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Mark Twain And The Heartbreak Of Sticky Fingers

February 2024
1min read


Mark Twain, we noted in “Twain, the Patent Poet” (June/July, 1978), dabbled in the mysteries of invention from time to time, even going so far as to take out several patents. The only one of these that ever came to much was his self-pasting scrapbook, a gimmick patented in 1873, manufactured by the Slote & Woodman Company, and advertised as a sovereign remedy for the “usual and well-known annoyances of paste, mucilage, and sticky fingers, with all their accompanying evils.…” Twain himself was not above doing a little huckstering for the product, though a close reading of the “letter” in the advertising leaflet shown here will reveal that his sales pitch was at least as raucous as it was persuasive.

However light we, or even Twain, might make of his scrapbook, the fact was that it apparently worked, and worked well—as we are informed by Henrietta C. Failing of Portland, Oregon. She has in her possession, Miss Failing tells us, three scrapbooks used by her father in the 1870’s. Two of them are Twain’s model, and are clearly superior: “The third scrap book of his set was earlier,” she writes, “and the scraps were put on with glue; in some places the scraps are difficult to read, while there is no difficulty with Twain’s books. I think he would be pleased at that after one hundred years.”

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