David Fears's Mark Twain Day by Day

Mark Twain Day By Day was originally a print reference, meticulously created by David Fears, who has generously made this work available, via the Center for Mark Twain Studies, as a digital edition. Please recognize that this is a preliminary, BETA version of a resource which we will continue to develop in the coming years. While we are excited about the functionality it currently offers - for instance, the searchbar in the upper left-hand corner - we also recognize that there are numerous errors (to formatting, spacing, punctuation, etc.) which were not part of the print edition. Moreover, the formatting may change based upon which browser you use to access the site. Rest assured, we are continuing to work to correct these problems and increase functionality so as the maximize the accuracy, accessibility, and user-friendliness of the resource. If you encounter major technical difficulties or find entries that have been made particularly messy or indecipherable during the digitization process, please let us know via [email protected]

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Mark Twain Day by Day

An Annotated Chronology

Of the Life of Samuel L. Clemens

Volume One (1835-1885)

Second Edition


David H. Fears

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© 2008, 2014 David H Fears

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper

Second Edition, volume one

First Printing 2013

ISBN # 0-9714868-2-4

ISBN13 : 978-0-9714868-2-9

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007927972

Published by Horizon Micro Publishing, LLC

Books available directly from the publisher:


                                                     Horizon Micro Publishers, LLC

                                                     P.O. Box 266

                                                     Banks, OR 97106

                                                     [email protected]; http://MarkTwainDayByDay.webs.com


Thanks to my wife, Kimberley for her love and support. Special thanks to Thomas A. Tenney for his continual support, anecdotes, and advice, to whom this 2nd edition volume is dedicated. Without his many calls, this project would have been completed six months earlier (though perhaps not as complete). Thanks to JoDee Benussi for sharing mountains of paper and extra books. Thanks to the folks at the Mark Twain Project, especially Robert Hirst and Victor Fischer, who really do possess quite a good sense of humor, and who gave freely of their time, advice, and opinions, as well as permissions for use of MTP material. Thanks also for help and contributions made by the following: Barb Schmidt, Robert Slotta, Kevin Mac Donnell, Robert Monroe, Martin Zehr, Ron Vanderhye & Carol Beales for permission from the James S. Copley Library, La Jolla, Ca., and Debby Applegate, the 2007 Pulitzer prize winner for Henry Ward Beecher’s biography. Lastly, thanks to certain readers of the MT ListServ who have encouraged my efforts, including Jason Horn, Michael McBride, Arianne Laidlaw, Wes Britton, and Steve Crawford. A personal thanks also to Duncan Carter at Portland State University for his friendship and encouragement even though he favors Dickens over Twain, as well as David W. Robinson for his steadfast faith in my ability in the face of much evidence to the contrary.

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Dedicated To

Thomas A. Tenney (1931-2012)

Scholar, editor, friend, who made this work possible.

This second edition completes his vision.

What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, and every day, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history. His acts and his words are merely the visible, thin crust of his world, with its scattered snow summits and its vacant wastes of water—and they are so trifling a part of his bulk! a mere skin enveloping it. The mass of him is hidden—it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night nor day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written. Every day would make a whole book of eighty thousand words—three hundred and sixty-five books a year. Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man—the biography of the man himself cannot be written.



“David H. Fears’s log of Samuel Clemens’ life is often downright interesting in itself for Twainians. Furthermore, they will get a heightened sense of the whirligig he somehow shaped into an ongoing presence—his now well-known business activities, his tireless socializing, his dealings with plumbers, and his paying bills for groceries (including pilsener beer and cigars, of course). As for Mark Twain authors, Fears will help resolve some cruxes while setting up others unsuspected until now. I’m envious that my generation didn’t have this resource when we were starting out.” – LOUIS J. BUDD – Professor Emeritus at Duke University, author of Mark Twain: Social Philosopher

“More fascinating and far better documented than any existing biography of Mark Twain, this study provides a window into every waking—and for that matter, sleeping—moment of Twain’s hyperactive life. Many scholars before David Fears had contemplated undertaking this staggeringly daunting but incredibly useful project….All students of Mark Twain should give heartfelt thanks for this masterful accomplishment. Fears interweaves even Twain’s most quotidian activities into a textured fabric, threading helpful explanations where needed. This book now qualifies as the single most essential reference work in Mark Twain scholarship. We will be indebted to David Fears forever.” – ALAN GRIBBEN – Author of Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction

“Mr. Fears must be fearless! To undertake such an immense project certainly requires courage. Going day-by-day in Twain’s life gives valuable information regarding Twain’s multi-faceted literary, business, and speculative career. Despite the short length of the quotations the flavor of Twain is there: his attention to household matters, his caring role as husband and father, his experience with publishers, the wide-ranging friendships and his biting wit. Fears’ volumes will be a major contribution to Mark Twain Studies.” ­– HOWARD G. BAETZHOLD – Author of Mark Twain & John Bull

“In these pages there is a rich record of the life, works, and Twain’s family and friends.” – THOMAS A. TENNEY, author of Mark Twain A Reference Guide; editor of The Mark Twain Journal.

