In the summer of 1890, Samuel Clemens (second from the right), his wife Livy, and their three daughters rented a cottage called The Balsam at Onteora Park. Twain’s good friend and literary editor of Harper’s Magazine Laurence Hutton (fifth from the left) and his wife were also in residence.
Onteora Park was the first of several private communities built in the Catskills during the 1880s as a summer residence for artists, writers, and select wealthy families. Candace Wheeler (center chair) and her brother, Frank Thurber, bought the land and founded the colony, which quickly developed into a lively seasonal community. Clemens famously did not finish a single story that summer, although he did have his portrait painted by Carroll Beckwith (far left). There was an orchestra to play during meals and at the dances in the evenings. There were theatrical productions in which everyone took a role, as well as pantomimes, charades, and stories told by firelight.
That summer frequent dinner parties moved between the Clemens and Hutton cottages, such as the one that brought these men and women together. Several prints of this photograph were made and the individual sitters signed each of the mounts. For whatever reason, the print at Princeton (donated by Hutton) is missing one signature, which is present in other published examples.
Those who did sign include painter James Carroll Beckwith (1852-1917); W.F. Clarke; Mary Elizabeth Dodge (1830-1905); Lillie Hamilton French (1854-1939); Laurence Hutton (1843-1904); Brander Matthews (1852-1929); Richard Heber Newton (1840-1914); Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain, 1835-1910); Onteora’s founder Candace Wheeler (1827-1923); Dora Wheeler (1849-1916).