March 25th, 1867.
AT HOME AGAIN
EDITORS ALTA: I landed here in my old home more than three weeks ago, and have been very busy visiting old friends ever since. The changes that years have wrought in the city are not apparent to me. It is because they have chiefly been made at both ends of the town, and I have not been out of its centre yet. And, also, the buildings that have been put up all through my part of the city are so blackened and begrimed with coal smoke that I cannot persuade myself that I have not been perfectly familiar with them in the old times. When I left St. Louis she had a population of 150,000, and they called it 175,000; now she has a population of 204,000, and they call it 250,000. But you will admit that an increase of over fifty thousand in less than seven years is remarkable for an inland town.
Bremen and Carondelet are great cities now, and are so knitted to the main city that the dividing lines are obliterated. They tell me that one may ride ten or twelve miles in a straight line north and south without changing street cars - I mean to test the truth of it.
One of the things that is constantly surprising me is the way the reality diminishes sizes and distances that have been lying on record in my memory so long. In my recollection, the Court House was something prodigious - almost awe-inspiring; but when I came to look at it the other day, it had shrunken so much that I could not understand how it had ever held so large a place in my memory. The house I had always lived in had undergone the same wonderful process of seeming reduction. But you who have revisited your homes, after years of absence, understand this.
Localities which, in my memory, were long distances apart, I am astounded to find close together now. I start out for a moderate walk, and am amazed to find myself at the Mound or the Shot Tower - and right in town at that. Or I go in another direction and stumble on the Soulard Market, when I thought it was miles away. I find the Cave, and Camp Springs, and La fayette Park, when I am no more expecting them than I am expecting to stumble upon Great Salt Lake City. Why, sixteen or seventeen years ago, nobody thought of walking to these distant places; we made important Sunday excursions to them in omnibuses, at long intervals.
WHERE THE CHANGE IS
I find no change of consequence in grown people, I do not miss the dead. It does not surprise me to hear that this friend or that friend died at such and such a time, because I fully expected that sort of news. But somehow I had made no calculation on the infants. It had never occurred to me that infants grow up to be men and women in the course of years, and so I caught my self making such inquiries as, "Well, how is little Johnny; does he eat as much candy as ever?" and getting replies that made me feel inexpressibly old - such as, "No, little Johnny is married now, and is Captain of a steamboat." Infants I had not seen for twelve or fifteen years had remained infants to me during all that time. These unexpected changes, from infancy to youth, and from youth to maturity, are by far the most startling things I meet with. Girls I used to trot on my knee could trot me that way now, if they wanted to - but somehow they don't. I meet these infants every day; and in place of the little short dresses and bibs and neglected noses I cherished in my memory, I find stately women, and long trails, and awful waterfalls. It is perfectly stunning. However, I am generally allowed a kiss for old acquaintance sake, and I am sorry now that I didn't know all the female babies in the country when I left. One of my old sweet hearts I have been dreaming of so long has got five children now. It was a great blow to me. If she had had fifty I couldn't have stood it at all.
I find the long levee bordered with steamboats its entire length, as formerly, and now that the Mobile and Ohio Railroad is mostly under water, they are doing a heavy business South. The other river trades are good also. A great daily line of splendid boats, which connects with European steamers at New Orleans, does most of the carrying, both in freight and passengers, but it has not paid, and it is thought that the company will sell out this summer and quit.
The lower river boats are being made larger and larger every year. The Great Republic, just finished at Louisville, will carry in the neighborhood of three thousand tons - possibly more; even her Custom House measurement is twenty-five hundred tons. The largest load I ever saw one steamboat take into New Orleans was eighteen hundred tons, and that was bragged about for a long time.
The women of Missouri have started a sensation on their own hook. They are petitioning the Legislature to so provide for the amending of the Constitution as to extend to them the privilege of voting (along with us and the nigs., you know). They published one of these petitions a few days ago, with about two hundred names to it, and among them were those of some of the best known and most influential ladies of St. Louis. Thirty-nine members of the Legislature have declared in favor of the movement. Don't you know that such a showing as that is amazing, in view of the colossal dimensions of the proposed innovation? It strikes me that way. If four or five hen-pecked husbands, or badgered and bully-ragged old bachelors, had been driven into a support of the measure, nobody would have been surprised; but when the list soars up to thirty-nine, it is time for all good men to tremble for their country.