David H. Fears’s enormous Mark Twain Day By Day: An Annotated Chronology of the Life of Samuel L. Clemens…takes Twain’s activities all the way from [1835-1910]. A huge index even lists such things as Twain’s donations and individual gifts. Surely all Twain scholars and editors will want to have this research available in their campus or personal libraries. This massive project, undertaken by an independent scholar unsupported by grants, subventions, or even a conventional publisher, has to rank as one of the most extraordinary individual efforts by any one student of Twain ever to see print.” – ALAN GRIBBEN, American Literary Scholarship 2010.




Introduction (from First Ed.)

Samuel Langhorne Clemens lived 74 years, 4 months, and 23 days—or 27,171 days. At 27 years of age he began using the nom de plume, “Mark Twain,” which most Americans have known him by since. It is understatement to say that his life was a full one. His life has become an area of study that can occupy a lifetime and still reward researchers with fresh insights into the man, his era, and the human condition.

      Some 40 years ago I gained an undergraduate degree in history, and started but did not finish a graduate program, focusing on the Populist Movement of the 1880s and 90s. I was surprised then to discover that Mark Twain had visited my hometown, Portland Oregon, in 1895 on a world tour. It was a fact I tucked away for four decades, till I turned back to graduate school after careers in business and computers. I often wondered what Sam did here in the Rose City—what did he see? Whom did he talk with, and what words of wisdom and mirth did he leave on our stage? Those musings were the beginning of this work.

      Sam Clemens has remained a fresh interest since that time, possibly because I may be something of a humorist myself, and most certainly have always been a “willful boy.” Or, possibly because I have a passionate feeling for cats, or for writing, or for women, and God knows I enjoy a good glass, though I gave up cigars in my twenties, something Sam was never able to do, and should he have, I’d have perhaps another decade of chronology in front of me.

      By the time I returned to the ivory tower for my masters, I was senior to all of my professors. I’d had fifteen or so short stories published and was hard at work on a few detective novels, and I studied composition theory and Huck Finn. I sat in some of the same classrooms I had four decades before. My thesis work involved original research on correlating writing apprehension and writing myth. Composition theory and fiction writing were my passion, and I was blessed to be able to teach English Composition for two career colleges—or try to anyway, since for many propeller heads, the idea of writing an essay was akin to root canal work without anesthetic.

      About this work, I confess to being naïve and chuckleheaded about the scope of the project at the beginning. I am still naïve and chuckleheaded enough to believe I will finish a second volume, just begun. I remember being astonished that with all the miles of paper about Mark Twain, no one had yet published a detailed daily chronology. I started by using the MT Project volumes of letters. Like a man struggling on the foothills of Mt. Everest I kept a steady pace. I was dedicated, if at times overwhelmed, but ploughed on through standard works and adding bookcases as I went.

      I smouched (as Sam would say) a vision of a readable, enjoyable, daily chronology, as made possible by one hundred years of scholarship. But a chronology with a difference—one that is essentially a narrative of the man’s life, by lining up, highlighting and summarizing as many of those 27,171 days as possible. As my friend Tom Tenney would say, “a different sort of biography.”

      Many times I have concluded there is simply too much information, too little time. The minutiae of this man’s life often threatened to rob my joyful climb. Seemingly everything was interesting, everything needed—what to include, leave out? The biographer has the luxury of excluding the mundane; a detailed chronology should not. Sam was on the go for most of his life, touching hundreds, if not thousands, of places, speaking and lecturing hundreds of time, and writing thousands of notes and letters (by some educated estimates, 50,000 letters written and received), both personal and professional—not to mention his vast array of literary works. Before the term “multi-tasking” was coined, Sam lived it.

      To study the life of Mark Twain is to study America’s passage from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, and also to understand what is quintessentially the American spirit. Other scholars and biographers have articulated these realities much better than I am able, so I’ll leave it there.

      The dual purpose of the book is to give the general reader a more comprehensive chronology of Sam’s incredible life, and to aid researchers in locating taking-off places for further study. The book is a general reference guide for dates, places and events, built mainly from the scholarship of others who have invested lifetimes in their passion, and of my humble diggings through primary and secondary sources.

      A chronology can be another way of reading a life story. Where was Sam on a particular day? What was he doing, thinking about? Whom did he interact with? Moreover, what is the significance of the events? How much do we know; what might we deduce? What is missing that would enlighten our understanding? Who were those in Sam’s life now mostly forgotten by history? What was the relationship with those closest to him, his friends and allies as well as his antagonists? Hopefully, this work might begin to answer some of those questions for some readers. Or, simply create more questions.

