Timeline of Mark Twain's Life

Samuel L. Clemens, the future Mark Twain, was born when Halley’s comet was in the skies. He died during the comet’s return 74 years later. In between, Clemens traveled the world and had many experiences as he passed from typesetter to river pilot, prospector, newspaper reporter, lecturer, author, publisher, businessman, and family man. Here is a brief chronology of the life of Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain.


Mark Twain BirthplaceSam Clemens was born prematurely in Florida, Missouri, on November 30.

Halley’s Comet was in the skies above.


The Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri. Mr. Clemens began to operate a general store.


Mark Twain Boyhood Home - 1843The Clemens family moved into a house known as Mark Twain Boyhood Home.


The Clemens family was forced to move out of the house and in with the Grant family in the Pilaster House.


Mr. Clemens died on March 24. The family moved back to the Boyhood Home.


Sam apprenticed to Joseph Ament of Missouri Courier newspaper.


1850 DocumentSam’s brother Orion returned to Hannibal in September and purchased the Western Union newspaper. Sam began working for his brother. Sam joined the Cadets of Temperance.


Sam edited Orion’s newspaper while Orion was on the trip. Sam submitted two sketches to the Saturday Evening Post. He received no pay. His sketch, “The Dandy Frightening the Squatter” was published in the May 1 issue of Carpet-Bag of Boston, Massachusetts.


Sam left Hannibal in June to become a journeyman printer in the cities of St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia. Orion took their mother, Jane Clemens, and Henry Clemens to Iowa, ending the Clemens Family residence in Hannibal.


Sam visited Washington, DC in February. He spent the summer in Muscatine, Iowa, working with Orion at the Muscatine Journal.


Sam spent the winter and spring in St. Louis. He moved to Keokuk, Iowa, to work for Orion’s Daily Post until the fall of 1856.


Sam moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to be an assistant in a job printing shop.


In April Sam became an apprentice river pilot under Captain Horace Bixby of the Paul Jones.

April 9, 1859

Sam became a fully licensed pilot.


Sam’s river days ended with the start of the Civil War. He made a brief stop in Hannibal. His soldiering days are recalled as “A Private History of a Campaign that Failed.” Sam then traveled by stagecoach to Carson City, Nevada, with Orion who had been appointed Secretary to the Territorial Governor of Nevada.


After a brief stint as a miner, Sam Clemens settled in as a reporter on the Virginia City, Nevada, Territorial Enterprise in August.


The first use of the pen name “Mark Twain” on Enterprise.


Twain left for California in December to begin a job with the San Francisco Call newspaper.


Visited Jackass Hill in California where he heard the jumping Frog story and tried gold mining. “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was published in the 18 November issue of New York Saturday Press.


Twain was sent as a correspondent to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for the Sacramento Union. Upon return to California, he gave his first lecture on trip experiences.


Jumping Frog - 1867He traveled to New York via Nicaragua. Mark made a Midwest lecture tour that included stops in St. Louis, Hannibal, Quincy IL, and Keokuk IA. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was published. He took an excursion trip on board the steamer Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Lands (later recalled in his first book The Innocents Abroad). He spent a brief period as secretary to Senator Stewart of Nevada in Washington, DC.


Innocents AbroadTwain received a contract for his first book, The Innocents Abroad which came out in 1869. He traveled to California to obtain the release of some of his letters published in newspapers there. Made another Midwest lecture tour in November and December.


Olivia Langdon Mini PortraitBecame engaged to Olivia Langdon of Elmira, New York on February 4. In August bought part interest in Buffalo Express newspaper and started work as its editor. His first book, The Innocents Abroad was published. Went on a lecture tour from November into January 1870.


Married Olivia Langdon in Elmira on February 2, 1870. Son, Langdon, born November 7, died in infancy (1872).


Twain took a trip to London, England, then moved to Hartford, Connecticut in October. He received a patent for an adjustable garment strap.


Daughter SusyDaughter, Susy, was born on March 19. Twain built a large house preserved today as the Mark Twain House in Hartford CT.


Twain received a patent for self-pasting scrapbook. This is the one invention that made him money.


Daughter ClaraAnother daughter, Clara, was born on June 8.


Adventures of Tom Sawyer - 1876The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published.


Twain was a speaker at John Greenleaf Whittier’s 70th birthday celebration.


The Twain family traveled to Europe: visited Heidelberg, the Alps, Italy, & Munich.


Daughter JeanAnother daughter, Jean, was born on July 26.


Twain made a trip up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Minnesota to refresh his memory and gather information for Life on the Mississippi.


Life on the Mississippi - 1883Life on the Mississippi was published.


Twain went on a national lecture tour with George Washington Cable - November to February 1885.


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - 1885Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published. Mark Twain’s publishing firm releases a best-seller, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, an autobiography that returned more than $350,000 to the Grant family.


Twain received a Master of Arts degree from Yale University.


Twain met Rudyard Kipling in Elmira, New York.


Twain visited his ailing mother in Keokuk, Iowa. Later attended her funeral in Hannibal.


Mark Twain’s Memory Builder Game put on the market. It was his third patent.


The Clemens family traveled to Europe: Germany, France, and Italy.


Speaking successes earned Twain the title “Belle of New York.”


Twain filed for bankruptcy following failure of printing firm and investments.


Twain was bankrupt. He made a round-the-world lecture tour to pay off debts. Susy Clemens died of meningitis on August 18, 1896.


Twain paid off the last of his debts from bankruptcy.


Twain traveled to England to argue copyright law before the House of Lords.


Twain received an honorary doctorate degree from Yale University.


Twain made his last visit to Hannibal from May 29 into June. He handed out graduation diplomas to the Hannibal High School graduating class. Went to Columbia, Missouri, to receive an honorary Doctorate Degree from University of Missouri. He helped dedicate Eugene Field House in St. Louis


Twain sailed for Florence, Italy with Olivia, who was very ill. Olivia died in Florence in 1904 on June 5.


Twain Family returned to USA and lived in New York.


Twain’s 70th birthday dinner held at Delmonico’s in New York. Biographer Albert Bigelow Paine joins family at their house.


Twain traveled to Oxford University in England to receive an honorary degree.


Twain moved into his last house, Stormfield, in Redding, Connecticut on June 18. Visitors to Stormfield included Helen Keller and Laura Hawkins Frazer (inspiration for Becky Thatcher).


Clara's Wedding - 1909Daughter Clara married Ossip Gabrilowitsch at Stormfield on October 6. Daughter Jean died on December 24.


For health reasons, Twain traveled to Bermuda. Heart complications set in so Twain returned to Stormfield. Twain died on April 21. He is buried in his wife’s family’s plot, at Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, New York. Halley’s Comet was visible in the skies again.