While an emotionally charged meeting with dozens of flood-weary Hannibal residents was Sen. Claire McCaskill’s most talked-about appearance in America’s Hometown on Tuesday, it wasn’t her only one. Missouri’s Democratic senator also stopped by the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum on Tuesday afternoon to chat with supporters and local tourism officials.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) poses by her autograph on the celebrity section of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum's "10 by 10" fence.
McCaskill signed the celebrity portion of the museum’s “10 by 10″ fence, a campaign to raise $10 million in 2010 for the museum’s endowment by offering folks a chance to ceremonially whitewash (i.e., sign) Tom Sawyer’s whitewashed fence at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home. She also dropped off a contribution for the museum, joked about the love of Mark Twain that led her daughter to have Huckleberry Finn tattooed on her foot in college, and thanked the museum’s staff and supporters for their hard work to preserve and broadcast Twain’s legacy.
“I think it’s terrific that you all are working so hard to make this such a special place because of what Mark Twain means to this community and the fabric of our country and culture,” McCaskill said.
McCaskill also provided an update on a bill currently making its way through Congress that would introduce a Mark Twain commemorative coin. If the budget-neutral bill (H.R. 1195/S. 483) passes, four key Twain sites — the Hannibal museum, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. (where Twain lived and worked for 17 years), the Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, N.Y. (where Twain was buried), and the Mark Twain Project at the University of California-Berkeley — will benefit from the $5 gold and $1 silver coins to be minted with the visage of Hannibal’s most famous native son in 2013. The bill is currently in committee.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) speaks at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum as Tom and Becky (Austin Janes and Salwa Mikhail) listen.
Missouri’s congressional delegation, whose members often differ sharply on the issues of the day, is in full agreement on the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act, McCaskill said.
“It’s not going to happen in the next couple years, but I am optimistic we will get it done,” McCaskill said. “It will be very helpful in spreading the cause of Mark Twain in our country.”
As I chatted with Beau Hicks, executive director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, before McCaskill’s arrival at the museum, he expressed excitement about what the bill’s passage will mean for tourism funding in Hannibal.
“Oftentimes, the 12 to 15 percent of the city budget that comes from tourism is completely overlooked by anyone except those right down here on Main Street,” Hicks said.