Mark Twain, the pen name for Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 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, Missouri, 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 because of pneumonia in the month of March and at 13, Twain left school to become a printer's assistant. After two short years, he joined his brother Orion's newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant at the Hannibal Journal. Twain quickly became saturated in the newspaper trade. Rising to sub‑editor, he indulged in the frontier humor that flourished in journalism at the time; tall tales, satirical pranks and jokes.
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. 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. In 1861, Twain's piloting days ended with the onset of the Civil War and he began working as a newspaper report for several newspapers all over the United States.
Back in Hannibal, Twain learned of military companies being organized to help Governor Jackson and signed up to be a Confederate soldier. However, his military career proved to be extremely brief.
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, 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 depth measured by a sounding lead. 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. Twain's writings were so popular that he embarked upon his first lecture tour, which established him as a successful stage performer.
Hired by the Alta California to continue his travel writing from the east, Twain arrived in New York City in 1867. He quickly signed up for a steamship tour of Europe and the Holy Land. His travel letters, full of vivid descriptions and tongue-in-cheek observations, met with such audience approval that they were later reworked into his first travel book. In 1869 came the publishing of Twain's book of travel letters titled "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. The years were highlighted with his first introduction to Olivia Langdon, whom he married on February 2, 1870. They settled in Buffalo, New York where Sam had become a partner, editor and writer for the daily newspaper the Buffalo Express.
Although Twain enjoyed financial success during his Hartford years, he continually made bad investments in new inventions, which eventually brought him to bankruptcy. In an effort to economize and pay back his debts, Twain moved his family to Europe in 1891. When his publishing company failed in 1894, he was forced to set out on a worldwide lecture tour to earn money
Although the success of 'Innocents Abroad' sold over 67,000 copies within its first year, the Clemens family was soon moving into debt. 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. Published in 1872, 'Roughing It' documented a emigrating travel of Twain through the Wild West during the years of 1861-67, illustrating many of his early adventurers including a visit to Salt Lake City, gold and silver prospecting, real-estate speculation and a journey to the Kingdom of Hawaii.
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.
In 1903, Twain became an avid fan of the Conklin Crescent Filler and in 1904, the Conklin Pen Company received his personal endorsement for the model, addressing the fact that the fountain pen was a profanity saver; it cannot roll out of the desk. Twain lovingly used the Conklin Crescent Filler and became his pen of choice.
Twain passed away on April 23, 1910 and still has a following today. Although his loving wife bore four children, his son Langdon died at the age of two from diphtheria, Susy died from meningitis and Jean died from an epileptic seizure, both daughters in their twenties. Their surviving child, Clara, lived to be 88, and had one daughter. Clara's daughter died without having any children, so there are no direct descendants of Samuel Clemens.
In Twain's 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