50 Shades Of Union Blue: The Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant Self-Publishing Scheme That Worked

“But I’d made up my mind to one thing–I wasn’t going to touch a book unless there was money in it, and a good deal of it.”–Mark Twain

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Union Soldier

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Union Soldiers

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Union Soldier

They didn’t have email or Twitter, Nook or Kindle but they did have an army of uniformed Union Vets willing to pound the dirt roads of America peddling Grant’s memoir published (and edited) by Mark Twain.The fact that the book was/ is so highly regarded suggests that Grant also had the best possible ghostwriter of any president.

Twain, as we know, often had money woes and the

Broke and dying from cancer, Grant finished his personal memoirs three  days before his death.

Broke and dying from cancer, Grant finished his personal memoirs three days before his death.

dying Grant was bankrupt when he wrote the brooks. How Two Broke Guys made over $600,000 selling deluxe editions door to door after the Civil War is as can-do Mark Twain’s America as it gets.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.
– More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, & over these ideals they dispute & cannot unite–but they all worship money.
– Mark Twain’s Notebook

More of the story from Mentalfloss.com

“Ulysses S. Grant should have been on sound financial footing when he finished his second term in 1877. He was arguably the world’s most famous war hero, and he had been in the White House for eight years.

In 3cab006f903eb482ff5df7ef6b4b7974 7c4c73532874fa8439a0a468f5bdc152 8a3db9a89968495408e34308c6b24e7c a2ff35c47d664dd0db37fa9bf966c4d0 dbe991a828cf13e31b78b860a326063creality, though, his finances were anything but stable. Following a two-year trip around the world and a disastrous investment with a swindling banking partner, Grant found himself on the verge of bankruptcy; he even had to sell his Civil War mementos to pay off debts.

He still had access to that great presidential cash cow, the memoir, though. Mark Twain approached Grant about publishing the war hero’s memoirs with a plum deal that would give Grant 75 percent of the profits as royalties.

Cash-strapped Grant had little choice but to accept Twain’s offer, and the Civil War-focused “Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” hit stores in 1885.

Grant’s memoirs were an instant runaway hit. Twain’s company made the clever choice of employing former Union soldiers in full uniform as salesmen, and the book became one of the best sellers of the 19th century.

Today, the book is considered by many to be the best presidential memoir ever written, but there’s some controversy over who actually did the bulk of the writing. Twain always claimed that he had only made slight edits to Grant’s text, but the prose was so strong that many suspected Twain himself had ghostwritten the book.

Sadly, Grant didn’t get to see the success of his book; he died shortly after its completion. But his widow

Julia Grant, Elizabeth Keckley Gown

Julia Grant, Elizabeth Keckley Gown

Julia banked over $400,000 in royalties from the memoir.

Grant MemoirsWhat General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and

General Grant

General Grant

had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”  -Grant, upon meeting Lee at Appomattox Court House to discuss the terms of surrender.

FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL PUBLISHER’S DELUXE MOROCCO of Grant’s important and fascinating memoirs, illustrated throughout with numerous steel engravings, facsimiles, and over forty maps. Written during the final days of Grant’s life and seen through publication by Mark Twain, the Memoirs provide a personal and poignant record of some of the most significant events in American history.


New York: Charles L. Webster & Co., 1885-86. Octavo, original three-quarters publisher’s deluxe morocco with gilt medallions on boards. Two volumes. Some wear to bindings with a little bit of leather restoration. A very handsome set. $2000.

The Manhattan Rare Book Company

1050 Second Ave, Gallery 50E
New York, NY 10022

tel: 212.326.8907  fax: 212.355.4403
email: info@manhattanrarebooks.com

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