Building History Timeline

Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens)

Though there is no indication that Twain ever stayed at the Albert, he did visit Stevenson while Stevenson was staying at the St. Stephen, and could conceivably have visited the writer in his rooms, as others did:

Mora’s illustration work includes this vignette of the popular authors Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894, with his “habitual” cigarette) and Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel L. Clemens, 1835-1910, wearing his customary white suit) seated on a bench in Washington Square Park in September of 1887. At the time of their meeting, Twain was living in Hartford, Connecticut; he took the train to New York to meet the frail Stevenson, who was staying at the Hotel St. Stephen, not far from Washington Square, en route to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Saranac Lake, New York. The two men settled comfortably into a sunny part of the northwest corner of the park and spent the next five hours telling stories to one another, “regardless of wives, lunch and doctors, from 10 a.m....until 3 in the afternoon. [The] next day the doctor informed Mrs. Stevenson that R.L.S. seemed like another man.”

Twain also lectured at a teachers’ association meeting in the Albert:

MARK TWAIN ON TRAINING THAT PAYS Speaks at the Supper of the Male Teachers’ Association

The regular monthly supper of the Male teachers’ Association of the City of New York was held at the Hotel Albert, East Eleventh Street and University Place, last evening. About 150 teachers from all the boroughs were present…. Mr. Clemens was then introduced, his subject being, “Training That Pays.” In part, he said:

“We cannot all agree. That is most fortunate. If we could all agree life would be too dull. I believe if we did all agree I would take my departure before my appointed time, that is if I had the courage to do so. I do agree in part with what Mr. Skinner has said. In fact, more than I usually agree with other people. I believe that there are no private citizens in a republic. Every man is an official; above all, he is a policeman. He does not need to wear a helmet and brass buttons, but his duty is to look after the enforcement of the laws.

“If patriotism had been taught in the schools years ago the country would not be in the position it is in to-day. Mr. Skinner is better satisfied with the present conditions than I am. I would teach patriotism in the schools, and teach it this way: I would throw out the old maxim, ‘My country, right or wrong,’ &c., and instead I would say, ‘My country when she is right.’

“I would not take my patriotism from my neighbor or from Congress. I should teach the children in the schools that there are certain ideals, and one of them is that all men are created free and equal. Another that the proper government is that which exists by the consent of the governed. If Mr. Skinner and I had to take care of the public schools I would raise up a lot of patriots who would get into trouble with his. “I should also teach the rising patriot that if he ever became the Government of the United States and made a promise that he should keep it. I will not go any further into politics as I would get excited, and I don’t like to get excited. I prefer to remain calm. I have been a teacher all my life, and never got a cent for teaching.”

The speaker then cited some incidents from his boyhood life which, he said, he had later incorporated in his books. The fence whitewashing incident in “Tom Sawyer,” he said, brought him in $4,000 in the end, when he never expected to get anything for teaching the other boys how to whitewash way back in 1849.

“I have a benevolent faculty,” continued the speaker. “It does not always show, but it is there. We have had some millionaires who gave money to colleges. Now we have Mr. Carnegie building sixty-five new libraries. There is an educator for you on a large scale. I was going to do it myself, but when I found out it would cost over five millions I changed my mind, as I was afraid it would bankrupt me.

“When I found out Mr. Carnegie was going to do it, I told him he could have my ideas gratis. I said to him, ‘Are the books that are going to be put into the new libraries on a high moral plane?’ If they are not, I told him he had better build the libraries and I would write the books. With the wealth I would get out of writing the books, I could build libraries and then he could write books.

I am glad that Mr. Carnegie has done this magnificent thing, and as the newspapers have suggested, I hope that other rich men will follow his example and continue to do so until it becomes a habit they cannot break.”