February 27, 1891 – March 29, 1981

In his autobiographical dictation of April 17, 1908, Clemens described Frances Nunnally: “…school girl, of Atlanta, Georgia, whom I call Francesca for short. I have already told what pleasant times we had together every day in London, last summer, returning calls. She was 16 then, a dear sweet grave little body, and very welcome in those English homes…”

On June 8, 1907, Clemens sailed to England aboard the S. S. Minneapolis to accept an honorary degree from Oxford University. On board the Minneapolis were Frances Nunnally and her mother who were embarking on a tour of Europe. Nunnally was the daughter of James Hilliard Nunnally and his wife Cora Winship Nunnally of Atlanta, Georgia. James H. Nunnally was a prominent candy manufacturer whose initial business established in 1884 had grown to include factories and retail stores in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida. Nunnally was also a director of several Atlanta financial institutions. Frances Nunnally and her mother, along with Clemens and his party, lodged at Brown’s Hotel in London and young Frances accompanied him around London to visit various dignitaries. Clemens nicknamed her Francesca, and she soon became a faithful correspondent and loyal angel-fish.

When Clemens was photographed in his Oxford robes,
Frances Nunnally stood beside him.
It was a picture he later kept on his bedroom dressing table.

Clemens left England to return to the United States on July 13, 1907, and Frances Nunnally and her mother Cora continued on their European tour. When the two returned to the United States in September 1907, they accepted Clemens’s invitation to visit him at his home in Tuxedo Park, New York.

“…You remember Frances Nunnally? I had Xmas letters from her & her mother day before yesterday, from their home in Georgia. They visited me in Tuxedo in September. Frances (whom I call Francesca for short), was very good to me in London, & drove with me two hours every afternoon, returning calls. Her school is near Baltimore; I am going down there by & by…”–excerpt from letter to Dorothy Quick, July 1907.

Letter from Clemens to Frances Nunnally — January 15, 1908: “Where are you, dear? At school? I suppose so, but you haven’t told me. What I am anxious to know is, can’t you steal a day or two & run up & see us? Miss Lyon & I will go down & board your train at Philadelphia & escort you up. Or, we will go all the way to Baltimore, if you prefer. And gladly. Can you come, dear? And will you? If it isn’t possible to come now, will you name a date & come later? Don’t say no, dear, say yes. With love SLC”.

Frances Nunnally returned to St. Timothy’s School at Catonsville, Maryland near Baltimore that fall. Nunnally and Clemens maintained contact through their correspondence, and in February 1908, Clemens mailed her an angel-fish pin. On March 14, 1908, Clemens wrote her from Bermuda: “Francesca, dear, I am taking the liberty of appointing you to membership in my “Aquarium” (Club).”

Letter from Clemens to Frances Nunnally — June 6, 1908: “You are a very dear & sweet Francesca to answer so promptly, & you so heavy-laden with work, you poor little chap! But soon you’ll be at sea, and that will be fine & restful. I wish I could go with you. I go away Monday the 8th, but shall plan to return Thursday fore-noon so as to be on deck & listening to your telephone message that afternoon. You & your parents must spare us a little of your time at our feed-trough, either at dinner that evening or at luncheon or dinner next day. I am going to count on that, dear heart. With love SLC”.

As evidenced in the above-mentioned letter, Clemens made arrangements to visit with the Nunnally family while they were in New York en route on another summer tour of Europe. After their visit, Clemens wrote the following letter to Frances on June 20, 2008: “You dear little fish, I suppose you are sitting in England today. I had a cable from Clara 4 days ago, announcing a successful recital. I hope you & your mother will see her, but I don’t know her address – except J. P. Morgan & Co., bankers. I have seen the house at last, & have been in it two days, now. You & your mother will like it when you step into it about the 20th of next September – to stay as long as you can. It is altogether satisfactory & requires no change. Half of my fishes are framed & are decorating the wall of the billiard room, on the ground floor, which is the Official Headquarters of the Aquarium, & the other half will be there presently. Your Atlanta picture & the London picture of the two of us are there. I am so sorry I took the New York house for another year. If I hadn’t done that, I would never go back to New York again. Here there is nothing in sight between the horizons but woods & hills; & the stillness & serenity bring peace to the soul. Good-bye dear. With kind regards to your mother, & love to you – SLC – (P.S.) Two fishes will arrive at mid-afternoon – to stay a week, I hope – Dorothy Harvey & Louise Paine; also Dorothy’s governess.”

