Mark Twain's Little-Known Connection to Buffalo

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be Mark Twain’s most famous literary contributions to the world, but his era as editor of the Buffalo Express from 1869–1871 is his most noted in Erie County.

Buffalo State College and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (BECHS), who jointly own the complete archives of the Buffalo Courier-Express newspaper, received a grant in 2008 to digitize the 17 months worth of microfilmed issues of the Buffalo Express that were published when Mark Twain, (Samuel Clemens) was editor. The issues are now online for the public to access and enjoy.

“Cynthia Van Ness at BECHS and I found that we were both getting more and more patron requests for Mark Twain’s time at the Buffalo Express,” said Daniel DiLandro, college archivist and special collections librarian at E. H. Butler Library. “That, combined with the inherent scholarly value of the collection, made the digitization essential.”

The microfilms, which are in the process of being moved from WNY Legacy to New York Heritage, can be searched by keyword, so interested parties don’t have to scan through every issue to find what they need—they can simply type a word or phrase into a search box.

As no print holdings of the Buffalo Express exist from Twain’s tenure, the digitization and online accessibility are seen as important contributions to American and global history. The archives provide a glimpse into the region’s businesses, schools, education, government, industry, and other aspects of culture at the time of the publication.

The Archives and Special Collections at E. H. Butler Library also maintain a Buffalo Courier-Express “morgue,” which is composed of hundreds of thousands of clippings and photos dating from the late 1950s until the newspaper stopped publishing in 1982. The microfilms of these clippings are available and sorted individually by topic, to make a search easier and more efficient.

“The Buffalo Courier-Express is our most used collection,” said DiLandro. “The subject clipping files maintain a wealth of value, both for the information in them as well as for their ability to provide dates, names, and subjects that might otherwise be hidden, having been unknown to other sources. Eventually, the whole collection will be digitized.”

The Archives and Special Collections house more than 50 collections for use by students, faculty, and the public.
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Lindsay Hawkins, Public Relations Student Assistant | 7168784021 |