Mark Twain’s “The Canvasser’s Tale”

He carefully made up his mind, and once more entered the field – this time to make a collection of echoes.

“Of what?” said I.

Echoes, sir.


In Mark Twain’s “The Canvasser’s Tale”, the canvasser tells the narrator the story of his uncle who buys and sells echoes. While he manages to make some money, of course, eventually everything falls through.

It’s the 19th century version of derivitives. Or the 19th century version of Enron. Or the 19th century version of the 21st century’s Great Recession. Well, OK, I realize there have been other recessions and depressions since the 19th century so maybe my analogy went a little too far.

But Mark Twain is quite the prophet.