Mark Twain Timeline

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Mark Twain Born

November 30,1835

Samuel Langhorne Clemens is born in Florida, Missouri, the sixth child of John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens.

Family moves to Hannibal

1839

The Clemens family moves to Hannibal, Missouri, a riverbank town that is a frequent stop for steamboats traveling the Mississippi. Young Samuel reveres the riverboat pilots and hopes to become one himself.

Death of Twain's Father

1847

Samuel's father John Clemens dies, forcing the family into financial hardship.

Twain Takes Work as Printer

1851

At the age of 15, Samuel leaves school and goes to work as a printer in Hannibal.

Apprentice River Pilot

1857

Samuel Clemens begins a successful two-year apprenticeship to become a licensed river pilot. He learns the lingo of the trade, including "mark twain," a phrase that refers to the river depth at which a boat is safe to navigate. He soon adopts it as his pen name.

Death of Twain's Youngest Brother

June 1858

Twain's youngest brother Henry is killed tragically at the age of 20 in an explosion on the steamboat Pennsylvania. Henry had been training to become a steamboat pilot, at Twain's encouragement. Twain, devastated by his brother's death, feels responsible for it for the rest of his life.

Civil War

April 1861

The Civil War breaks out. Trade along the Mississippi River is halted, forcing an end to Twain's steamboat career. Twain spends two weeks training in a volunteer Confederate militia before it disbands.

Twain Travels West

1862

In an adventure later chronicled in the book Roughing It, Twain travels to Nevada with his brother Orion, who had been named the secretary to the territorial governor. He tries his hand at mining and other schemes, without much success, before becoming a reporter for the Virginia City (Nev.) Daily Territorial Enterprise.

Twain in California

1864

Twain travels to northern California, visiting Calavaras County before settling in San Francisco.

Jumping Frog Published

November 18 1865

The short story "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" (later "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County") appears in the New York Saturday Press. The story proves extremely popular and raises Twain's profile as a writer.

Twain begins Lecturing

1866

Twain travels to Hawaii as a reporter for San Francisco's Alta California newspaper. When he returns to the mainland a few months later, he gives his first public lecture. It's a hit.

Twain Meets Future Wife

December 31 1867

Twain is introduced to Olivia "Livy" Langdon, the sister of a friend. He is instantly smitten.

"The Innocents Abroad" Published

1869

Mark Twain's first book, The Innocents Abroad, becomes a bestseller.

Twain gets married and fathers his first child

1870

Twain marries Olivia Langdon, who becomes an important editor of his work. Their son Langdon is born later that year.

Moves to Hartford connecticut

1872

Twain moves his family to Hartford, Connecticut. He publishes Roughing It, the memoir of his years in the West. The year is one of tragedy and joy—the couple's daughter Susy is born, but their son Langdon dies of diphtheria.

Clara Clemens born

1874

Daughter Clara is born, the only one of Twain's children to outlive her father.

Tom Sawyer

1876

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is published. One of his most successful novels.

Jean Clemens born

1880

Livy Clemens gives birth to the couple's fourth and final child, a daughter named Jean.

Life on the Mississippi

1883

Twain publishes Life on the Mississippi, his memoir of his years as a steamboat pilot.

Twain Founds Publishing Company

1884

Twain founds his own publishing company, Charles L. Webster & Co. (named after his nephew and co-owner Charles L. Webster). It turns out to be a bad financial move—the company's struggles will eventually ruin his family's finances.

Huck Finn

1885

In the span of less than a year, Twain publishes both his greatest fiction and non-fiction works: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and a biography of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Twain in Europe

1891

His finances in shambles following a series of poor business decisions, Twain moves his family from Hartford to Europe for cheaper living.

Twains last novel

1894

Pudd'nhead Wilson, Twain's last novel, is published. After ten difficult years, Twain's publishing house, Charles L. Webster & Co., finally goes belly-up. The writer finds himself essentially bankrupt. Close friend Henry Huttleston Rogers takes over his finances, saving him from complete disaster.

Death of Susy Clemens

1896

Twain's 24-year-old daughter Susy dies of meningitis in the U.S. while Twain is lecturing in Europe. Twain, who was particularly close to his oldest daughter, is devastated. He never fully recovers from her death, which marks the end of his most successful period as a writer.

Livy Clemens Death

1904

Twain's wife Livy dies after a serious two-year illness. Following his wife's death, Twain moves to New York City and begins writing his autobiography.

Death of Jean Clemens

1909

Twain's youngest daughter Jean Clemens dies.

Death of Mark Twain

April 10 1910

Mark Twain dies at the age of 74 at his home in Redding, Connecticut.