Early Life of Mark Twain
He was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, to John Marshall Clemens and Jane Langdon Clemens. He was the sixth of seven children in the family. In 1839, his father moved the family to Hannibal, Missouri, along the Mississippi River. It wouldn't be until 1863 that he began using the pen name Mark Twain. He chose it because of the meaning in boating jargon of two fathoms, or 12 feet, the proper depth for steamboats on the river. He had always dreamed of being a pilot on a steamboat.
Mark's father died in 1846, forcing him to work to help the family. He began work as an apprentice printer striving to be a pilot on the steamboats. By 1857, he was working on a steamboat and convincing his brother Henry to sign on another boat. But on June 13, 1858, a deadly boiler explosion took the life of Henry. Mark carried the blame for Henry's death for the rest of his life.
Mark continued working on steamboats until the Civil War broke out in 1861. He left to join his brother Orion in Nevada and attempted to work the silver mines, but that didn't work out, so he took a job as a reporter for a Virginis City, Nevada newspaper in 1862. This is the period he began using the pen name, Mark Twain.
Mark Twain's Writing Career
Throughout Twain's writings, he challenged issues facing America. Racism, class barriers, access to education, and slavery. He addressed the hypocrisy in America yet still practiced slavery. Critics of his writings found him to be 'too common, yet it was the very reason the public adored him as he wrote the truth with simplicity and his witty personality.
Twain made Hannibal famous because of the settings in his books along the Mississippi River. In his book, The Adventurers of Huckleberry Finn, he based the character on his friend Tom Blankenship. Twain depicted him as ignorant, unwashed but with a good heart. Rumors of the real Blankenship were that he went on to be a justice of the peace in Montana. Another rumor was that he was jailed for a crime and then died of cholera. It took Twain seven years to finish The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. But it was worth the wait to his fans. His books have been banned for low moral code and racism, using the word 'nigger.'
Twain was also an inventor, with a U.S. patent for adjustable and detachable straps, replacing suspenders, a history and trivia game, and a self-pasting scrapbook.
Tragedies In Mark Twain's Life
His life was not without tragedy and setbacks. Twain was a printer, pilot on steamboats, a silver miner, entrepreneur, lecturer, and inventor. He is famous for his white suits and ignoring the fashion rule of 'no white after Labor Day. Unfortunately, his investment in a printing press failed to leave him in financial ruin. When he met Henry Huttleston Rogers about 1894, Rogers was a higher-up for the Standard Oil Company and took Twain under his wing, advising him to file bankruptcy and putting his affairs in his wife's name to avoid creditors. They would remain best friends for life.
The deaths in Twain's life left him at times with depression. He lost his father at an early age, lost his brother Henry in a tragic accident, his wife, Olivia, and three of his children. By the time Twain died in 1910, only his daughter Clara (1874-1962) was left. There are no known surviving descendants of Mark Twain.
Mark, his wife Olivia, and his children are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, New York.
Twain, being honorable, embarked on a worldwide travel lecture to gain finances to repay his debts.
Short Timeline of Mark Twain
1835 Mark Twain born
1846 His father John Marshall Clemens dies
1868 Receives his pilot's license for steamboats
1868 Honorary membership in Yale's Scroll and Key
1876 Writes The Adventurers of Tom Sawyer
1894 Writes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
1904 Wife Olivia dies
1907 Honorary D. Lit from University of Oxford
Movies of Mark Twain
In 1944, the movie The Adventures of Mark Twain was released with Frederick Marsh starring. It was nominated for three Academy Awards. In 1993, the film, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was released and was a huge success.
Hal Holbrook (1925-2021) played Mark Twain Tonight on Broadway for deadcades. Hal played the part over 2000 times, winning a Tony Award in 1966.
Memorials To Mark Twain
Named in honor to Mark Twain:
Mark Twain Lake, Jellystone Park, Missouri
Mark Twain Cave, Hannibal, Missouri
Mark Twain State Park, Shrine Rd., Florida, Missouri
Mark Twain Museum, 120 N. Main St., Hannibal, Missouri. 573-221-8010
Statue of Mark Twain at Finney County Library, Quaker City, Kansas