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CHURCHILL and TWAIN at the Waldorf:

An ORIGINAL INVITATION CARD “To a seat on the platform as one of the reception committee.”


3 3/4 x 4 3/4 inches

Item Number: 13562


On the evening of 12 December 1900, in the Grand Ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Lieutenant Winston Churchill, 26-years-old and a Boer War hero, arrived to speak on his first-ever lecture tour of the United States. Captured while covering the war in South Africa as a correspondent for The Morning Post, Churchill had led a daring escape from his prisoner-of-war camp, eluding the ensuing manhunt and (with a price on his head) at last making his way back through enemy lines to Pretoria.

“The grand ballroom,” wrote The New York Times, “was crowded to the doors.” Introducing Mr. Churchill was none other than Samuel Clemens, then-age 65, better known as Mark Twain.

This is an original invitation card sent by Churchill’s lecture booking agent, Major J.B. Pond, for: “a seat on the platform as one of the reception committee on the occasion of Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill’s first lecture in New York…Mr. S.L. Clemens (Mark Twain) will preside and deliver the address of welcome to Mr. Churchill.”

“Mr. Churchill and I do not agree on the righteousness of the South African war, but that is of no consequence,” Twain began. “For years I have been a self-appointed missionary, and have wrought zealously for my cause — the joining together of America and the motherland in bonds of friendship, esteem and affection — an alliance of the heart which should permanently and beneficently influence the political relations of the two countries… Mr. Churchill will tell you about the war in South Africa, and he is competent – he fought and wrote through it himself. And he made a record there which would be a proud one for a man twice his age. By his father he is English, by his mother he is American – to my mind the blend which makes the perfect man. We are now on the friendliest terms with England. Mainly through my missionary efforts I suppose; and I am glad. We have always been kin: kin in blood, kin in religion, kin in representative government, kin in ideals, kin in just and lofty purposes; and now we are kin in sin, the harmony is complete, the blend is perfect, like Mr. Churchill himself, whom I now have the honor to present to you.”

According to the Times, “Mr. Churchill was greeted cordially by the audience. He showed nervousness at first, but soon forgot himself in his subject, and held the attention of his listeners by a clear recital of some of the most striking episodes of the struggle between Boer and Briton. A touch of humor, introduced half unconsciously, lightened up the lecture considerably.”

In his memoir My Early Life, published in 1930, Churchill recalled his evening with Twain:
“I was thrilled by this famous companion of my youth. He was now very old and snow-white, and combined with a noble air a most delightful style of conversation. Of course we argued about the [Boer] war. After some interchanges I found myself beaten back to the citadel ‘My country right or wrong.’ ‘Ah,’ said the old gentleman, ‘When the poor country is fighting for its life, I agree. But this was not your case.’ I think however I did not displease him; for he was good enough at my request to sign every one of thirty volumes of his works for my benefit; and in the first volume he inscribed the following maxim intended, I daresay, to convey a gentle admonition: ‘To do good is noble; to teach others to do good is nobler, and no trouble.’”

The invitation card (3 3/4 x 4 3/4 inches) is in fine condition, just a trifle darkened with age.

Oh, to have been there that night. As close as we can get.