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The New York Times, September 5, 1936

Roosevelt's Speech at Twain Bridge

By The Associated Press.

HANNIBAL, Mo., Sept. 4. - Following is the text of President [Franklin] Roosevelt's speech here today dedicating the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge:

It is with earnest American pride and with a glory in American tradition that I enjoy this happy privilege today, joining in this tribute to one who impressed himself upon the lives of youth everywhere in the last fourscore years and ten.

To look out across the pleasant vista where the life of Mississippi River boyhood was captured and recorded for posterity and to have a part in its commemoration is a privilege I am happy to experience.

No American youth has knowingly or willingly escaped the lessons, the philosophy and the spirit which beloved Mark Twain wove out of the true life of which he was a part along this majestic river. Abroad, too, this peaceful valley is known around the world as the cradle of the chronicles of buoyant boyhood.

Mark Twain and his tales still live, though the years have passed and time has wrought its changes on the Mississippi. The little white town drowsing in the sunshine of the days of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer has become a metropolis of Northwestern Missouri.

The tiny handful of complacent population has grown to 23,000 souls, the seventh largest city in your State and the fourth in bustling industry. The old steamboat landing still is there - the railroads and the buses and trucks have not ended water transportation on the river.

It was my privilege last year to have a part in the opening of the centennial commemoration of Mark Twain's birthplace. On that occasion from the White House I pressed a key which caused a light to shine from the tall tower on Cardiff Hill - the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse.

The perpetuation of Mark Twain's name, birthplace and the haunts of his youth are very dear to me, especially because I myself, as a boy, had the happy privilege of shaking hands with him. That was a day I shall never forget. With every American who has ever been a boy, I thrill today at this great structure joining two great States in the commemoration of youths immortal.

When old Moses D. Balis found his way to the junction of the Hannibal and the Mississippi, back in 1818, he little thought of the great stage of happy youth on which he was lifting the curtain. Likewise he and the older folks of the tiny river settlement in Hannibal had little thought that Sam Clemens, playing about the steamboat landing, would live through the ages.

Cites Advance in Hannibal

Likewise they had little thought that the cabins and the frame houses and the whitewashed fences would give way to thriving industrial plants, modern buildings, a splendid City Hall and other impressive public structures.

In place of the school house from which Huck Finn lured Tom Sawyer to truancy and the old swimming hole, you have eighteen modern grade schools, a high school, parochial schools and a fine library.

The old cabins, and the oil lamps which Tom Sawyer had to fill, are gone. In their place you have one of the most successful municipal electric light and power plants in the country.

And today we mark one more step of progress - one more imprint of a changing order - this great structure spanning the Mississippi. The river ferry started to go when the old railroad bridge joined Missouri and Illinois back in 1870. As the years went by this structure carried the rail, the horse-drawn and the motorized commerce in and out of Hannibal across the Mississippi. Time has now taken another step, and today we eliminate the hazards of railroad crossings, of high waters, and mixed rail and vehicular traffic.

This bridge stands symbolic of what can be accomplished by the cooperation of local governments with the Federal. Here, in this act of progress, we find the Federal Government, the city of Hannibal, the State of Missouri and the State of Illinois all joined in correlated action. Together they have given you this free bridge. Working together in the days to come, they will greatly further the prosperity and convenience of the people of the United States.

Bridge dedication ticket
Ticket for dedication of Mark Twain Bridge, Hannibal, MO, 1936
From the Dave Thomson collection.

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