I attacked the monster in the public prints, and raised a small female storm, but it occurred to me that it might get uncommon warm for one poor devil against all the crinoline in the camp, and so I antied up and passed out, as the Sabbath School children say.
I don't want to say much about this subject in the ALTA, because the ladies may take it up on the Pacific next, and I don't want to get myself into trouble there also.
I went to church twice last Sunday, and to Sunday School three times (all my folks live here, and I have got to go mighty slow, you know; I infest all the prayer meetings and church "sociables," and conduct myself in a manner which is as utterly unexceptionable as it is outrageously irksome. I have kept up my lick so far, as the missionaries say, but I don't think I can stand it much longer. I never could bear to be respectable long at a stretch). Sunday afternoon, the Superintendent of one of those populous Sunday Schools came around to my pew and asked me if I had ever had any experience in instructing the young - in addressing Sunday Schools. I said, "My son, it is my strong suit." (I was still keeping up my lick, as the missionaries say.)
He said he would be glad if I would get up in the altar and make a few remarks, and I said it would be the proudest moment of my life. So I got up there and told that admiring multitude all about Jim Smiley's Jumping Frog; and I will do myself the credit to say that my efforts were received with the most rapturous applause, and that those of the solemn deacon's to stop it were entirely unheeded by the audience. I honestly intended to draw an instructive moral from that story, but when I got to the end of it I couldn't discover that there was any particular moral sticking out around it anywhere, and so I just let it slide. However, it don't matter. I suppose those children will cipher a moral out of it somehow, because they are so used to that sort of thing. I gained my main point, anyhow, which was to make myself respected in California, because you know you cannot help but respect a man who makes speeches to Sunday Schools, and devotes his time to instructing youth.
I did not intend to lecture in St. Louis, but I got a call to do something of that kind for the benefit of a Sunday School; and as long as I had to keep up my lick anyway, I thought I had better go ahead. So I preached twice in the Mercantile Library Hall. I haven't vanity enough to print all that the newspapers said, but I will venture to extract a fourth of the Republican's notice:
"The audience was large and appreciative, and financially and every other way, the entertainment proved a complete success. In fact, Mark Twain achieved a very decided success. He succeeded in doing what we have seen Emerson and other literary magnates fail in attempting - he interested and amused a large and promiscuous audience. We shall attempt no synopsis of his entertainment. Ostensibly it was on the Sandwich Islands but while it contained not a little valuable information and many passages of felicitous description, it also embraced many other topics geographically and otherwise foreign to the matter in hand, and had many a piquant piece of humor interwoven, which, with the bright flash of genuine wit, startled with laughter and kept alive the attention of the audience."
I think that is pretty complimentary, considering that when I delivered that lecture I was not acquainted with a single newspaper man in St. Louis. I do not do anything here but gad around among old friends. But if you want to know the places where audiences are jolly, and where they snap up a joke before you can fairly get it out of your mouth, they are St. Louis, San Francisco, San Jose and Carson City.
