“88 Days” Shines a light on Mark Twain in the Motherlode

When most people think of Mark Twain’s literary start they typically don’t think California; the award winning documentary “88 Days in the Motherlode” is out to set the record straight.

Enjoy the Trailer for “88 Days in the Motherlode”

88 Days in the Motherlode trailer

Many of our visitors come to Calaveras to experience a piece of the past – we’re awash in the history of the gold rush and the characters of that era – mixed into these are the stories of Mark Twain and his tale The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.  As generations have passed, details become foggier about where that story originated, who exactly Mark Twain was and what he was doing here in the foothills.  Every legend has its origin story and the filmmakers behind 88 Days in the Motherlode wanted to get Mark Twain’s literary origin story right.

Enjoy the little known story that explores how a struggling newspaperman named Samuel Clemens ran from his troubles in San Francisco and later became the internationally beloved great American author we know as Mark Twain.

From the international award winning documentary 88 Days in the Motherlode.

From the film: “Days after his 29th birthday at the end of November in 1864, Samuel Clemens was broke and in debt. He posted a $500 bail bond for a friend with money he didn’t have. The friend jumped bail and Clemens had to get out of San Francisco…” Thus begins Mark Twain’s journey to the Motherlode.

The film covers the unlikely success of the story Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, sent to a friend, initially rejected for publication. This is the story that would later launch Twain’s career, garnering national and international recognition for his incomparable style and humor. Intrigued by a tale from the mythological gold towns of the west, delighted readers of the day launched Twain into national recognition for the first time in his life and placed the playfully imaginative community of Calaveras on the map.

88 Days in the Motherlode – The Story Behind the Film

It was local author and historian Jim Fletcher, who, after years of believing there was nothing new to discover about the Mark Twain story, one day discovered the books of a gentleman named George Williams III who covered Mark Twain’s time in the West in detail like Fletcher had never before seen.  After this initial discovery, Fletcher went on to find more contemporary sources to verify the information with his own research. This led him to the writings of a contemporary of Twain’s who was with him during the 88 days Twain spent traveling throughout the region.

After about eight months of digging into historical references, and piecing stories together, Jim Fletcher formed a partnership with Sherri Smith, who was also passionate about the story of Clemens’ legacy in Calaveras County and wanted to create an experience that visitors could connect with and help preserve the lore of Mark Twain. This partnership led to Fletcher sharing his findings in the form of a free historical talk known as “88 Days.”

Enjoy an interview with 88 Days in the Motherlode filmmaker John C. Brown of This n That Films and storyteller Jim Fletcher. 

Award winning film producer, John C. Brown of This N That Films, met Jim Fletcher through a mutual friend who suggested Brown go see Fletcher’s presentation “88 Days” at Greenhorn Creek.  It was a match made in heaven. After much labor and love, John C. Brown’s documentary “88 Days in the Motherlode: How Mark Twain Found His Voice” was born–consulting and featuring Jim Fletcher at many points throughout the film.

Jim Fletcher with Mark Twain statue, Calaveras County
Jim Fletcher, “official storyteller of Calaveras County,” photographed with a bronze statue of Mark Twain at Camps Restaurant in Angels Camp, Calif., where he gave his weekly presentation on Twain’s “88 Days in the Mother Lode.”

Ready to Join Other Mark Twain Enthusiasts in True Twainiac Style? 

  • Mark Twain Wild West Fest – Join us for the Mark Twain Wild West Fest in historic downtown Angels Camp the third Saturday of October.
  • Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee – With roots as far back as 1893, join us for one of the longest running fairs in California. This family-friendly four-day event draws an average of 30,000 visitors from all over the world in order to commemorate the event that started it all: jumping frogs in Calaveras County!
  • Angels Camp Carriage House & Museum -You won’t want to miss the Mark Twain exhibit inside. This museum may look small from the outside, but it packs over three acres of historic gold rush fun into one gorgeous multi-complex facility. This family friendly museum is open year round in Angels Camp just North of the historic downtown.
  • Explore Angels Camp – Featuring  the Frog Hop of Fame in downtown Angels Camp, cute historic buildings, restaurants, Mark Twain statues and murals sprinkled throughout the region.