      It is definitely true that the world knows him as Mark Twain, but to me that was his stage persona, the humorist, and the unparalleled writer. I maintain that the man—the heart and soul of the man—is, and always has been, simply, Sam. Academics often call him “S.L.C.” which is fine but does not serve the purpose of intimate narrative. Most of his friends called him “Sam,” and his best friend Howells called him simply, “Clemens.” His wife called him “Youth” in person and “Mr. Clemens” when writing to others. In many ways his nom de plume hid his real face, and purposely so. My use of Sam is perhaps a reflection of the intimacy I feel with him, both as a fellow writer and a human being. Plus, it has the advantage of making the entries shorter and you’ve got to call the man something.

      This book is not offered as major discovery of primary sources as yet unprinted, though I have visited the Mark Twain Project and waded through many primary documents; neither is it an analysis in the normal sense of the word, but a day-by-day timeline extricated from most known major historical sources in print. I have not attempted to present any historical “thesis” or position on the significance of Twain’s life or works, aside from those events that are often pointed to as turning points in his path. I have offered few opinions on issues, only some where I could not resist. I have not knowingly told any “stretchers,” nor have I made this work essentially my “take” on the man. Neither have I set out to discredit or show up any of the recognized Mark Twain scholars, by pointing out errors or omissions in their work. Where there is disagreement on a particular date/place/experience, I attempt to present the various sides.

      I was principally guided in the effort by the Berkeley MTP’s multi-volume works, both in print and electronic of Mark Twain’s Letters as well as other letters available there. I have reviewed most of the major biographies, from Albert Bigelow Paine’s 1912 work, through contemporary studies by Kaplan, Powers, Perry, Hoffman, and others. We all owe a great debt to those scholars who devoted their energies and talents to the tedious and time-consuming research tasks: Albert Bigelow Paine, Bernard DeVoto, Dixon Wecter, Henry Nash Smith, Justin Kaplan, Andrew Hoffman, Ron Powers, James D. Wilson, Kenneth Andrews, Hamlin Hill, Margaret Sanborn, all the tireless workers of the Mark Twain Project—and many, many others. I could not have put this book together without them. I deeply appreciate the guidance and support of Thomas A. Tenney, retired English professor at the Citadel, and also Editor of the Mark Twain Journal since 1982. Barbara Schmidt, another retired educator who is no doubt busier now with research and her Mark Twain website (www.twainquotes) and ListServ responsibilities, has also been very helpful.

      I do not pretend that this work is without error, or that it stands complete. There are many errors in biographies and secondary sources, and even in Sam’s dates and memory. Other sources remain elusive. Not all sources are equally credible. This work is certainly not the last word. I ask the scholar, expert, or interested fan of Sam Clemens to inform me of errors and omissions, so that addenda might be published in forthcoming volumes.

      Entries should be read in context. That is, by reviewing dates before and after any particular entry, a deeper understanding of the elements may emerge.

      Last, I emphasize that this work is a beginning. There is so much work left to do. But, what other American life is so worthy of study?    

David H. Fears 2005-2007 

Forward for the Second Edition:

Since the first edition was released in 2008, three volumes have followed, improved in many respects from the original first volume. Many additions and corrections have surfaced since 2008. This second edition of the first volume incorporates over a hundred additions and corrections, including those posted on the website. Also, several noteworthy works on Twain have been published which inform this new edition, especially: Thomas Reigstad’s important work, Scribblin’ for a Livin’ which updates and revises the much-neglected Buffalo period of Twain’s life; and David C. Antonucci’s work on the Tahoe episodes, Fairest Picture: Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe. Other publications have also been reviewed.

Most important, my scholarship and scope improved as I continued through volumes two through four, bringing the realization of the shortcomings of volume one. Incoming letters were mostly not examined for the first edition, and are not summarized, paraphrased, or excerpted here. In many cases, having the incomings greatly illuminates Clemens’ letters, though when Kevin Mac Donnell first mentioned the need for these I thought him mad and was dumbstruck. The sheer increase in work at first stalled me. Then, as I worked along through the final three volumes I understood the increased value of this reference work that accrued by including those incoming letters to Clemens. A small handful of letters shown in the catalogue were not found at the Mark Twain Project. Often misfiling or burial beneath staff papers may account for these. When they are forthcoming I will put them on the website.

I’ve been asked a few times why on earth I’d set forth on such a daunting project. Because I love Mark Twain? Because it’s never been done? To organize the vast array of data that exists? Possibly all are valid reasons and partly to blame or credit for this work. But I’ve sensed lately that I simply wanted to get closer to the man, to avoid the cherry-picking and incomplete pictures given to us by various biographers, though not to say they are not valuable. But incomplete. Livy called Samuel Clemens a name that reflected his eternal boy-ness: “Youth.” In that way I am a kindred spirit to Twain, to Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and all those boys ages two to a hundred-two who, in their hearts, do not take note of old age and who keep an outlook of fun, curiosity, and yes, humor throughout life. I, too, am “Youth.” I often say things to people I don’t know that embarrass my better half, things I see as humorous. Perhaps their reactions provide a crude but instant way of seeing into them and finding if they too have a kindred spirit. After my first visit to the Mark Twain Project I wrote a short essay on whether or not the people there had a sense of humor (I judged, mostly, they do). I discovered later that several academics on a Mark Twain website do not have a sense of humor. I no longer frequent the place. The academics I deal with in my own part-time teaching and most all of my students have a perfectly muscular sense of humor.

