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Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835 in the small river town of Florida, Missouri, just 200 miles away from Indian Territory. The sixth child of John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton, Twain grew up amid small-town life in Florida until the age of four, when his family relocated to Hannibal in hopes of an improved living situation. Twain, by lineage, was a Southerner with both his parents' families originating in Virginia. But the community of Hannibal provided a mix between rugged frontier life and the Southern tradition, a lifestyle that influenced Twain's later writings including the Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Growing up in the unusual river town of 2000 inhabitants, Twain was a mischievous boy, the prototype of his own character, Tom Sawyer. His formal schooling ended after the age of 12, when his father passed away in the month of March. First learning as an apprentice in a printer's shop then working under his brother, Orion, at the Hannibal Journal, Twain quickly became saturated in the newspaper trade. Rising to sub‑editor, Twain indulged in the frontier humor that flourished in journalism at the time; tall tales, satirical pranks and jokes.

But over the next few years, Twain was unable to save wages and became restless, deciding to leave Hannibal in June of 1853 to take a job in St. Louis. But instead of settling in St. Louis, Twain proceeded to travel back and forth between New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Iowa as a journalist. But after his wanderings. Twain ultimately switched professions after realizing an old boyhood dream of becoming a river pilot.

Mark Twain became a licensed river pilot at the age of 24. Earning a high salary navigating the river waters, Twain was entertained by his own position, traveling from city to city and never settling. But in 1861, Twain's piloting days ended with the onset of the Civil War. Back in Hannibal, Twain learned of military companies being organized to help Governor Jackson and signed up to be a Confederate soldier. On his way to Nevada twelve years after the Gold Rush, Twain's primary intentions were to travel and strike it rich mining for silver and gold. But after being unsuccessful and with resources diminishing, Twain once again picked up his pen and began to write. Joining the staff of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, Twain became an established reporter/humorist and in 1863 adopted the pseudonym Mark Twain, derived from the river pilot term describing safe navigating conditions. In 1865, he gained overnight fame with the short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County published in the Saturday Press and widely reprinted. In 1869 came the publishing of Twain's first book of travel letters entitled Innocents Abroad, which was met with critical reception and is seen as discouraging Twain from the literary life. The years that followed consisted of various articles, lecture circuits, and relocations between San Francisco, New York, and Missouri. But the years were highlighted with his first introduction to Olivia Langdon, whom he married on February 2, 1870.

The Clemens family was soon moving into debt. But with over 67,000 copies of Innocents Abroad sold within its first year, American Publishing Company asked for another book. And along with Olivia's persuasions, the couple moved to the domicile town of Hartford, Connecticut, where Twain produced a series of well-known books over the next four decades. His distinctive writing style blended folk humor, barbed satire, and an unparalleled grasp of American idioms. Here he penned Roughing It a documentation of the post-Gold Rush mining epoch published in 1872.

After traveling to Europe and lecturing once again, a turning point in Twain's career was marked by the publishing of The Gilded Age, a novel written in collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner about the 1800s era of corruption and exploitation at the expense of the public welfare. Published in 1873, The Gilded Age was Twain's first extended work of fiction and mapped him in the literary world as an author rather than journalist. After the success of The Gilded Age, Twain began a period of concentrated writing. In 1880, his second daughter, Jean, was born. By the time Twain reached the age of fifty, he was already considered a successful writer and businessman. His popularity skyrocketed with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1882), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). By then, he was considered among the greatest character painters in the literary community.

Twain died on April 23, 1910. In his lifetime, he became a distinguished member of the literati, honored by Yale, University of Missouri, and Oxford with literary degrees. With his death also came a publishing onslaught of volumes of letters, articles, and fables, including: The Letters of Quintas Curtius Snodgrass (1946); Simon Wheeler, Detective (1963); The Works of Mark Twain: What is Man? And Other Philosophical Writings (1973); Mark Twain's Notebooks and Journals (1975-79).