Samuel Clemens was born and grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. This was the home of his later characters Tom Sawer and Huck Finn. In these books he incorporated such features that really existed in Hannibal; features such as Holidays Hill, Bear Creek and Lover’s Leap. Clemens described the residents of Hannibal as happy and content with the lives they led in their small town.
In his late teens, Clemens left Hannibal on a riverboat to become a printer in St. Louis. He moved up in the ranks of printing and moved to New York and eventually to Washington D.C. Clemens remembered how much fun he had had on the riverboat and how glorious it must have been to be a pilot. He soon decided to move to New Orleans to become a pilot. On the boat, he often heard things like ‘Mark the twain, two fathoms deep’. He liked how the words “Mark Twain” sounded and in one of his first books, ‘Life on the Mississippi’ about his four years piloting the Spread Eagle along the twisting river, he decided to use the name Mark Twain.
Mark Twain stopped piloting the riverboat in 1861, at the start of the Civil War, to join the Union. He went to war for two weeks and left immediately after being involved in the shooting of a civilian. He said he knew retreating better than it’s inventor did.
He soon decided to travel 1,700 miles from the Missouri Territory , to the Nevada Territory. He passed through Overland City, Horseshoe City, and many large and small cities in between.
Clemens commented that Salt Lake City was healthy. He said that the city had one doctor who was arrested once a week for lack of work. Virginia City was very lively from all of the gold and silver found near. He commented that the saloons, courts and prisons were busy and there was a whiskey mill every fifteen steps.
Inspired by the vein of silver as wide as a New York City street under Virginia City, Twain decided to go prospecting. Many people went prospecting crazy but Twain thought it must have skipped over him. After not finding any silver, he wrote a book called Roughing It.
Clemens soon went to San Francisco and took a job at the San Francisco Times. From them he got the title of “The Most Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope”.