Life on the Mississippi with Mark Twain: An Interactive Journey in the Archives

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Portrait of steamboat pilot, William Y. Brown. This portrait is featured in the History Center's exhibition: Pittsburgh's Lost Steamboat: Treasures of the Arabia.

William Y. Brown, steamboat pilot. This portrait is featured in the History Center’s exhibition: Pittsburgh’s Lost Steamboat: Treasures of the Arabia.

Before introducing the world to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, famed author Mark Twain labored on the waters of the Mississippi River as a steamboat pilot’s apprentice. While serving aboard the steamer Pennsylvania during the 1850s, Twain worked alongside several men from Western Pennsylvania. Three decades later, Twain immortalized some of them as characters in his book, Life on the Mississippi.

One of Twain’s fellow rivermen was a pilot by the name of William Y. Brown. Preserved in the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives is a collection of letters written by William and his family that provides a fascinating glimpse into their lives.

Letter written by William's wife, Olive Winebiddle Brown, to her sister, Rebecca.

Letter written by William’s wife, Olive Winebiddle Brown, to her sister, Rebecca, in 1855.

Join us for an interactive workshop to discover for yourself the astonishing ways in which William Brown and his family’s story intertwines with Mark Twain. Participants will act as detectives, investigating original documents and letters from the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives in order to unravel the dramatic conclusion of this beguiling tale.

This hands-on program will be held on Saturday, November 15 from 11am-1pm in the Detre Library & Archives Reading Room.

The program will be led by Leslie Przybylek, Lead Curator of Pittsburgh’s Lost Steamboat: Treasures of the Arabia, and Sierra Green, Archivist.

Admission to the History Center is free for the day, courtesy of the Jack G. Buncher Foundation.

As space is limited, please RSVP to sgreen@heinzhistorycenter.org or 412-454-6361.

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