Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain, was born in Missouri, in 1835.
At the age of four he moved with his family to Hannibal, a town on the Mississippi river much like the towns in his two most famous novels: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It was also a slave state. His father owned one slave and his uncle owned several. In fact‚ it was on his uncle’s farm that Clemens spent many boyhood summers playing in the slave quarters‚ listening to the slave spirituals that he would enjoy throughout his life.
When Clemens was twelve his father died and he left school to work as a printer’s apprentice for a local newspaper. His job was to arrange the type for each of the newspaper’s stories‚ allowing him to read the news of the world while completing his work.
While still in his early twenties, Clemens gave up his printing career in order to become a riverboat pilot, but with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 all traffic along the river came to an end‚ as did his pilot career. However he learned a great deal from his life on the river, mainly his pen name Mark Twain, which was a cry used on steamboats to indicate the depth of water-“mark twain” means that is safe to navigate.
In search of a new career‚ Clemens headed west. After failing as a silver prospector‚ he began writing for a Nevada newspaper and signed many articles, stories and novels, which gave him an almost unthinkable celebrity.
His books were sold door-to door and he became wealthy enough to build a large house in Hartford, Connecticut for himself and his family.
Even though Clemens enjoyed financial success during his Hartford years‚ he continually made bad investments ‚ which eventually brought him to bankruptcy. In an effort to pay his debts‚ the family moved 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. In 1896‚ when his daughter Susy died from meningitis at the age of 24 while on a visit to the Hartford home, the Clemenses felt unable to return to the place of her death‚ and never returned to Hartford to live.