Mark Twain quote : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I've been asked several times about Mark's Twain's supposed quote about SF weather that goes: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Can anyone provide support for this quote and give a source for its original use? Or, alternately, can anyone debunk it?

-- John Martini (, May 25, 2002


PBS says he never said it:

This site has quite an essay on the subject, including a direct link to misattributed quotes:

I will say that, Twain quote or not, it is an accurate statement on San Francisco weather where it can be hot enough to walk around in a bikini all day, but by 5:00 you'd trade your firstborn child for a set of long johns.

-- Rosa Who Else (, May 26, 2002.

When I was 8 years old, I was a huge fan of Mark Twain and thought that "Roughing It" was the best book I had ever read in my entire life and I still think it's kind of a masterpiece significantly better than most of his other writings. I have read many of his works but not all. I don't remember that quote about the "coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco," but what I absolutely do remember him saying about the weather in the summer in San Francisco is that "you can never go without a coat in the summer in the city of San Francisco." He may have worded it slightly different but that is what he said. When Mark Twain was in San Francisco, he suffered a case of hypothermia and that probably did not help his impression of San Francisco weather. It would be interesting to find out when the first time that coldest winter quote first appeared. Like was it first used before 1900 or was it first used in the 1960s. Most likely, some arrogant snot nosed writer or columnist assuming his intelligence highly superior and his memory infallible, jumped from the summer coat quote to the coldest winter in the summer quote. I know many of these bastard writers very well having dealt with them for a number of years. They write stories from their memory which they have mixed up with other stories because they think their memory is infallible. Then when you tell them they are wrong and you show them evidence that they are wrong, they still insist that they are right. Because to admit that they are wrong is like admitting that they are not as smart as you. Which makes they out to be complete idiots. You then go above them to their editors and tell them that their writer is wrong and they say that they have their complete trust in the writer and that what the writer wrote makes a good story so they are going to stick with it. Thus, those complete asshole writers and editors end up completely distorting history. Worst than that of course are the slimeball writers who put themselves above the truth. It doesn't matter to those writers whether they are right about a fact or not, what matters to them is that everything ends up in a good story. In my old days when running with gangs, we should have beaten the crap out of such bastard writers. They really deserved it. Assholes.

-- Harry Murphy (*), June 12, 2002.

Though not the big cigar yet..I found this interesting: ALTA CALIFORNIA 1840-1842 William D. Phelps journal (which by the way is even better than Dana's TYBTM if you can imagine) pg 108 February 8 entry reads: "A green carpet, with flowers of various hues, corresponding to MAY with us, and this is called WINTER HERE(emphasis given). And it is a fact that winter in and about the neighborhood of San Francisco is warmer and much pleasanter than it is in SUMMER, as during...(he explains)

-- Richard Everett (, June 18, 2002.

"Dana's TYBTM"


I know it's something obvious, but my brain isn't working.

-- Rosa (, June 19, 2002.

Sister Rosa: I got it eventually: "Two Years Before The Mast"!

-- John Martini (, June 20, 2002.

Aaaah. Never would have guessed that. Thank you!

-- Rosa (, June 20, 2002.

I am reading "Roughing It" just now. The San Francisco section in fact. What he wrote is "The climate of San Francisco is mild and singularly equable. The thermometer stands at about seventy degrees the year round. It hardly changes at all. You sleep under one or two light blankets summer and winter, and never use a mosquito bar. Nobody ever wears summer clothing. You wear black broadcloth-if you have it-in August and January, just the same....You do not use overcoats and you do not use fans." ("Roughing It" vol. II, chap. XV entitled in the table of contents as "Glorious Climate of California")

In this chapter he further states that Mono Lake has an "eternal winter", San Francisco an "eternal spring" and Sacramento an "eternal summer."

I am sure Harry Murphy (above) will be the first to admit that these are not words to the effect of, "you can never go without a coat in the summer in the city of San Francisco."

-- TJN (, January 12, 2003.

After much argument we searched the 'Batlets Familular Quotations'in order to resolve the dispute as to wether Twain actually coined the quote. It appears that there is no mention of him ever saying, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

We agree that this has incorrectly been attributed to Twain as he seemed a likely author. It captures his wit but he never actually said it.

-- Sandy Rosen (, January 20, 2003.

I have seen that quote attributed to H. L. Mencken. I can't remember where I saw that, but it sticks in my head. I believe he said that after attending a newspaper conference in SF in July.

-- (, April 15, 2003.

I have not been able to verify this yet, but since I have moved here I have heard it attributed to Will Rogers.

-- Brian Mills (, March 29, 2004.

I have been told that it was said by Robert Louis Stevenson.

-- Garey Mills (, September 10, 2004.

I'm pretty sure Yogi Berra said that. Or was it Yogi Bear? Or maybe Max Bear? Or maybe Max Headroom? Or maybe Sweet Jane? Or ...

-- Melanie Wilcox (, December 10, 2004.

The line did appear in the 1979 movie "Escape from Alcatraz" starring Clint Eastwood. Scene in the yard - Frank Morris (Eastwood) is talking with Doc just before Wolf comes over to attack him [Frank].

I actually went to look up the quote, after watching the movie many many timesm and found this site. (read once that Fargo - which starts as "True Story" is a complete lie so I laugh and get into the habit of checking quotes).

The exact quote: "Mark Twain once wrote - the coldest winter he ever spent was the summer in San Francisco."


-- Jeff Holicky (, January 02, 2005.

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