Angel-fish Card Game

When they returned from Europe in September 1908, Frances Nunnally and her mother Cora visited with Clemens at his home in Redding, Connecticut. Frances Nunnally’s name appears in the Stormfield guestbook for September 27 – 29, 1908. After she had again returned to her school at Catonsville, Clemens sent Frances a copy of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book Anne of Green Gables in October 1908.

On June 9, 1909, Clemens delivered his final public speech at Nunnally’s graduation from St. Timothy’s and posed afterward for photographs with the graduates. The two continued to correspond through 1909.

On November 14, 1912, Frances Nunnally married John Charles Wheatley in Atlanta. The 1920 census lists Frances and John Wheatley residing with her parents and a contingent of servants on Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Wheatley was employed as a bond broker. By 1925, their marriage had ended in divorce. Frances Nunnally moved to Hollywood, California, where she married John Fish Goodrich on April 11, 1925. Goodrich, a graduate of Cornell University, worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter. The couple had one daughter born in 1926, also named Frances (who would later be known as Fran Harpst of Coronado).

Goodrich died in March 1936. Frances’s father, James H. Nunnally, died two years later in May 1938. At the time of his death, James H. Nunnally’s estate was valued at over $7,600,000. Much of his wealth had been accumulated when he and Ernest Woodruff (who was married to Cora Winship, Nunnally’s first cousin) had helped finance a buyout of the Coca-Cola company in 1919. James H. Nunnally served on the board of directors for Coca-Cola for a number of years prior to his death. Frances Nunnally Goodrich and her daughter remained financially independent due to the family’s accumulated wealth.

Advertisement for Nunnally’s candy circa 1920, the company owned by Frances Nunnally’s father

On December 11, 1965, Frances Goodrich and George Winzer, an Australian immigrant, filed a marriage license in Los Angeles, California. George Winzer was seven years older than Frances. She had formerly introduced Winzer to her family doctor as her chauffeur. George Winzer died in November 1973.

Frances Nunnally Winzer died in March 1981 in La Jolla, California, survived by her daughter Frances Goodrich Harpst. During her final years, she had given away fortunes in Coca-Cola stock to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. She also provided building funds for the University of California at San Diego, Coronado Hospital in Coronado, California, and provided financial support to other institutions in Southern California.

Correspondence between Nunnally and Clemens was published by John Cooley in Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens Angelfish Correspondence, 1905-1910.


Samuel Clemens enjoyed the company of women of all ages. Many of his “angel-fish” were accompanied by their mothers or governesses when they visited him–providing additional female companionship. His correspondence with them and the entertaining of them in his homes and abroad provided him a release from loneliness that often surrounded him after members of his own family had died or embarked on separate careers. Clemens was an author with a compulsion to write and many of his young correspondents provided him with an outlet for his playful expressions, thoughts, and phrasings that would have otherwise been repressed and lost — expressions that now remain insights into the creative mind of his genius.

Special Note: Frances Nunnally was mother to Fran Harpst and grandmother to Lynne Harpst Koen. Frances’ granddaughter has gone on to carry out the family heritage of benevolence to all things animal and a generous benefactor to many organizations who serve those in need.

Article based on special feature by, Barbara Schmidt on “Mark Twain Quotes” available at

This entry was posted in Special Tributes. Bookmark the permalink.


Please Leave a Comment or Question

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *