CLEMENS, SAMUEL, ("Mark Twain"). Autograph letter signed ("Mark") to Joseph Goodman, a personal friend and reporter at the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Hartford, 29 November 1889. 3 pages, 8vo, clean separation at fold of first leaf.
"100 PERCENT A YEAR ON THE INVESTMENT": HUCK FINN'S CREATOR AS VENTURE CAPITALIST
A long, enthusiastic letter regarding Clemens's doomed investment in a mechanical typesetter: "...Papers are now being drawn which will greatly simplify the raising of capital; I shall be in supreme command; it will not be necessary for the capitalist to arrive at terms with anybody but me...The machine was perfect as a watch...Every now & then the N.Y. Herald people try to hurry us up. It is a good deal of a compliment, for they have given the machine a patient, painstaking, business-like test, here...[The] foreman of the Herald composing room...made the test himself...[O]urs is the only one...the Herald has put in...an order for. They say they shall want 33 of our machines...I want you to sell some royalties to the boys...for I want to be financially strong when we go to New York...At the lowest conceivable estimate (2,000 machines a year), we shall sell 34,000 in the life of the patent -- 17 years; $34,000 return from each one-dollar royalty; a hundred per cent a year on the investment..."
In 1880, Clemens invested in a mechanical typesetting device invented by James W. Paige of Rochester, NY. "In its most advanced state Paige's machine had eighteen thousand separate parts, including eight hundred shaft bearings. The patent application he filed in 1887 contained 275 sheets of drawings and 123 sheets of specifications..." (J. Kaplan, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, p. 285). Paige's complex and unreliable machine was supplanted by the Megenthaler linotype machine, first introduced in July 1886. At the time of this letter, though, Twain's faith in Paige's mechanism was obviously still unshaken.