Mark Twain

twain1November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was arguably the most famous riverboat pilot in history.

He also – apparently – liked to write a little.

Young Sam Clemens grew up on the banks of the Mississippi river. His sole ambition as a boy was to pilot a riverboat…which he eventually did. After some time spent on the river, he found his way west to work with his brother in the Nevada territory. It was in Nevada where Clemens first began his work as a professional writer when his mining career floundered. In 1863, he wrote his first humorous piece for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. He signed it as “Mark Twain” – boatman slang for water that was 12 feet deep, or safe to travel for the riverboats.

Twain made his way on to California, found his first commercial success writing “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” and America began to discover one of its greatest and most beloved voices. After marrying and moving to Connecticut, Twain went on to write all-time classic novels like The Adventures of Tom SawyerLife on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

While Mark Twain enjoyed the rare benefit of actually making money with his writing during his lifetime, he was also enamored with scientific progress. He, in turn, invested large portions of his earnings into new technologies and oftentimes lost everything he put in. As another means of income, he toured. He became a featured speaker all over the world and made a new living giving humorous speaking engagements for the last decades of his life. Having outlived his wife and 3 of his 4 children, Twain died of a heart attack in Connecticut at the age of 74. The anecdote about Twain being born – and dying – with the arrival of Halley’s comet is true. The comet appeared the year he was born and he was quoted in 1909 as saying “It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.”

He would not be disappointed. He died the day after its closest approach to earth.


Woodlawn Cemetery – Elmira NY

Specific Location

Enter the cemetery and follow the signs.




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