Twain Met “Tom Sawyer” At The Baths

The “real” Tom Sawyer was a heavy-drinking firefighter and local hero whom Mark Twain befriended in the 1860s, according to new analysis by the Smithsonian magazine. The renowned American monthly attempts in its latest issue to settle once and for all a question that has long perplexed scholars: did Twain really name his child hero Tom after his drinking partner Sawyer, a “stocky, round-faced … customs inspector, volunteer fireman, special policeman and bona fide local hero?”

The pair met in the steam rooms in San Francisco in 1863, writes Robert Graysmith in the Smithsonian, where Sawyer recounted the incredible story of how he had saved dozens of people from a shipwrecked steamer off Baja California – a story close to Twain’s heart as his brother had been killed by a steamboat explosion. Sawyer swam back and forth between the ship and the shore, “a feat of amazing strength and stamina”, and is credited with saving 90 lives at sea, 26 singlehandedly.

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