After the thousands of hours spent on research for this four-volume work (and the second edition for the first volume), I do feel closer to the man, in many ways a giant who rose above the vicissitudes and sorrows of life to cling to his humor. Without humor, what would Mark Twain be? What would I be? What is man without humor? Not much, I suspect. I still believe that analyzing humor sucks the marrow from it (as Clemens also believed), though the sourpuss academics I speak of would disagree. I can think of no greater aim for my own life than to remain a “Youth” in my outlook and relationships, and to do so requires a fresh, positive view of all that is humorous and interesting in life.

I was saddened by the deaths of Tom Tenney, Lou Budd, and Howard Baetzhold—all of whom gave this work a glowing “puff” when it had only begun. There is no connection with their glowing praise and early departure, and only Alan Gribben now survives of those original four testimonials. I hope he’s well. To paraphrase Clemens, I’m not feeling well myself.

Finally, I owe much to the Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley, especially Victor Fischer and Robert Hirst. I cannot express my thanks fully—to do so would take another four volumes.

David H. Fears 2014

Conventions Used

Dates: I have followed the conventions used by the University of California Press on the volumes of Mark Twain’s Letters, except I have added the day of the week. To wit:


October 5 Thursday – Sources indicate this is a confirmed date, or a deduced date from events or

other evidence. Firm dates come before conjectured or circa dates and date ranges.

October 3? Tuesday    

The question mark indicates a conjecture of October 3. Conjecture dates are listed separately.


June 2429 Saturday

A span of dates joined by a dash indicates a less specific conjecture: the date or dates of composition are thought to fall within this span. Day of the week is ascribed to the last date in the span. The last date in a period is noted by its day of the week. Such entries are listed separately.


June 24 to 29 Saturday – Not a conjecture, but an assertion that some event ran from June 24 through June 29. Such date ranges are listed separately.

May 2 and 3 Friday

Not a conjecture, but an assertion that the event or activity occurred at least in part on both days. Such inclusive dates are listed separately.


May 1 Friday ca.

A conjecture of circa a date, month, year or season. Similar to May 1st? but with less specificity. May also be specified as “on or before,” or “on or after.” Circa dates are listed separately.


Items for which only a month is known, or for magazine-type publications issued for a given month.


Items for which a year is known, but not a month or date.


Note: Dates are arranged in order; spans of dates and single dates are sorted by the first date in a span. Conjectured dates are usually separate from known or consensus dates. Thus there are separate entries for May 1 Friday, and May 1? Friday; May 17 Thursday would follow May 1220 Sunday. Occasionally entries are labeled “Mid-month” or “End of Month” or “Early Spring,” etc. Confirmed dates are listed first.


Where unsigned articles have been ascribed to Sam Clemens by major researchers, I have followed their lead but specified, “attributed.” “Sam” when shown without surname is used throughout to mean Mark Twain/ Samuel L. Clemens; likewise “Livy” designates Olivia Louise Clemens; “Susy” has been chosen for Olivia Susan Clemens over the spelling “Susie,” which is seen in earlier references to her. “Jane Clemens” is used for Sam’s mother, “Pamela” or “Pamela Moffett” for his sister, “Orion” for his brother. For certain dominant people in Sam’s life, or dominant within certain periods, last

    names only are given: Howells, Twichell, Cable, etc. Middle names are usually omitted, in favor of a middle initial; some middle initials are omitted, when reference is clearly to one person, such as Hjalmar Boyesen. “Frank” is often given for “Francis”; “Joe” for Joseph, when the person was a familiar figure in Sam’s life, such as Joe Twichell, Frank Bliss, etc.


MLA formatting is followed for in-text and Works Cited, with exceptions made for MT “standard” abbreviations such as MTBus or MTLTP (see abbreviations), and follow the MT Project’s conventions when possible. Use of [brackets] for in-text citations, as well as editor’s inserts within quoted text.

Some exceptions are made to standard MT scholarly convention, such as MTL with volume numbers used for the MTP volumes, whereas this abbreviation in the past was used for Paine’s volumes of letters, which I cite as MTLP, if I use them at all. A few conventions are modified, such as LM instead of LoM for Life on the Mississippi. See Abbreviations.

Nearly every date given requires a citation, though some are calculated from sources. Because both primary and secondary sources are used, errors and omissions may have been introduced. Hopefully, more study of primary sources will amend such shortcomings.

