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The New York Times, March 31, 1903

Mark Twain's Suggestions for Repetitions at the Fair of Old-Time Contests Between Steamboats.

Mark Twain has revived memories of the days when he was a pilot on the Mississippi River, by sending a letter to President Francis of the St. Louis World's Fair. It is an answer to Sir Thomas Lipton's suggestion that a series of old-time Mississippi steamboat races be inaugurated as a feature of the exposition. The letter is as follows:

New York City, March 30 [1903]

Dear President Francis: As regards the suggestion of Sir Thomas Lipton, it seems to me that an old-fashioned Mississippi steamboat race, as a feature of the fair, would be a very good specialty indeed. As to particulars, I think that the race should be a genuine reproduction of the old time race, not just an imitation of it, and that it should cover the whole course. I think the boats should begin the trip at New Orleans, and side by side, (not with an interval between), and end it at North St. Louis, a mile or two above the Big Mound.

I think they should have ample forecastle crowd of negro chantey-singers, with able leaders to do the solo and conduct the chorus from the capstan. I should reinstate the torch basket and use the electric for business only. I should extinguish the Government lights in every crossing throughout the course, for where boats are equally matched in the matters of speed and draught, it is the quality of the piloting that decides the race.

Have you a couple of six-day boats? Then you have a continuous six-day world advertisement, for you would have wireless operators and Associated Press representatives on both boats, and they would report the positions of the contestants hourly, day and night, and describe the succeeding or failing jockeyings and strategems of the pilots. This would be an innovation and dreadfully modern, but the value of it would condone it. It would keep the boats quite vividly in sight straight along a stretch of 1,400 miles, and for the first time the world would see a six-day boat race from start to finish.

The fair would issue the great War Department map of the Mississippi, and every citizen would buy a copy and check off the progress of the race hour by hour and arrange his bets with such judacity as Providence had provided him withal. This map is a yard wide and thirty-six feet long. It might be well to reduce it a little.

As a fair advertisement it would be difficult to beat the boat race; as a spectacle, nothing could add to it, except an old-time blow-up as the boats finished the home stretch. But this should not be arranged; it is better left to Providence and prayer. Truly yours.


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