I visited Hannibal, Missouri, a few years ago in October, to see the famous Mississippi River town. It was a colorful and warm autumn, a wonderful time to tour the town that was the home of the characters in Mark Twain’s stories.
I began collecting postcards and found there was an abundance of photographed postcards with views of the restored buildings, homes of Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, and others. The cave with the rock entrance, where Tom and Becky were lost, is a popular postcard as were the statues of the two friends, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; the light house on Cardiff Hill; the museum and Tom Sawyers wood fence; and the beautiful scenery along the Mississippi River.
I collected many postcards, old and new, on that visit. The postcards I treasure the most are postcards of the characters in Mark Twain’s stories illustrated by Norman Rockwell. He included everything, Tom’s rolled up pant legs; Huckleberry Finn’s missing front tooth; the cat that had the “medicine;” Aunt Molly’s stern expression; the bare feet and straw hats; a dark scary cave.
According to Arthur Guptill, in his book “Norman Rockwell Illustrator,” Norman Rockwell illustrated very few books but he was excited about illustrating Mark Twain’s adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and actually travelled to Hannibal, Missouri, to see for himself the environment of Mark Twain’s childhood.
He interviewed the people of the town, took notes, and made sketches of the scenic Mississippi River town. He went to the cave, south of town, were Tom and Becky were lost. He studied every detail and thought he was lost, until his guide come after him.
Rockwell paid attention to details. When he began to paint he rounded up the customs for the people he was painting. He was known to take an old shirt right off a man’s back, or he latched onto a fellow’s hat, with their consent of course.
If Mark Twain said it was twenty paces across the street to Becky Thatcher’s house that was the truth. Although the stories are classified as fiction many of the episodes in the story were autobiographical features of Samuel Clemens, as a child, long before his pen name of Mark Twain.
Norman Rockwell made the illustrations for every page in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and some of them have been used on postcards.
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” 3.5 by 5.5 inch postcards, in my collection have the following printed on the back. “Painted by Norman Rockwell for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, © 1936, 1964 by the Heritage Club, Avon, Conn. They were published by Becky Thatcher Book Shop, 211 Hill St. Hannibal, Mo.” There is also an identifying blurb in tiny print, on most.