Mark Twain

“Mark Twain Portrait” 1890 painting by James Carroll Beckwith

It’s easy to see what Mark Twain, Edwin Hubble, and Ginger Rogers don’t have in common, isn’t it? Twain and Hubble were born 50 years apart in the 1800s, while Rogers arrived in 1911. Twain was an adventurer and novelist, Hubble an astronomer, and Rogers an actress, singer, and dancer. Nothing there to link them either.

What they do have in common though, is that they were all born in the state of Missouri. And even more important, there’s a bust of each of them in the Hall of Famous Missourians in the Missouri State Capitol building.

Missouri State Capitol Building

The Missouri State Capitol Building sits on the banks of the Missouri River in Jefferson City, Missouri. Hopefully, three’s a charm, as the current building is the third home to the state legislature in this city, with the first two buildings having burned. This one will celebrate its one-hundredth birthday in 2017.

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And it truly does have lots to celebrate, since the Capitol is architecturally distinctive and built mainly from local materials. Many features, such as its dome, are inspired by the Capitol in Washington, D.C., while others are variations from the Classic Corinthian Capital style. The exterior is made with dense Ozark Gray marble from Carthage, Missouri, in a marble finishing plant erected specifically for the Capitol project.

Missouri Capitol Building

Missouri Capitol Building

Inside the Capitol, the floors are Napoleon Gray marble from the quarries of the Phenix Marble Company, at Phenix, Missouri. Some columns and ashlar gallery walls are also made from this beautiful material.

I’ve always loved staircases and I’ve never seen one more impressive than the 30 foot wide grand staircase in the Capitol. Bronze statues of explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who made their way down the Missouri River in 1804 to explore and map their way to the Pacific Ocean, flank the stairs. They’re in great company, as the Hall of Famous Missourians is situated in the third floor rotunda.

MIssouri State Capitol Building

MIssouri State Capitol Building grand staircase

It may seem strange to say, but much of the original artwork in the Capitol is the result of an accounting error! In fact, when the building was finished there was around a million dollars left that was used for decoration. Now, the Missouri State Museum is also located in the Capitol.

Thomas Hart Benton Murals in the Missouri State Capitol

The abundance of marble, paintings, and sculptures create a dignified air in the Capitol. However, there’s also another more playful side to the artwork.

My favorite part of the collection was the series of social history murals painted by Thomas Hart Benton in 1935 in the House Lounge. Benton’s work tells the people’s story of the state: keel boats and prairie schooners, sorghum mills and turkey farming, outlaws and mansion owners. No piece of history is left unexplored.

The people of Missouri, 235 different characters pursuing their daily work, appear in vibrant colors on the thirteen panels that decorate the room. Painted in egg tempera paint, the murals have only been touched up twice in their 80 years.

Thomas Hart Benton Murals in the Missouri Capitol

Thomas Hart Benton Murals in the Missouri Capitol

Free Tours of the Missouri State Capitol

Free tours start Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m. and are given hourly until 4 p.m. There are four tours on Sunday: 10, 11, 2 and 3 p.m. There are only four holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day) without tours.

For more information see:


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My thanks to the Missouri Division of Tourism for hosting my trip to Missouri, and to Stephen Foutes, Communication Manager, for taking the time to show me around Jefferson City. Visit:

Mark Twain Photo Credit: “Beckwith Mark Twain Portrait” by James Carroll Beckwith – 1890 painting by James Carroll Beckwith, via [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – wiki/File:Beckwith_Mark_Twain_Portrait.jpg#/ media/File:Beckwith_Mark_Twain_Portrait.jpg

Article reference: “Marble Work in the Missouri Capitol”, an article first published in Stone: An Illustrated Magazine, July 1917. Online at

All other photos by Linda Aksomitis

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