Roughing It: How Mark Twain Made the West

The William H. Hannon Library’s Fall 2019 exhibition from Archives and Special Collections is now on display in the Terrance L. Mahan, S.J. Gallery. “Roughing It: How Mark Twain Made the West” invites viewers to discover Mark Twain’s encounter with the American West through the lens of his 1872 semi-autobiographical work, Roughing It.

Featuring the first edition text and its illustrations, we examine Roughing It as a foundational text within the genre of Western literature alongside several important works by his contemporaries. The exhibition seeks to reintroduce Mark Twain as an American author who established his literary reputation in California and whose indelible style helped to craft the lasting mythology of “The Old West.”

“Mark Twain’s Western storytelling is probably not what comes first to people’s minds when they think of his contributions to American literature” says Cynthia Becht, Head of Archives & Special Collections. “We hope gallery visitors will enjoy learning how much the American West impacted Twain’s life and career. He is one of our important regional authors.”

This exhibition was curated by Dominick Beaudine, a graduate student intern from the Department of English. “I want viewers to walk through this exhibit with the same open eyes I had when Cynthia Becht and I both imagined a Mark Twain exhibit in our first meeting. Viewers will see the West’s incredible nature and feel the same adventure as Twain traveled. You will smile, learn something new, and most importantly: laugh. There is nothing more fun than an adventure and you will surely embark on one in this exhibit.”

In addition to first editions of Mark Twain’s Roughing It and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, visitors will have the opportunity to view a copy of a “self-pasting” scrapbook that Twain invented, on view with a manuscript letter to his wife. Among his notable contemporaries we are proud to display a first edition of Bret Harte’s The Luck of Roaring Camp, one of the many literary treasures from the collection of T. Marie Chilton, the donor of our Shakespeare Folios.

The exhibition will run August 19, 2019 through December 13, 2019. The Terrance L. Mahan, S.J. Gallery is open Monday through Friday 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and is located on Level 3 of the William H. Hannon Library on the campus of Loyola Marymount University.

There will be an opening reception for the exhibition on September 19, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. Dominick Beaudine, curator and graduate student intern from the Department of English, will speak about some of the works on display, how Twain was shaped by his journey west and, in turn, how Twain began to shape the west for his readers and well into the 21st century. Beaudine will also talk about his process of working with Archives & Special Collections staff to prepare the exhibition. K.J. Peters, Professor of English, will speak about the West and the mythological space of the frontier that Twain enters and describes in an attempt to understand why he went west and why his distinctive style emerged in this landscape. This event is open to the public. Please RSVP is you would like to attend.

For more information about this exhibition, please contact Archives and Special Collections.

About Archives and Special Collections

The William H. Hannon Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections acquires, preserves, makes available, and promotes rare and unique research materials of enduring historical and cultural value in support of Loyola Marymount University’s mission to provide a transformative academic experience. We seek to enhance learning and scholarship at the university and worldwide through our diverse collections, services, and collaborative programs.

About the William H. Hannon Library

The William H. Hannon Library opened in 2009 at Loyola Marymount University and fosters excellence in academic achievement through an array of distinctive services that enable learners to feed their curiosity, experience new worlds, develop their ideas, inform their decision-making, and inspire others. The library is open to the public during regular business hours. More information can be found at