Prior to the Civil War, Mark Twain worked as a river pilot and gained detailed knowledge of the 1,200 miles of the Mississippi River between St. Louis and New Orleans. This portrait by A. F. Bradley (c. 1906) was taken to benefit victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Prior to the Civil War, Mark Twain worked as a river pilot and gained detailed knowledge of the 1,200 miles of the Mississippi River between St. Louis and New Orleans. This portrait by A. F. Bradley (c. 1906) was taken to benefit victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Twain, Mark





American Author 1835–1910

Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was a great American author and humorist. His novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1894) are considered by many as among the greatest American novels, and are still popular (and sometimes controversial) books to read.

Clemens grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which is located along the shore of the Mississippi River. He became a licensed riverboat pilot, where he learned of the riverboat term "mark twain" that crewmen called out to indicate "two fathoms." Clemens adopted the term as his pen name while beginning to incorporate the Mississippi River as a significant component of his novels.

Clemens recognized the Mississippi River as the lifeblood of the people living near it, bringing them both opportunity and misfortune. After living and working in the far West and traveling to Europe and Palestine, Clemens married and settled in Hartford, Connecticut to write. He entered into his most productive period as an author in the 1870s and 1880s. Clemens returned home to the Mississippi River and wrote one of his most remembered works, a river travelogue titled Life on the Mississippi, which recounted his experiences as a river pilot and the glory days of the steamboat trade. He said that it was his favorite of all his books.

SEE ALSO A RTS , W ATER IN ; M ISSISSIPPI R IVER B ASIN .

Faye Anderson

Bibliography

Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. Boston, MA: James R. Osgood and Company, 1883.

Ward, Geoffrey C., Dayton Duncan, and Ken Burns. Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography. New York: Knopf, 2001.

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