Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835 in Hannibal, Missouri as Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Mark Twain would become his “pen name” later on in his life. When he was four, he moved with his family to Hannibal, Missouri. Hannibal, located on the Mississippi River, would serve as a fictional town in his most famous books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. When Samuel turned 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Four years later, he returned to Hannibal and worked as a riverboat pilot. For some tine after the Civil War, Samuel worked as a miner in the town of Virginia City, Nevada. Although he hoped to find gold in Nevada, his efforts ultimately failed. Nevertheless, he did earn his first writing job at the Daily Territorial Enterprise, a newspaper in Virginia City. It was here, in 1863, that Samuel adopted the pen name Mark Twain.
Mark Twain would soon become one of the greatest authors in American history. In 1876, he published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a story about the adventures of a young boy and his friend, Huckleberry Finn in St. Petersburg, Missouri. The most well-known scene in the story depicts how Tom tricked his neighborhood playmates into whitewashing (painting) a fence that he was assigned to by his Aunt Polly. Tom convinces the boys that the whitewashing is so enjoyable that they actually trade him apples and other items just to participate in the whitewashing. In 1889 Twain published the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is considered by many to be a sequel of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Many consider The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as Twain’s greatest literary accomplishment, as it magically depicts life along the Mississippi River in the 1800’s and illustrates the racist attitudes of the time. The story is centered around Huckleberry Finn and his friend, Jim, a runaway slave who escape together on a raft heading north, and then south on the Mississippi River. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of the first published novels that featured colloquial speech, or, words, expressions, and statements used only by residents of a particular geographic location. Twain also authored several other famous works including The Prince and the Pauper (1882), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). Mark Twain remained a colorful character well for his entire life. He was involved in several societies, leagues, and clubs including the American Anti-Imperialist League, an organization that was opposed to America’s annexation of The Philippines after the Spanish-American War. He was also a member of the Bohemian Club, a secret club for powerful world leaders. In addition, he was the author of many famous epigrams (sayings) such as “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.” and “A habit cannot be thrown out the window, it must be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time.” Before his death, Twain was one of the most famous celebrities in the country. Mark Twain died in 1910.
Today, the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, located in Hannibal, is one of Missouri’s most popular museums. Visitors can explore the Mark Twain Cave and take a riverboat ride down the Mississippi River. The legendary whitewashed fence painted by the fictional character Tom Sawyer borders the property.