Editor’s opinions:


The few opinions on events or interpretation of an entry follow all citation designators as well as extra information following “Note”; These remarks are offered as simply one man’s view, and every effort has been made to keep them short and pithy, without obstacle to the meaning of the listing. Of course, I hold title to many more opinions than the few exposed here. Admittedly, a work of this scope carries errors and inconsistencies. That’s what future appendixes and supplements are for.

Bold Entries, Quotations:

All references to dates are bold, save for those within quotes. Also bold are first mentions of persons and places (including lecture halls, etc.) within each date entry. Subjects and titles are not bold. Indented are letter, newspaper excerpts (boxed) and longer commentaries from biographers and scholars. This may aid ease of reading, finding one’s place and appearance.


CY                    Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

ET&S   1: 2:     Early Tales & Sketches. Vol. 1, 1851-1864. Vol. 2, 1864-1865. Edited by

Edgar M. Branch and Robert H. Hirst. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979-81.

GA                   The Gilded Age

IA                     Innocents Abroad

LLMT               The Love Letters of Mark Twain. Edited by Dixon Wecter. New York: Harper & Bros 1949

LM                   Life on the Mississippi

MMT                My Mark Twain, by William Dean Howells. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1910.

MTA                 Mark Twain’s Autobiography. Edited by Albert Paine. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924.

MTB                 Mark Twain A Biography, by Albert Paine, 4 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912.

MTHL 1: 2:       Mark Twain-Howells Letters: The Correspondence of Samuel L. Clemens and William Dean Howells. Edited by Henry Nash Smith and William M. Gibson. 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.

MTJ                 Mark Twain Journal. Edited by Thomas A. Tenney.

MTL 1: – 6:       Mark Twain’s Letters. Volumes 1-6. 1853-1875. Edited by Edgar M. Branch, et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988-2002.

MTLE 1: – 5:    Mark Twain’s Letters, Electronic Volumes 1-5. 1876-1880. Mark Twain Project.

MTLP               Mark Twain’s Letters. 2 vols. Edited by Albert Bigelow Paine. New York: Harper & Bros 1917.

MTLTP             Mark Twain’s Letters to His Publishers, 1867-1894. Edited by Hamlin Hill. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

MTMF              Mark Twain To Mrs. Fairbanks. Edited by Dixon Wecter. San Marino: Huntington Press, 1949.

MTP                 Mark Twain Project/Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

MTPO              Mark Twain Project Online, University of California, Berkeley.

MT & GWC      Mark Twain and George W. Cable, by Alan Turner.

MTNJ 1: – 3:     Mark Twain’s Notebooks & Journals. Volumes 1 – 3. 1855-1891. Edited by Frederick Anderson, et al. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.

MTS&B            Mark Twain’s Satires & Burlesques. Franklin R. Rogers, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

MTTMB            Mark Twain’s Travels With Mister Brown. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1940.

P&P                 The Prince and the Pauper

ViU                  Barrett Collection, University of Virginia

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Births of Margaret, Benjamin, Pleasant and Samuel Clemens – Move from Tennessee to Florida, Missouri – Financial Panic and Hard Times – Henry Clemens Born

 Sister Margaret Died – John Marshall Clemens Became Judge – Moved to Hannibal Sammy Survived Infancy



November 30 MondaySamuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910) was born two months premature in the hamlet of Florida, Missouri to John Marshall Clemens (1798-1847) and Jane Lampton Clemens (1803-1890). The baby was named Samuel, for John’s father; Langhorne, for the friend of John Marshall’s who had helped him in his youth in Virginia.

26-year-old Dr. Thomas Jefferson Chowning (1809-1854) delivered baby Sam in the absence of the family physician, Dr. Hugh Meredith (1806-1864). The birthplace was a little frame house on South Mill Street [Wecter 43]. Sam was born sickly. His mother later recalled, “When I first saw him I could see no promise in him” [Powers, MT A Life 8].

Halley’s Comet had reached its perihelion on Nov. 17. It would return again in 1910, reaching its greatest visibility on Apr. 19 of that year, two days before Sam’s death.

John Marshall’s ancestors had come from England to Virginia [Wecter 3-7]. A generation later they moved over the Alleghenies and kept pushing west [8]. Sam’s grandfather, his namesake, was five when America declared independence in 1776. In 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase, Samuel B. Clemens (1770-1805) moved west into what would become West Virginia. He had married a Quaker named Pamelia (“Parmelia”) Goggin (1775-1844) and took their first of five children, John Marshall Clemens, named in honor of the first Chief Justice of the U.S. John Marshall married Jane Lampton on May 6 1823 [15].

