HANNIBAL, MO. —There's a special chair in the parlor of Garth Mansion, an 1871 Victorian masterpiece turned into an upscale bed-and-breakfast on the outskirts of Hannibal.
John Garth and his wife, Helen Kercheval Garth, were students at Mrs. Elizabeth Horr's school along with Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. "One of the prettiest of the schoolgirls was Helen Kercheval," Twain later wrote. The three became lifelong friends, and Clemens often visited their home.
John Garth died in 1899, and Clemens stayed at the home during a stop at Hannibal in 1902. That's when the red velvet chair in the parlor achieved its fame.
"It was John Garth's chair," said Julie Rolsen, owner of the B&B with her husband, John. "After John's death, Clemens stayed here for several days visiting Helen. He would have sat in that chair."
Twain lovers come to Hannibal from as far away as Japan to "dip their toes" in his mighty Mississippi, Rolsen said. "And they're just ecstatic that they can sit in that chair."
Garth Mansion, at 11069 New London Road (garthmansion.com and 1-888-427-8409), is a historic place to stay during the Year of Mark Twain. Other businesses in Hannibal also plan special products or events, including:
• Picture Perfect gallery and framing will offer photos, cartoons and articles relating to Twain taken from the original historical publications, dating from the 1800s through 1910. The "Show Me" art prints feature Twain with famous Missouri people and landmarks. The gallery is at the corner of Main and Broadway, 1-573-221-4090 and pixperf.com.
• AVA Goldworks, which produces works by master jewelers, is offering a charm that features Twain on one side and a riverboat on the other. The charms comes in sterling silver and 10-karat yellow gold. At 211 Center Street, 1-573-221-1928 and avagoldworks.com.
• Nancy Lee Kaufman Gallery/Studio will be "spinning yarns" during April, with a wheel spinning wool while its operator tells tales and recites quotations related to Twain. If the weather's favorable, the wheel may be set up out front, with a few banjo and guitar pickers joining in. The gallery features handwoven, wearable art at 219 North Main Street, 1-573-248-8256.
• The Rooster's Crow gallery will be offering posters of Twain stories, characters and themes throughout the year. It also has a coloring book and various art and crafts projects centering on Twain. Later this year, the gallery will unveil an original oil painting, "Twain, the Spirit of Hometown America," and is calling for entries to an exhibit of Twain art, with a deadline of April 1. At 221 Bird Street, 1-573-406-1444 and roosterscrowart.com.
• Alliance Art Gallery features the works of 17 area artists, including paintings, sculpture, pottery, drawings, weaving, jewelry and cards. The second Saturday of every month, the gallery is open until 8 p.m. and features an artist. At 112 North Main and hannibalallianceartgallery.com.
• Hickory Stick has been voted one of the top 10 quilt shops in the United States by Better Homes and Gardens. The shop has created a limited-edition Mark Twain fabric collection and a quilt with Twain as the centerpiece. At 326 North Main, 1-573-221-4538 and hickorystickquiltshop.com.
• Reagan's Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast, in a lumber baron's Victorian mansion, is offering "breakfast with Mark Twain." Twain re-enactor Richard Garey shares breakfast with overnight guests and with other visitors on a first-come, first-served basis. At 313 North Fifth Street, 1-573-221-0774 and reagansqueenanne.com.
• Mark Twain Cave Complex has reduced the admission fee for children to $2.10 throughout the year. The charge for visitors in bus groups is two for $20.10. The cave has lantern tours at 8 p.m., ghosts tours twice a month and clerks in period dress, including a Twain character. One mile south of Hannibal on Highway 79, 1-573-221-1656 and marktwaincave.com.