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October 6: Mark Twain Gains a Jewish Son-in-Law

October 6, 2013
weddingMark Twain’s only living daughter, Clara Clemens, a contralto concert singer, married her pianist, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, on this date in 1909. The following year, her father died, leaving her his entire estate in a will (dated prior to her marriage) that provided for quarterly interest payments to keep her “free from any control or interference from any husband she may have.” Gabrilowitsch became conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1918 until 1935, and died the following year at age 58. Clemens lived to be 88 and wrote biographies of both her father and her husband. Mark Twain (who famously called himself “the American Sholem Aleichem” after learning that Sholem Aleichem was often referred to as “the Jewish Mark Twain”) had grown up with anti-Semitic biases but renounced them publicly during and after the Civil War — though even his philo-Semitic writings retained stereotypical views and ignorant utterances about the Jewish people and their role in history and business. “The Jews have the best average brain of any people in the world. The Jews are the only race who work wholly with their brains and never with their hands. There are no Jewish beggars, no Jewish tramps, no Jewish ditch diggers, hod-carriers, day laborers or followers of toilsome, mechanical trades. They are peculiarly and conspicuously the world’s intellectual aristocracy.” —Mark Twain