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was the sixth child. The Clemens family moved to Florida, Missouri about June 1, 1835 from Tennessee [Wecter 39]. Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was President of the United States, and the Alamo was four months away. The South’s pastoral economy was firmly upheld by slavery and the North’s industrial economy waxed stronger. The early 1830s were a period of inflationary boom. The Federal government encouraged the speculative fever by selling millions of acres of public lands in western states like Michigan and Missouri. The West had spread to the edge of the Great Plains, and like many other families who had not found bounty in the East, the Clemens family moved into Missouri, the outpost of civilization, looking for the good life. Dreams of wealth in such an environment seemed realistic.




May 21 SaturdayJohn Marshall Clemens purchased a somewhat larger house on the south side of Main Street in Florida, Missouri for $1,050 from Sam’s grandfather, Benjamin Lampton (1770-1837), who had occupied the house and moved to the country [Wecter 46].

Sam was small and sickly, not expected to live. He was often in bed under the care of his mother, Jane Clemens, who told stories of Indians chasing her grandmother, also named Jane. His mother was aided in his care by his older siblings: Orion b.1825, Pamela b.1827, Margaret b.1830, Benjamin b.1832. Another boy child, Pleasant Hannibal (both family names) died at three months, b.1828 or 1829 [MTL 1: 382].

John Marshall was involved in the project of making Salt River navigable as well as a plan to build a railroad between the town of Paris, Mo. and the smaller village of Florida. He frequented citizens’ meetings in the region and became well known in Pike, Ralls, and Monroe counties. He also spoke to members of the Legislature at Jefferson City.

November 30 WednesdayBaby Sam’s first birthday.



February Big plans were afloat for developing the area. The Missouri Legislature appointed John Marshall to head a commission of six members to promote a Florida & Paris railroad. The same Legislature also encouraged John Marshall, together with John Adams Quarles (1802-1876), Dr. Hugh Meredith and others to found a school to be called The Florida Academy [Varble 125]. An educational foundation was set up with Marshall and Quarles as trustees. John Marshall was also involved in schemes to make the Salt River into a minor Mississippi [Wecter 47; Varble 125].

Text Box: March 4 Saturday – Martin Van Buren was sworn in as
as the 8th president 
of the United States


March 18 Saturday – Sam’s grandfather, Benjamin Lampton, age 67, died in Florida, Mo. [Wecter 47].

May 10 Wednesday The early part of the decade saw an inflationary boom, which led to The Panic of 1837. The crisis occurred when every bank stopped payment in specie (gold and silver coinage). The West was badly hit by the panic, and would not recover for four or five years. The Clemens family would struggle financially for years, in part due to this panic.

November 6 MondayJohn Marshall Clemens was sworn in as a judge of the Monroe County court. Wecter calls this the “zenith of his professional life and one that fixed upon him ever after the title of ‘Judge’” [Wecter 48]. He received two dollars a day while the court met [49]. John had trained to be a lawyer and was very exacting in his work. His letters show the graceful Spenserian script which educated people of the day displayed. Sam got his exacting nature from his father, and his humor and red hair from his mother. John Marshall built a one-story house, known as the “double house” on the land he’d bought before Sammy was born [Wecter 49; Powers MT A Life 14].


November 30 ThursdaySam’s second birthday.



First half of year – The Clemens family moved to their third house in Florida, Mo. Wecter says “probably before the birth of their youngest child, Henry Clemens, on June 13” [Wecter 49]. They sold their second Florida house to John Quarles for a sum that reflected settlement of unpaid debts from the dissolved store partnership [49].

July 13 FridayHenry Clemens, the youngest child of John Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton Clemens was born in Florida, Mo. [MTL 1: 382]. Henry was the model for Sid Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a boy upright in every way, not at all like his older brother Sam.

August ca. – Shortly after Jane Clemens recovered from childbirth, thirteen-year-old Orion was dragged along a picket fence by two oxen. He was saved from death or injury by Jane and a peg leg man who happened to be passing [Varble 127].


August 8 WednesdayJohn Marshall Clemens’ term on the Monroe County court expired [Selby 1].


November 30 FridaySam’s third birthday.



February – John Quarles had married Martha Ann “Patsy” Lampton (1807-1850), Jane’s younger sister, and opened a store at Florida, Missouri the year before the Clemens family arrived. In this month he closed his successful store at Florida and bought 70 acres of good farmland. A few months later he added 160 acres more [Wecter 50]. The farm was three and a half miles northwest of town. Quarles kept slaves (Some claim as many as 30 slaves, some eleven, and some as few as six) [Powers, Dangerous 41; Powers MT A Life 11; Dempsey 4]. Frequent visits to the Quarles Farm allowed Sam to hunt and fish, and gave him intimate contact with blacks. Stories told by his uncle John and also by older blacks fed Sam with grist for his later tales. (See The Twainian, Mar. 1942 for an insightful article on Quarles.)

A family story about three-year-old Sam, retold years later by his niece, Annie Moffett Webster (1852-1950).

“When Sam was about three he was distressed because he had ‘no tail bebind.’ He said, ‘The dog has a tail bebind, the cat has a tail bebind, and I haven’t any tail bebind at all at all.’ His uncle (I think it was his Uncle Hannibal) made a tail of paper and pinned it on his little dress, and he went around very proud and happy” [MTBus 44].

