Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), 1835 - 1910

portrait of Mark Twain
Photo by A. F. Bradley, New York (1907)
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Born: 30 November 1835, Florida, Missouri
Died: 21 April 1910, Redding, Connecticut

The author we know as Mark Twain grew up at Hannibal, Missouri along the Mississippi River. After his father's death he started setting type in a newspaper shop at age 12 and soon was contributing articles and sketches to the Hannibal Journal, owned by his elder brother Orion. He abandoned his writing career at 21 to become a river boat pilot, two years training followed by four highly-paid years that ended when the Civil War curtailed river traffic. He went west, writing for newspapers in Nevada and California. Fortunately for us, he made a series of bad investments, both in building his own publishing company and financing various inventions, which forced him to write a staggering number of words. "Mark Twain" was the sounding call of the leadsman on a riverboat, indicating two fathoms (twelve feet) of water, a safe depth for the riverboats. A captain he admired had sent brief items about the river to the New Orleans Picayune under that name, when he learned that the captain had died he settled on it for most of his own work.

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