamp seen now brings a pause to examine it wondering about it all. The stamp like life represents something far more than the initial reason it is placed on the envelope for. The future, like this author and books, brings out meanings only the passing of time allows. Pausing to discover what that meaning is makes the future better. Thank you for bringing this stamp into the present.

  2. There has bee talk of giving this book the “PC Treatment”, sanitizing it for today’s fragile readers as they have been editing old cartoons.

  3. He spent time in Hawaii. I have a picture of him with King Kalalau sitting on the porch of the Royal Hawaiin Hotel.- maybe it’s the Hana Hotel in Maui.
    Collecting Hawaiian Monarchy stamps is the best!! Thanks Mystic.

  4. Apparently, Twain waited so long to finish and publish “Huckleberry Finn,” is that he couldn’t devise a believable way to conclude the story. An escaped slave like Jim traveling “down” the Mississippi River deeper into slave territory is illogical. The last part of the book when Tom Sawyer reappears in not the best part of the book.

  5. Huckleberry Finn reminds me a lot of growing up in Northern Alberta during WW II and after.
    Food was scarce (rationing) but plentiful in the bush. By the time I was twelve I was an experienced farm hand, hunter, trapper and pulled many a mile of winch cable when my dad had me travel with him hauling freight into the northern areas for HBCo, reservations, and churches.

    Wish a guy like Mark Twain had written about that. I’ve tried but was to busy working, and playing, until I forgot most of what I learned about the time I lived.

    Now stamps remind me of history, life and the world.

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