Happy Birthday to Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, born this day 1835!
At 13 he apprenticed to a printer and later worked for his older brother, who established the Hannibal Journal. In 1857, the Keokuk Daily Post commissioned Clemens to write a series of comic travel letters, but after writing five he decided to become a steamboat captain instead. He signed on as a pilot’s apprentice in 1857 and received his pilot’s license in 1859.
Clemens piloted boats for two years, until the Civil War halted steamboat traffic. During his time as a pilot, he picked up the term “Mark Twain,” (a boatman’s call noting that the river was only two fathoms deep, the minimum depth for safe navigation). When he returned to writing in 1861, he wrote a humorous travel letter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise and signed it by “Mark Twain” – He continued to use the pseudonym for nearly 50 years.
In 1864, he wrote the story that made him famous: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. Between 1875 and 1885 he published three of his most recognized works; “Tom Sawyer”, “Life on the Mississippi”, and “Huckleberry Finn”.