Norman Armour Meets Mark Twain

www.princetonhistory.org… – Laurence Hutton, the literary editor of Harper’s Magazine, was a Princeton resident. The Recollector revealed that among those who visited him at his home “Peep O’Day” in the early 1900s were Samuel Clemens (better known as “Mark Twain,” author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn), and Helen Keller, who triumphed over deafness and blindness to become a writer and inspirational figure.
Norman Armour met Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) when he came to view the Armours’ splendid home library. It was snowing, and young Norman asked his mother for money to buy an expensive Flexible Flyer sled. Mrs. Armour pointedly remarked that when Mr. Clemens was a boy he probably built his own sled.

“Mr. Clemen’s left eyelid lowered slowly in my direction (he was always on the side of the young, you know) and he spoke very deliberately, very slowly. ‘Yes Ma’am, I suppose we did, and I advise no boy of this generation to slide down a hill on such a contraption.’

“He then commenced a detailed description of such an adventure, describing the rapid disintegration of the sled, piece by piece. ‘First one runner decides it has found a better route to the bottom. Then the other follows its lead, and finally the boards themselves assert their independence, until the unlucky carpenter finds himself sliding racily down the hill on little more than the skin God gave him.’”

“Whereupon my Mother handed over the money and I went off to buy my sled; but I didn’t buy a Flexible Flyer. No, I bought a cheaper sled and used the rest of the money to buy my first copies of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.” – Norman Armour

Mr. Armour also met the remarkable Helen Keller (1880-1968), whose wondrous schooling by Anne Sullivan later inspired the play and movie The Miracle Worker.

“Helen Keller came over to our house, brought by Mr. Hutton … she was deaf, dumb and blind, you see, but she conquered all that in some extraordinary way … she put her fingers to your lips and you were supposed to speak and she would know what you were saying … I was terrified, as a small boy … and said something about the weather, I suppose.” – Norman Armour

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