Mark Twain: author, river pilot, reporter

By Stephanie Ball

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on Nov. 30, 1835, in Florida, Mo. He was the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemons and would later be known as Mark Twain.

Four years after his birth, Clemens’ family moved to Mississippi, where they built a home near the river bank. When Clemens was 12, his father died of pneumonia, which led Clemons to quit school and work as printer’s apprentice. Clemens began working as a printer and editorial assistant with his brother, Orion Clemens, at Hannibal Western Union when he was 14. While working at Hannibal Western Union, Clemens discovered his passion for writing.

Clemens moved to St. Louis to work as a printer when he was 17. He was a river pilot’s apprentice and later became a licensed river pilot. Clemens’ pseudonym, Mark Twain, originates from his days as a river pilot and means that it is safe to navigate. The Civil War halted river trade in 1861 and Clemens began working as a newspaper reporter for various newspapers throughout the U.S.

He married Olivia Langdon in 1870 and they had four children. Clemens started to gain attention when his story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County,” was published in “The New York Saturday Press.” His first book, “The Innocents Abroad,” was published in 1869, followed by “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

As Mark Twain, Clemens wrote 28 books – including short stories and sketches. He died on April 21, 1910.