American Author, Humorist, Entrepreneur, Publisher, and Lecturer. He is remembered not only for authoring many books, but also for his humorous maxims, quotations, and opinions. When he was 4 years old, his family moved from his birthplace of Florida, Missouri, to nearby Hannibal on the Mississippi River where he grew up experiencing life on the waterfront. His father was an attorney and judge, who died of pneumonia in 1847, when Clemens was 11. The following year, he left school after the fifth grade to become a printer's apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter, contributing articles and humorous sketches to the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper that his brother Orion owned. Similar to many authors of his day, he had little formal education; his came from the print shops and newspaper offices where he worked as a youth. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He educated himself in public libraries in the evenings. After two years of study, he became a licensed Mississippi riverboat pilot, navigating the river for some five years. He continued to work as a riverboat pilot until the Civil War broke out in 1861, when traffic was curtailed along the Mississippi River. He then left for Nevada to work for his brother Orion, who was Secretary of the Nevada Territory. He failed as a gold and silver miner and went to work at the Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. His time on the Mississippi gave him his pen name. The river boatman's cry was "mark twain." That term meant that, according to the mark on the line, the depth of the water was two fathoms or 12 feet deep, which was safe for a steamboat to navigate. He first used his pen name in Virginia City on February 3, 1863. His first success as a writer came when his humorous tall tale, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," was published on November 18, 1865, in the New York weekly The Saturday Press, bringing him national attention. In 1867, a local newspaper funded his trip to the Mediterranean which included a tour of Europe and the Middle East. He wrote a collection of travel letters which were later compiled as The Innocents Abroad (1869). On this trip, he met fellow passenger Charles Langdon, who showed him a picture of his sister, Olivia. Twain later claimed to have fallen in love at first sight. Twain and Olivia Langdon corresponded throughout 1868. After she rejected his first marriage proposal, they were married in Elmira, New York, in February, 1870. In 1873, Twain moved his family to Hartford, Connecticut, where he arranged the building of a home next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe. In the 1870's and 1880's, the family summered at Quarry Farm in Elmira, the home of Olivia's sister, Susan Crane. Twain wrote many of his classic novels during his 17 years in Hartford (1874–1891) and the 20 summers at Quarry Farm. They included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). His most memorable were the stories about the Mississippi, based on his experiences, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Very few people know that Mark Twain wrote a biography on Saint Joan of Arc, which was originally published as chapters in Harpers Magazine in 1895. Still fewer know that he considered it not only his most important, but also his best work. "I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none." He spent many months in France doing archival work, and studied in detail accounts written by both the French and the English. Because of Twain's antipathy to institutional religion, it is surprising to find a remarkably accurate biography of the French heroine who was canonized on May 16, 1920, by Pope Benedict XV. Twain made a substantial amount of money through his writing, but lost the bulk of his book profits, as well as a substantial portion of his wife's inheritance, through investments. He invested mostly in new inventions and technology, particularly the Paige typesetting machine. Twain also lost money through his publishing house, Charles L. Webster and Company, which enjoyed initial success selling the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, but failed soon afterward. Twain's writings and lectures enabled him to recover financially. He accepted an offer from Robert Sparrow Smythe and embarked on a year-long, around-the-world lecture tour in July, 1895, to pay off his creditors in full. He returned to America in October, 1900, having earned enough to pay off his debts. Twain lived his later years at 14 West 10th Street in Manhattan. He passed through a period of deep depression which began in 1896 when his daughter Susy died of meningitis. Olivia's death in 1904 and Jean's on December 24, 1909, deepened his gloom. A heavy smoker all his life, with his health failing, he sought the warmer climate of Bermuda. His condition improved and he returned to his principal residence in Hartford. Twain was born two weeks after Halley's Comet's closest approach in 1835. He said in 1909, "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'" Twain's prediction was accurate; he died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth. Because of his years of presence in New York City, it was decided his funeral would be held at the Presbyterian Brick Church on Fifth Avenue. His body was transported to Elmira, New York, the hometown of his wife and where the family maintained a summer home. He was buried next to his wife and children in the historic Woodlawn Cemetery. The Langdon family plot is marked by a 12-foot monument (two fathoms, or "mark twain") placed there by his surviving daughter, Clara.
Bio by: Angela
Olivia Iona Louise Langdon Clemens
1845–1904 (m. 1870)