Part 1 (overview)
We begin in New York. We’re outside what was once his home at 21 fifth Avenue (now an apartment building). It’s June 18th, the day Twain travels to Redding to see his new home for the very first time. At Grand Central, Twain and his biographer Albert Paine board one of the new electric commuter trains newly mandated by the State legislature. They would leave on the 4pm Berkshire Express, which would make a special stop in Redding (you could actually take a train from Grand Central to western Massachusetts at the time). The Grand Central of 1908 was undergoing a transformation. It was being rebuilt as part of plan to rid the Park Avenue corridor of the steam locomotive and the residue of combustion that fouled the air. Two levels of track were being sunk under a new Park Avenue to accommodate an ever-expanding service. This was not the Grand Central we know today. The new terminal building was still a few years from completion. When Twain and Paine reached Stamford, Connecticut they changed trains. They would finish the journey pulled by a steam locomotive. Electrification of the system was still a work in progress. They arrived in Redding a little before 6pm, June 18, 1908.
I’m also looking at the early 20th century world that the aging Twain now inhabited. He was born in 1835, less than 50 years after the ratification of the American Constitution. Alexis de Tocqueville published “Democracy in American” the year Twain was born. Twain lived most of his life, not at the beginning of our democracy, but in the first full decade of its development which included a civil war. It was a remarkable period of adolescence.