Samuel Langhorne Clemens – “Mark Twain”

Before he wrote American classic novels as Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was a miner and newpaper reporter in Mineral County, Nevada. Prior to picking up his pen, Clemens moved from his birthplace in Hannibal, Missouri and found himself in the silver state. After his time in Nevada, he left to become the most loved American author, Mark Twain.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople
Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople

It is a well known fact that Samuel Clemmons first work was as a river boat pilot on the Mississippi river. This occupation was lost to him with the start of the Civil War. In 1861, Samuel followed his brother Orion to Nevada when his brother is appointed as Secretary of the Nevada Territory. Not long after his arrival in Carson City, Clemens is “Smitten with the silver feaver.” He and his brother started purchasing shares of mining operations in the Esmeralda Mining District. The principal town in this district was Aurora.

Filled with optimism, Samuel moved to Aurora in 1862. Upon his arrival he setup a camp and began working some of the claims he and his brother purchased. Despite his optimism, his work as a miner and investor did not produce and Clemens lives off an stipend set to him by his brother to cover the $10 per week living expenses. This failure was all too common among the hopeful people who travelled west.

Higbie and I were living in a cotton-domestic lean-to at the base of a mountain [Lover’s Leap]. It was very cramped quarters, with barely room for us and the stove – wretched quarters, indeed, for every now and then, between eight in the morning and eight in the evening, the thermometer would make an excursion of fifty degrees. We had a silver-mining claim under the edge of a hill [Last Change Hill] half a mile away in partnership with Bob Howland and Horatio Phillips, and we used to go there every morning, carrying with us our luncheon, and remain all day picking and blasting in a our shaft, hoping, despairing, hoping again, and gradually but surely running out of funds

Mark Twain, Roughing It

A picture postcard showing the exterior of Mark Twain's cabin in the mining town of Aurora, Nevada. The cabin and ground are covered with snow. - 	
University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries
A picture postcard showing the exterior of Mark Twain’s cabin in the mining town of Aurora, Nevada. The cabin and ground are covered with snow. – University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries

Ironically, his failure in mining started his career which produced some of the most important books in American history. While in Aurora, he started sending stories about a miner’s life to the Virginia City newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise, using the penname “Josh”. These stories opened a door to greatness, and he was appointed to a job as a local reporter by Joseph Goodman.

After leaving Aurora for Virginia City, Clemens starts down his road to success and becomes a popular newspaper reported. He submits his humorous and satirical stories using the name Mark Twain. Five years later, the man from Missouri wrote the story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavarous County” and Mark Twain became the American Story Teller.

I learned then, once and for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, the ornamental stuff, and that only low-born metals excited the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.

Mark Twain, Roughing It

Nevada State Historic Marker #28

100 years ago, in 1864, Samuel Clemens left the territorial enterprise, moving on to California and worldwide fame.  He was a reporter here in 1863 when he first used the name, Mark Twain.  He later described his colorful adventures in Nevada in “Roughing It.”






Hevada State Historic Marker Summary

Nevada State Historic Marker28
NameMark Twain
LocationVirginia City, Storey County, Nevada
Latitude, Longititude39.3102, -119.6497


One Reply to “Samuel Langhorne Clemens – “Mark Twain””

  1. Pingback: Orion Clemens Home, Nevada State Historic Monument - Destination4x4

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