As a riverboat pilot, confederate soldier, silver miner, frontier journalist and publisher, Mark Twain witnessed the beginning on the Civil War in Missouri, the opening of the West, the corruption, greed and ambition of the Reconstruction Era. He wrote about homeless children, jumping frogs, women’s suffrage and the Franco-Prussian War.
On the Great “Father of Waters” Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910)won a worldwide audience for his stories of youthful adventures. Samuel Clemens, the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens, was in relatively poor health for the first 10 years of his life. His mother tried various remedies on him during those early years, and his recollections of those instances (along with other memories of his growing up) would eventually find their way into Tom Sawyer and other writings.
Being young, he read a lot and often those same adventures could be reenacted with his companions as well, and Clemens and his friends. They often acted out Robin Hood stories, pirate stories and some stories by Walter Scott. In 1847 Clemens’s father died of pneumonia. John Clemens’s death contributed further to the family’s financial instability. After the death of his father, Sam Clemens worked at several odd jobs in town, and in 1848 he became a printer’s apprentice for Joseph P. Ament’s Missouri Courier.
Apprenticeships. In 1850 the oldest Clemens boy, Orion, returned from St. Louis, Missouri, and began to publish a weekly newspaper. A year later he bought the Hannibal Journal, and Sam and his younger brother Henry worked for him. Being a typesetter, he also occasionally contributed sketches and articles to his brother’s paper. He worked briefly as a typesetter in St. Louis in 1853 before traveling to New York City to work at a large printing shop. From there he went to Philadelphia and on to Washington; then he returned to New York, only to find work hard to come by because of fires that destroyed two publishing houses. In 1856 he signed on as an apprentice to a steamboat pilot.
In 1861 he rejoined Orion, secretary to the territorial government and abolitionist, and became a writer for Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise. On February 3, 1863, “Mark Twain” was born when he signed a humorous travel account with that pseudonym, a riverman’s term for water two fathoms deep and thus just barely safe for navigation. In 1864 he left Nevada and went to California. His assaults on the city government made him leave San Francisco. He went to a played-out mine region inhabited by the poor. In 1866 Twain became a travel correspondent for the Sacramento Union, started giving lectures. In 1871 he married and moved to Hartford. Since that time he travelled, lectured and wrote. He moved to Italy where his wife died. In 1910 Twain died in Connecticut.
Main Works. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865)The Innocents Abroad (1869, a record of a trip to the Old World)The Innocents at Home (1872)The Gilded Age (1873, a satire on financial and political wrongdoing of the post-Civil War era)Adventures of Ton Sawyer (1876, depicting moments from his own childhood)A Tramp Abroad (1880)The Prince and the Pauper (1881)Life on the Mississippi (1883, autobiographical)The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885, the novel dramatizes Twain’s idea of harmonious society)A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889, in which Yankee is carried back in time to medieval Britain)