U.S. #863 – Twain is considered the “greatest humorist of his age.”

Birth of Acclaimed Writer Mark Twain

On November 30, 1835, Samuel Clemens (known by his pen name, Mark Twain) was born in Florida, Missouri.

When he was four years old, Clemens’ family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. It was a bustling town where steamboats arrived three times a day. Circuses and minstrel shows visited often and craftsmen made their daily work into entertainment for passersby. Clemens reveled in the culture of his town and the river that made it thrive. As a young man, Clemens met a steamboat pilot named Horace Bixby. That’s when he decided to become one of the best pilots on the river.

U.S. #4545 – William Faulkner called Twain the “father of American literature.”

Clemens attended school until he was 12, a year after his father died. To help provide for his family, Clemens worked as an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier. Three years later, he began working at the Hannibal Western Union as a printer, and occasional writer and editor. At age 21 he realized a lifelong dream – he began training as a steamboat pilot. He earned his license two years later and found the first great success of his life. Clemens loved the excitement and notoriety. But it was cut short by the start of the Civil War, when business travel all but halted on the river. Clemens briefly joined the Confederacy until his unit disbanded after just a few weeks.

U.S. #1470 – Twain reportedly named Tom Sawyer after a heroic San Francisco fireman.

In search of excitement and fortunes, Clemens traveled west. First, he tried his hand at prospecting, but found little success. Needing to support himself and his family back home, Clemens took a job as a reporter at the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. It was at this time he adopted his pen name, Mark Twain, which is steamboat slang for 12 feet of water. Twain quickly became known as one of the best story tellers in the west. His unique, witty style caught people’s interest.

U.S. #2787 – “All modern American literature comes from… Huckleberry Finn.” – Ernest Hemingway

Twain first appeared on the national stage in 1865, when his short story about life in a mining camp, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” was printed in newspapers and magazines all around America. Two years later, Twain went on a five-month cruise to the Mediterranean. During that trip he wrote a series of humorous articles for U.S. newspapers that were compiled in his first book, The Innocents Abroad. The book became a best seller, and at 34 Twain was one of the country’s most popular writers.

Twain’s most famous work, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was published in 1876. He based the fictional town of St. Petersburg on his childhood home of Hannibal. He began working on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn shortly after, but frequently set it aside to work on other projects. Among these were The Prince and the Pauper, and Life on the Mississippi. He also helped President Ulysses S. Grant publish his memoirs.

Item #81875 – Commemorative cover cancelled on Twain’s birthday.

Everywhere he went, Twain was a celebrity. He received a number of public honors in his later years, including degrees from Oxford and Yale. He also traveled the world on a lecture tour and continued writing until his death in 1910.

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  1. When he was born, Haley’s Comet was in the sky. When he died 76 years later
    Haley’s Comet was once agaion in the shy. He always said he would die when
    it reappered.

    1. It was Comet Halley, not Haley. Halley… rhymes with “valley.” Many people pronounce it like the name of the 50s rock singer Bill Haley, whose band was Bill Haley and the Comets. The name Haley has nothing to do with Sir Edmund Halley who discovered the periodic nature of the comet.

  2. Mark Twain = 12 Feet of Water….interesting fact. Quite the joker and also known for his quotes,
    “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

    “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

  3. An American legend. Thanks for all the information about Mr. Twain. I learn something new everyday by reading TDIH. Thanks, Mystic.

  4. My favorite lines by Mark Twain are from a poem:

    “When men are calling names and making faces,
    “And all the world’s ajangle and ajar,
    “I meditate on interstellar spaces
    “And smoke a mild see-gar.”

  5. I sometimes repeat Clemens’ comment about memory and aging. He said that some people say that we lose our memory as we get older, but he found the opposite to be true. He said that as he got older, his memory improved to the point that he could remember things that hadn’t actually happened.

  6. Little known is the fact that Mark Twain spent much of his time with Nicola Tesla in Tesla`s laboratory and that in 1909, Thomas Edison visited Twain in Connecticut and filmed him ! This is the only known film footage of Twain . He founded a club ANGEL FISH AND AQUARIAN CLUB for surrogate grand daughters aged 10 to 16. Twain , after his visit to East, and India, wrote 712 page book titled FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR . Although biography of Ulysses Grant was a great financial success, biography of Pope Leo XIII was a financial disaster. Surprisingly, Mark Twain had to file for protection from creditors via bankruptcy. But, years later, when his finances improved, he paid his creditors though he had no legal responsibility to pay. ( $300,000 equal to $80 millions in today`s terms) . Thank you MYSTIC for great article on one of the tallest giants of American Literature .

  7. Allegedly, Mark twain also said “if the world comes to an end I want to be in Cincinnati because it will take about two years for them to find out about it”, or words to that effect. I can’t cite a source but it’s a good story.

  8. I’m not that smart in books. Just went to high school….in my day (the sixty’s)
    Women either went on to be secretary’s , hairdressers, sales, or got married!
    Many were not lawyers or dr’s….I wasted a lot of time partying and got married late! Do not have children so I could teach them things! If I had to do it all over I would do the same , but I would have read more classics…it’s not the same now because for some reason time keeps slipping away and I am interested in other things! Maybe soon I will catch up with life! And by the way I’m a hairstylist! Really enjoy it!

  9. I have a refrigerator magnet with a Mark Twain quote. It says, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I’ve read quite a few of his quotes. I think he also said,”A lie is halfway around the world before the truth gets it’s boots on in the morning.”

  10. “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”
    ― Mark Twain

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