August, mid – About this time one-year-old Henry Clemens “eluded the colored boy who was caring for him and toddled into the hot embers at a soap kettle. While he was being tended by Jane Clemens and neighbor Mrs. Penn, Henry’s sister Margaret fell ill [Varble 127]. Sam sleepwalked into sister Margaret’s bedroom and tugged at her blanket. Nineteenth century rural America called this act “plucking at the coverlet,” an act presaging death. The family took this as a sign that little Sammy had “second sight” [Wecter 51].

August 17 Saturday – Nine-year-old sister Margaret died of “bilious fever” (typhoid or malaria). It was the first of many family deaths Sam would suffer. Wecter gives this date as Aug. 19 [51].

November 13 WednesdayJohn Marshall Clemens sold properties around Florida for $3,000 to speculator Ira Stout. At the same time, John purchased a quarter of a city block in Hannibal on the Mississippi, about forty miles east of Florida, for what Wecter calls “the thumping price of $7000 paid in full” [Wecter 51-2; Powers, MT A Life 21]. Note: “Hannibal” was also a family name with no connection to the town. It may be argued that John paid too much for the quarter block in Hannibal.

November 20 Wednesday ca.John Marshall sold another large parcel, 326 acres near the Ralls County line, for $2000 to Ira Stout  [Wecter 52].

November, mid-late – The Clemens family moved to Hannibal: John, Jane, Orion, Pamela, Benjamin, Sammy (nearly age four), the baby Henry, and a slave girl Jennie. Paine, in Boy’s Life of Mark Twain says the family lived first at Pavey’s Hotel (later Planter’s Hotel). The Paveys later moved to St. Louis. Wecter gives the time of the move as “about mid-November” [56].

The first home for the Clemens was the Virginia House, a rickety two-story hotel close to the river at the northwest corner of Main and Hill Streets [Varble 129].

John Marshall traveled to St. Louis soon after the family’s arrival. There he stayed with his half-sister Ann “Polly” Hancock (d.1893), and her English husband William Saunders (d.1885). John Marshall sought a loan from a distant relative James Clemens, Jr. (1791-1878) in order to make token payments on stock he needed to open a store in Hannibal. The two men had not met but had corresponded as youths. The loan was given; John Marshall returned to Hannibal and opened a store on the main floor; the family lived on the second floor. [Varble 131-2; Powers, MT A Life 21].

Sam grew up on the river, in that “sleepy white washed town” which was to be his theatre of boyhood. Here he knew dreams, adventure, terror and sorrow. Sam Clemens would immortalize Hannibal in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn [Powers, Dangerous 50].


November 30 Saturday Sam’s fourth birthday.

December, midJohn Marshall had been drafted for a border war with Iowa over a disputed boundary, but the matter was settled by this time [Wecter 56].

Vol 1 Section 0006

Sammy’s Idyllic Childhood – Summers at Quarles Farm – First Schooling

Brother Benjamin Died – Family Moved to Hill Street House – Murder Witnessed

Many Adventures – Cholera, Measles and Death – John Marshall Clemens Died

Sam the Printer’s Devil

Sam’s boyhood days in Hannibal, from ages four to eleven were filled with adventures, escapades and personalities many of which were to find their way into his many novels years later. Among those that might have taken place anytime during this decade were: The sale, beating and killings of slaves. Accidents on the river; Corpses washing up at Hannibal; Cave adventures, including the cadaver kept in McDowell’s Cave; Town drunks, including the Blankenship clan, Tom (b.1831?) being Sam’s model for Huck Finn. Injun Joe. Judge Clemens keeping the peace with a hammer on the head of two rowdies; Pranks at school. Sam’s claims of near drowning nine times; Rafting adventures; Hunting, fishing; Gang hangouts; Falling through the ice on the river; Steamboats arriving at the Hannibal docks; The swimming hole in Bear Creek; Jim Wolfe’s descent in his flying nightshirt into a candy pull; Sam dancing naked and “playing bear” in the moonlight while two girls watched in secret behind a shade, etc.

Most of these boyhood adventures cannot be pinned to a date, or even to a specific year. Wecter does a good job of identifying many of them, and Powers writes a powerful treatment of the psychological makeup of these boyhood years in Dangerous Waters. Some listings of Sam’s boyhood friends are found here and there. A picture taken in 1922 of Sam’s surviving childhood friends included Norval “Gull” Brady (1839-1929), Dr. B.Q. Stevens, John Ro Bards (1838-1925), Moses D. Bates Jr., Mrs. Laura Hawkins Frazer (1837-1928), and T.G. Dulaney; not pictured and deceased at that time: S.H. Honeyman, Jimmy McDaniel, B.O. Farthing, and Ed Pierce [The Fence Painter, Winter 1986/1987 Vol. VI No.4 Hannibal, Mo.]. Other friends are listed in various dated entries. See especially Feb. 6, 1870 to Will Bowen for several escapades remembered.

