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Historical photograph of the Mark Twain bust.Mark Twain (1835-1910): American Author 

Mark Twain was the pen name for Samuel Clemens born November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri.  The family moved to Hannibal Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi River when Sam was four. Sam spent many summers on his uncle's farm playing in the slave quarters and listening to tall tales and spirituals that he would enjoy throughout his life.

At age 11 Sam, having completed the fifth grade, went to work as a printer's apprentice for a local newspaper. When Sam turned 18 he went to New York City and Philadelphia where he worked on several different newspapers and found some success at writing articles.

In 1857 Sam returned to Hannibal Missouri to be a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, however the outbreak of Civil War in 1861 ended his new career.  Sam traveled west to strike it rich in Nevada’s silver rush next, and although he gained material for his short stories and books he failed as a silver prospector.

Sam began to write for “the Territorial Enterprise, a Virginia City, Nevada newspaper where he used, for the first time, his pen name, Mark Twain.”  His first big break came in 1865 with the publication of his short story, Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.  Afterwards the Sacramento Union hired him to visit and report on the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and this started a career of travel reporter, for various publications, that would last until the end of his life. Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens died on April 21, 1910 at the age of 74 at his Redding Connecticut home.

Some of Sam’s most famous works include: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889), and his most famous work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). 

Photographs:

Mark Twain Memorial  

Dedication of the Mark Twain Memorial

Further Reading:

Mark Twain House and Museum 

PBS, Mark Twain: A Film Directed by Ken Burns 

Stephan Railton, Mark Twain and His Times

Albert Bigelow Paine, Biography of Mark Twain, Great Literature Online