Mark Twain – MURDERER!
Mark Twain may be the most famous American ever to be accused of murder (albeit briefly); all over an umbrella.
On May 18, 1875 in Hartford, Connecticut, Mark Twain, and a record crowd of 10,000 fans, watched their undefeated Hartford Dark Blues (12-0) lose to the undefeated Boston Red Stockings (16-0) by a convincing score of 10-5.
Mark Twain lost an umbrella at the game; stolen, he said, by a small boy. He wanted it back - badly; he offered $5 for return of the umbrella and $200 for the boy - dead, not alive:
TWO HUNDRED AND
FIVE DOLLARS REWARD
At the great base ball match on Tuesday, while I was engaged in hurrahing, a small boy walked off with an English-made brown silk UMBRELLA belonging to me, and forgot to bring it back. I will pay $5 for the return of that umbrella in good condition to my home on Farmington avenue. I do not want the boy (in an active state) but will pay two hundred dollars for his remains. SAMUEL L. CLEMENS[i]
As a well-known humorist, few readers would have taken his call for blood seriously – that is, until a corpse turned up in his home:
Mark Twain’s joking advertisement for the body of the boy who stole his umbrella at a base ball match recoiled rather heavily upon him. Some medical student left a “case” – the corpse of a boy – at his house, and Mark was thought to have been his murderer until the janitor of the medical college claimed the “subject.”[ii]
If the story had received more notoriety, he might have said something like, “Reports of my guilt are greatly exaggerated.”
"A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain." Samuel Clemens 'Mark Twain'.
[ii] The National Republican (Washington DC), July 31, 1875, page1.