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My New Scrapbook Hero by Cynthia Coulon

June 20, 2014
Despite the similarities, Twain is not related to Einstein.

Despite the similarities, Twain is of no relation to Einstein.

Mark Twain has always been one of my favorite American authors and humorists, but today, he rose clear to the top of my list. Why? Because he was a scrapbooker!

Yup. I just learned this fascinating bit of history, and I love it! Mr. Twain was apparently a lifelong creator and keeper of scrapbooks. He took them everywhere and filled them with souvenirs, pictures and articles about his books, performances and lectures. The clever man even patented a “self-pasting” scrapbook in 1872, and by 1901, at least 57 different types of his albums were available. It was his only invention that ever made money. Here’s a two-page advertisement for his scrapbooks, found in the back of Punch, Brothers, Punch! and Other Sketches, by Mark Twain.  Check out all the different layouts and cover options. My kind of guy!

So many delightful choices!

So many delightful choices!

Especially awesome and amusing is the sales pitch, including testimonials, that Twain wrote, detailing all the reasons a publisher should want to sell his “Scrap Book.”  His letter and sketch are below. Hilarious.

If you don't want to strain your eyes reading this, the text is included at the end of this article. Your welcome.

If you don’t want to strain your eyes reading this, the text is included at the end of this article. Your welcome.

There are certainly lots of great reasons to have quality scrapbook products and adhesive on hand, but until now I hadn’t thought to add the prevention of  “barrels and barrels of profanity” to those reasons. Good call, Mr. Twain.

So, in summary, Al Gore didn’t invent the Internet or scrapbooking. Neither did Mark Twain. But he was first to market with those self-pasting scrapbooks of his. Still geeking-out about that!

As a matter of fact, people have been making scrapbooks—putting scraps in books—for a very long time. Clear back in the 1800’s there was a scrapbooking “craze” in America. People had paste, scissors and a lot of desire to collect mementos and preserve memories. Publishers and companies soon got in the game, producing albums with preprinted themed pages, pockets, blank pages for watercolor paintings and pencil drawings, and a variety of products that could be displayed in albums. Cool, huh?

A scrapbook from the 1850's.

A scrapbook from the 1850’s.

The point is, if you’re a scrapbooker, you’re in good company! You’re carrying on a time-honored tradition that people—even famous ones—have found meaningful for many, many years. Also, if you find a certain aspect of the craft frustrating, don’t unleash profanity upon the world. Invent a new product that makes it easier and more fun, like Mark Twain. Or you could buy our products. Just a thought.

MARK TWAIN’S SCRAP BOOK

HARTFORD, Monday Evening.

MY DEAR SLOTE: —

I have invented and patented a new Scrap Book, not to make money out of it, but to economize the profanity of this country. You know that when the average man wants to put something in his scrap book he can’t find his paste—then he swears; of if he finds it, it is dried so hard that is only fit to eat—then he swears; if he uses mucilage it mingles with the ink, and next year he can’t read his scrap—the result is barrels and barrels of profanity. This can all be saved and devoted to other irritating things, where it will do more real and lasting good, simply by substituting my self-pasting Scrap Book for the old-fashioned one.

If Messrs. Slote, Woodman & Co. wish to publish this Scrap Book of mine, I shall be willing. You see by the above paragraph that it is a sound moral work, and this will commend it to editors and clergymen, and in fact to all right-feeling people. If you want testimonials I can get them, and of the best sort, and from the best people. One of the most refined and cultivated young ladies in Hartford (the daughter of a clergyman) told me herself, with grateful tears standing in her eyes, that since she began using my Scrap Book she has not sworn a single oath.

Truly yours,

MARK TWAIN.