George A. Mahan, who had been instrumental in preserving Mark Twain's boyhood home and historic district, commissioned Missouri artist Frederick Hibbard to sculpt a special statue. This monument, celebrating Hannibal’s most famous sons Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, would become the first public statue in America devoted to fictional characters. Hibbard, no stranger to Hannibal, had previously completed a remarkable statue of Mark Twain that was installed in Riverview Park.
George Mahan and Frederick Hibbard
Using live models, Hibbard set out to create the statue in a manner in which would help tell the story of the two young men. Tom, on the right, is ready to step out into the world seeking his next adventure. Huck, wearing the ragged clothing that Twain had described in his books, has his hand on Tom's shoulder in an attempt to hold him back and prevent Tom from leaving him behind.
The completed bronze statue was placed at the foot of Cardiff Hill at the northern end of Main Street. The Mahan family donated this statue to the City of Hannibal in a dedication ceremony on May 27, 1926. Attending the ceremony were Laura Hawkins Frazier (Mark Twain's childhood sweetheart and his model for Becky Thatcher) and Mrs. J. J. Brown (aka "Unsinkable" Molly Brown).
Frederick Hibbard at work in his studio
The Tom & Huck statue as it looked in the 1950s. At this time, cars would drive around the statue toward the ramp leading to the Mark Twain Bridge across the Mississippi.