Samuel Clemens lived a life so full that it encompassed two names. He was a riverboat pilot, a silver prospector, and a newspaperman?and it was in this last trade that he first used the name under which he would author some of America's greatest fiction: Mark Twain. In works such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court? Twain cast a wry spotlight on the political and industrial changes of the 19th century, from westward expansion to the end of slavery to the birth of ground-breaking technology such as the mustache comb. In much the same way, the very space where Twain wrote?the Hartford home where his family lived from 1874 to 1891?illuminates the times as well as the personal life of the man behind the letters.
These days, that home is a National Historic Landmark that serves as half of The Mark Twain House and Museum. Comprised of 25 rooms, including a glass conservatory and grand library, it has been open to the public since its 100th anniversary in 1974. Inside, visitors explore not only the billiard room where Twain penned novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but also nearly 16,000 Twain-related artifacts, such as his last pair of spectacles and photos of his daughters putting on plays. Even more objects and information fill the nearby LEED-certified museum, where rotating exhibits focus on subjects such as the Twain family's servants.
"Her words changed the world," reads the website for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. "What will you do?" As the author of the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe's moving prose helped expose the brutal reality of slavery in the United States. Today, her family home still stands in honor of her memory, welcoming guests as a museum and historic site.
Visitors step into the past via the front door, stopping by the front parlor to see where the Stowes gathered to take tea, play games, and debate the pressing issues of the day. The ground floor also houses some of the Stowes' original furnishings, including a dining room table and Harriet's own oil and watercolor paintings. The second floor offers a more personal look at the author's day-to-day life through touches such as her hand-painted furniture, as well as a terrarium that reflected her love of nature. Guided tours can provide further insight into the life of a woman who, in a time period marked by prejudice and turmoil, nevertheless spoke in favor of equality and change.