San Francisco Tour Tales

Truth or Myth? The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

Truth or Myth?  Mark Twain said: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Myth. While it’s true that Twain didn’t like our city very much, there is no proof that he ever said this about San Francisco. He did write something similar about Paris, although even then he was quoting someone else. In 1880, ten years after leaving California, Twain wrote a letter to his friend Lucius Fairchild who was leaving his post as U.S. consul general in Paris, saying:

…anywhere is better than Paris. Paris the cold, Paris the drizzly, Paris the rainy, Paris the damnable. More than a hundred years ago somebody asked Quin*, “Did you ever see such a winter in all your life before?” “Yes,” said he, “Last summer.” I judge he spent his summer in Paris.

*James Quin was an English actor in the 1700s who was famous for his wit and widely quoted.


Thanks to the Mark Twain Project at U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

Editors note: This article originally appeared in the August, 2013 issue of Guidelines, a publication of SF City Guides.