Both Mark Twain and Walt Disney were fascinated by childhood fantasies. Mark Twain’s boyhood interests in adventure and exploration developed into his well-known (often required reading in high school) book, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”
Disney gained a love for the writings of Mark Twain. He aspired to build a riverboat and an island within Disneyland to express his appreciation for Mark Twain’s work. He created Tom Sawyer’s Island and the Mark Twain Riverboat, originally known as the Mark Twain Steamboat. His desire to sail the Mark Twain Riverboat was so strong that when the corporate completion money ran out he paid the difference himself. Workers completed the boat just four days before the grand opening of the Disneyland Park on July 17, 1955.
July 13, 1955 was Walt and Lillian Disney’s 30th wedding anniversary and the riverboat’s maiden voyage was during the couple’s huge anniversary celebration at Disneyland. Three hundred guests received an invite to the party. They boarded the Mark Twain Riverboat and sailed down the Rivers of America while sipping on Mint Juleps. After their boat ride, the guest herded into the Golden Horseshoe Saloon for the very first performance of the Golden Horseshoe Revue.
Walt Disney’s dream of sailing the Mark Twain Riverboat through Disneyland continues to live on. With a little imagination, you can relive July 13, 1955 today by jumping aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat, sipping a Mint Julep, walking off and heading a few steps over into the Golden Horseshoe for a fine performance.