The Mayor of St. Louis is elected by the people, and the Board of Police Commissioners is appointed by the Governor of the State. The Commissioners appoint the Chief of Police, the Street Inspector, the police force, etc. This plan pretty effectually prevents the turning of the police part of the City Government into a machine for hoisting demagogues and politicians into power, and is a good feature. But for some reason or other the Mayor and the Commissioners have fallen out with each other and do nothing but fight like cats and dogs all the time. One party accuses the other of all sorts of outrageous things in newspaper publications, and the next day out comes a furious reply from the other side. It spices our breakfast handsomely, anyhow. The Commissioners say that during the cholera season, when people were dying so fast that carts were sent around and dead bodies dumped in by the dozen without the formality of being shrouded first, the Mayor kept two hundred corpses stacked up on a sandbar at the lower end of the city, and refused for four days to let them be buried by the servants of the city - said it was the county government's place to bury them; the county held out obstinately, and so did the Mayor; so the Commissioners had to fill a detachment of policemen full of whiskey, so that they wouldn't mind the lively flavor of the departed, and stand guard over them as long as they held together, and they say that all those twenty-two policemen had to be kept full of whiskey during all that four days at a ruinous expense - and you know yourself that you could bury a whole community for less money than it would cost to keep twenty-two policemen in soak for four days. It stands to reason that you could. And finally, the citizens in the neighborhood, not being fortified with whiskey, began to consider the perfume from the dead-house as rather disagreeable, and so they went to work and burned it down, with all its fearful cargo. Since I have been in the city, the child of an indigent woman has lain four days unburied because of this quarrel between the police, the Mayor, and the county. How ever, the child was not dead, and so I suppose there wasn't really any occasion to bury it. But it showed the animus of the thing, you know. The Commissioners say the Mayor shelters the gamblers and thieves, protects them from arrest when he can, and gets them out of prison when they are incarcerated. In return, the Mayor says the Commissioners do not make the Street Officer do his duty; that dead-falls and pit-holes are left exposed everywhere, with not even a lantern near them at night to warn the stranger; says they lie about him, and never attend to their own duties; and he says he disguised himself one night and walked eighty squares without ever finding a policeman, except a squad of half a dozen, whom he caught warming themselves at a stove in a gin-mill. I guess that story is pretty straight. You know yourself that when a policeman is cold he is going to hunt a place to warm himself the first thing, and when he is warm he will skirmish around for a cool place; and whenever things get dull, and he can't find anything in the world to do to pass away the time, he will just get reckless and go on his beat awhile, maybe. You can't tell me anything about the police, because I know them by the back. I like the police well enough, but I don't consider it judgment to bet on them.
This Mayor here is a mighty plain-spoken man. He wrote to the Convention that he had never sought an office and never wanted one; that he had served two terms as Mayor, but never thanked the people for electing him, and never thanked the Convention for nominating him; said he didn't want the office now and wouldn't thank them to nominate him, and wouldn't thank the people if they elected him. He wanted that understood plainly beforehand - he was not going to be under obligations to any body. And they went ahead, nevertheless, and nominated him by a vote of about ten to one. He will be elected, I suppose, and if he has got a spark of humanity in him he will start a grave yard on his own private account to bury disputed corpses in.
The public schools of St. Louis are in a far more flourishing condition than those of any other Southern city or state. A two mill tax and the revenues from ample school lands furnish all the money necessary to build or rent all the school-houses needed, and furnish them with teachers and other furniture. The total value of property used for school purposes in St. Louis is $533,440.95. The average number of teachers employed is 204; the number of pupils enrolled is 14,556 - this is an increase of 5,000 in nine years. Two-thirds of the pupils were born in St. Louis. The Normal School shows a graduating class of twenty six this year. The High School graduating class numbers twenty seven. The total number of public school-houses in the city is thirty.
The Superintendent's Report, now before me, says of the colored schools ordered by State law, that "the efforts of the Board to establish schools for colored children have not as yet been successful," but that a special committee has been ordered to rent proper buildings and open such schools without any de lay that can possibly be avoided. The new Webster and Carroll school-houses, just completed, rank among the finest edifices in the city. They cost respectively $35,000 and $40,000.
As to wages of teachers, the female Principal of the Normal School gets $2,000 a year; one female assistant $1,100 and one $850. The male Principal of the High School gets $2,750; one male assistant, $2,000; three male assistants, $1,700 each; one female assistant, $1,200; two female assistants, $1,000 each, and another $700. Nine male Principals of the District Schools get $1,700 each; three others $1,500 each; three female Principals get $l,000 each; eight female Principals get $900 each; and then there is a whole raft of small-fry female teachers who get from $550 to $700. Two music teachers get $1,500 each.
They don't teach French or Latin or such things in the District Schools, but they run a good deal of German and mental arithmetic, and a new-fangled study they call Moral Culture. I don't recollect it in our school.
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