Despite our personal dissatisfaction that the U.S. Postal Service did not issue a Halley’s Comet Christmas stamp commemorating the 1301 appearance of Halley’s Comet as depicted in Giotto’s “Adoration of the Magi”, we are happy to report that on December 4, a commemorative aerogramme was issued in Hannibal, Missouri.  Back in July in Elmira, New York, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the design of the unusual 36-cent aerogramme which commemorates both Halley’s Comet and Mark Twain on his 150th birthday during the 100th anniversary year of THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN’S publication.


                 Twain’s year of birth, which coincided with the 1835 appearance of Halley’s Comet, and his accurate prediction that he would die in the year of its next appearance, are behind the decision to assign a dual theme to the aerogramme.  Twain is quoted by biographer Albert Bigelow Paine as saying “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835”.    It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.  It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.  It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.  The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, the must go out together.’”  Twain died on April 21, 1910, the day after Comet Halley reached perihelion (point closest to the Sun).


            The design was unveiled in Elmira, New York, in conjunction with the opening of the Chemung County Fair last July.  Clemens and his wife, an Elmira native, are buried there.


            Drawing almost exclusively from his many personal experiences, Mark Twain used them ingeniously to become one of America’s greatest writers.  As a young man, he worked for a printer, was a riverboat pilot, a gold miner during the Civil War years, a reporter on the western frontier and a world traveler.


            Hannibal, Missouri, where he was born and spent his early years, provided background for HUCLELBERY FINN, published on February 18, 1885.  Through colorful use of dialects, Twain provides a vivid description of late 19th century life on the Mississippi River.  An adventure story as well as an historic novel, the book deals with profound moral issues such as slavery and racism.  William Faulkner and many other writers have said that it is one of our best literary works.  Ernest Hemingway once wrote that “all modern American literature comes from this one book…


            Dennis Luzak of Redding Ridge, Connecticut, designed the multicolor aerogramme.  Its front, when folded for mailing, features Luzak’s representation of Halley’s Comet with “USA 36” below it as the indicium in the upper right corner and, at lower left, his portrait of Mark Twain is coupled with the quotation predicting Twain would die in the year of the comet’s next appearance.  Folding instructions and the words “Aerogramme.  Via Airmail.  Par Avion  are printed along the lower left edge of the front side.


            Artwork on the reverse side of the aerogramme depicts Huckleberry Finn  in front of a steamboat, a second portrait of Twain, and Halley’s Comet against a background of stars and sky.  (Photographs of the comet in 1910 show it with differently shaped tails, including the flared and tapered ones depicted by Luzak, at various stages of its life.)  Appearing below this panel of illustrations is the legend “1835 . Mark Twain . 1910 . Halley’s Comet . 1985.”






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