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. On this page you will find general information on Mark Twain, including a timeline of his life, genealogy, and publishing career. Here is a brief chronology of the life of Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain.
Born prematurely at Florida, Missouri, November 30 to Judge John Marshall and Jane Lampton Clemens. Halley’s Comet was in the skies above.
Family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where Judge J.M. Clemens, Samuel’s father, began to operate general store.
Family moved into house known as Mark Twain Boyhood Home.
Poverty forced family to move out of Boyhood Home; moved in with Dr. Grant’s family above Grant’s Drug Store.
1847 March 24
Judge Clemens died. Family moves back to Boyhood Home.
Sam Clemens apprenticed to Joseph Ament of Missouri Courier newspaper.
Elder brother Orion returned to Hannibal in September, purchased Western Union newspaper, Sam began working for his brother. Joined Cadets of Temperance.
Sam edited Orion’s newspaper while Orion was on trip. Sam submitted two sketches to Saturday Evening Post, 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 St. Louis, New York and Philadelphia. Brother Orion took their mother, Jane Clemens, and Henry Clemens to Iowa, ending Clemens family residence in Hannibal.
Sam visited Washington, DC in February. Summer in Muscatine, Iowa, with brother Orion on Muscatine Journal.
Winter and spring in St. Louis. Went to work for brother Orion in Orion’s Daily Post, located in Keokuk, Iowa until fall of 1856.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, as assistant in job printing shop.
April became apprentice river pilot under Captain Horace Bixby of the Paul Jones.
April 9 – became fully licensed pilot. Piloted on a number of steamboats.
River days ended with start of Civil War. Brief stop in Hannibal and soldiering days recalled in his story “A Private History of a Campaign that Failed.” Traveled by stage coach to Carson City, Nevada, with brother Orion who had been appointed Secretary to the Territorial Governor of Nevada, James Nye.
After brief stint as a miner, Sam Clemens settled in as a reporter on the Virginia City, Nevada Territorial Enterprise in August.
First used pen name Mark Twain on Enterprise.
Left for California in May, began working for San Francisco Call newspaper.
Visited Jackass Hill in California where he heard the Jumping Frog story; tried gold mining. “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” published in 18 November issue of New York Saturday Press.
Worked for Sacramento Union, sent by the paper as a correspondent to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Upon return to California gave his first lecture on trip experiences.
Went to New York via Nicaragua. Made Midwest lecture tour that included stops in St. Louis, Hannibal, Quincy and Keokuk. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County published. Excursion trip on board steamer Quaker City to Europe and the Holy Lands (recalled in his first book, The Innocents Abroad). Brief period as secretary to Senator Stewart of Nevada in Washington, DC.
Contracted for first book, The Innocents Abroad, which came out in 1869. Traveled to California to obtain the release of some of his letters published in newspapers there. Midwest lecture tour in November and December.
Engaged to Olivia Louise Langdon of Elmira, New York on February 4. In August bought part interest in Buffalo Express newspaper and started work as an editor. First book, The Innocents Abroad, published. Lecture tour November to January, 1870.
Married Olivia Langdon in Elmira on February 2, 1870. Son, Langdon, born November 7; died in infancy (1872).
Trip to London, England. Moved to Hartford, Connecticut in October. Received U.S. patent for adjustable garment strap.
Daughter, Susy, born March 19. Built large house preserved today as Mark Twain House in Hartford; son Langdon dies; second travel book, Roughing It, published.
Received patent for self-pasting scrapbook, one invention that made money for Mark Twain.
Daughter Clara born June 8.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published.
Speaker at John Greenleaf Whittier’s 70th birthday celebration.
Traveled with family to Europe: Heidelberg, Alps, Italy, Munich.
Daughter Jean born July 26.
Made trip up the Mississippi from New Orleans to Minnesota to refresh memory and gather information for Life on the Mississippi. Visited Hannibal.
Life on the Mississippi published.
National lecture tour with George Washington Cable, November to February 1885.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 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.
Received Master of Arts degree from Yale University.
Met Rudyard Kipling in Elmira, New York.
Visited ailing mother in Keokuk, Iowa. Later attended her funeral in Hannibal.
Mark Twain’s Memory Builder Game put on the market, his third patent.
Clemens family traveled Europe: Germany, France, Italy.
Speaking successes earned Twain title “Belle of New York.”
Clemens’s publishing firm facing bankruptcy following Panic of 1893.
Clemens facing personal bankruptcy. Made twelve month round-the-world lecture tour to pay off debts. Daughter Susy died of meningitis August 18, 1896. Following the Equator published 1897.
Paid last of debts in full.
Traveled to England to argue copyright law before House of Lords.
Received honorary doctorate degree at Yale University.
Last visit to Hannibal, May 29 to June 1. Handed out graduation diplomas to Hannibal High School graduating class. On to Columbia, Missouri, to receive honorary Doctorate Degree from University of Missouri. Helped dedicate Eugene Field’s House as a museum property in St. Louis prior to visiting Hannibal.
Sailed for Florence, Italy with Olivia, who was very ill.
Olivia dies; returned to New York, living in brownstone at 21 Fifth Avenue.
70th birthday dinner at Delmonico’s in New York. Biographer Albert Bigelow Paine joins family at their house and begins to collect dictations for Mark Twain’s Autobiography..
Traveled to Oxford University in England to receive honorary doctorate degree.
Moved into his last house, Stormfield, at Redding, Connecticut on 18 June. Visitors included Helen Keller and Laura Hawkins Frazer (model for Becky Thatcher).
Daughter Clara married Ossip Gabrilowitsch, a Russian concert pianist and conductor, at Stormfield, October 6. Daughter Jean died December 24.
Last trip; went to Bermuda for health. Heart complications set in; returned home to Stormfield, died April 21. Buried in wife’s family’s plot, Woodlawn Cemetery, Elmira, New York. Halley’s Comet was in skies again.