In his Nov. 30, 1906 A.D., Clemens recalled minstrel shows in Hannibal:

      I remember the first negro-minstrel show I ever saw. It must have been in the early ‘40s. It was a new institution. In our village of Hannibal, on the banks of the Mississippi, we had not heard of it before, and it burst upon us as a glad and stunning surprise.

      The show remained a week, and gave a performance every night. Church members did not attend these performances, but all the worldlings flocked to them, and were enchanted. …    

      The minstrels appeared with coal-black hands and faces, and their clothing was a loud and extravagant burlesque of the clothing worn by the plantation slave of the time….Standing collars were in fashion in that day, and the minstrel appeared in a collar which engulfed and hid the half of his head and projected so far forward that he could hardly see sideways over its points. His coat was sometimes made of curtain calico, with a swallow-tail that hung nearly to his heels and had buttons as big as a blacking box. His shoes were rusty, and clumsy, and cumbersome, and five or six sizes too large for him. There were many variations upon this costume, and they were all extravagant, and were by many believed to be funny.

      The minstrel used a very broad negro dialect; he used it competently, and with easy facility, and it was funny—delightfully and satisfyingly funny [AMT 2: 294]. Note: see source for more.

A later work by Clemens is “Villagers of 1840-3.” The MTP says this about it:

The most intriguing of the factual works, however, is “Villagers of 1840-3,” published here in its entirety for the first time [see MTPO]. This extended series of notes about life in ante-bellum Hannibal contains over one-hundred capsule biographies of the town’s residents, including Mark Twain’s own family. Written in 1897, forty-four years after Samuel Clemens left his boyhood home, it is a remarkable feat of memory, compelling both as a historical and a literary document. Evidently Mark Twain intended to use it as a master list of possible characters for any subsequent stories he might set in St. Petersburg or Dawson’s Landing, his imaginary re-creations of Hannibal [MTPO]. Note: Sam gave his father the name of “Judge Carpenter.”

The Aberdeen (S.D.) Daily News, 4 Jan. 1905, p. 2, “Mark Twain’s Pranks” reported reminiscences by Captain H. Lacy, who was born in Hannibal in 1839. Lacy claims it was not Jim Wolfe who was the victim of the famous skeleton-in-bed prank (sometime in the 1840s), but “a tramp printer named Snell,” who “blew into Hannibal one day and was given work on the paper.” Lacy claimed to be along on the prank; his account offers not only a different victim than has been imagined (see MTL 1: 18n4; also Ch. 23 TA) but a different outcome:

      He was an uncommunicative sort of fellow, but a good worker and obedient. Sam decided to bring him out of his reserve and to do it borrowed a skeleton from a doctor’s office and slipped it into the printer’s bed. Then we got around to a window about bedtime to see what was going to happen. The print pulled off his shoes, piled his clothes over on the floor and blew out the light. The next thing we supposed would be a yell and a printer shooting out of the window in his nightshirt. But there wasn’t anything of the sort. There was a sleepy yawn and:

      “Get over on your own side, darn you.”

      We heard the ghastly bedmate of Snell fall to the floor, and then everything was quiet except for the snoring of the sleeping printer. The joke had failed, and we went up to our rooms in disgust.

Next day Snell didn’t show up, and we began to feel a little hopeful that maybe the trick had worked after all. But we were again disappointed. Snell was in a gin mill, boiling drunk and having the time of his life.

      “Killed erm man deader’n a red Injun,” he yelled, “an shell corpsus fer dollar an’ sheventy-five! Wow!”

      He had rolled the skeleton up in a sheet and sold it to another doctor!


The Chapman Troupe came through Hannibal annually in the 1840s until 1847. For 35 years the troupe was perhaps the most celebrated theatrical family in the West. Mary Parks Chapman (1813-1880) was one of the seven children in the show and later had 20! children herself. Sammy Clemens undoubtedly saw one or all of the Hannibal performances as they were advertised as children welcome [MTP]. Note: see Dec. 16, 1865 for a letter from Mary to Clemens.

See “A Memory” a sketch which ran in the Galaxy for Aug. 1870, about Sammy’s relationship to his father.






U.S. Census reported 1,034 people living in Hannibal, up from the sixty families that were there in the Panic of 1837 [Wecter 57]. Hard times came to the Clemens family during the first years of the decade. Judge John Marshall Clemens was forced to sell Jennie, the slave girl brought from Virginia. “She was tall, well formed, nearly black, and brought a good price” [MTB 41]. For a time, things improved. John Marshall borrowed money from his wealthy cousin James Clemens, Jr. A wealthy Whig attorney in St. Louis, and from James A.H. Lampton (1824-1879), Jane’s half-brother who lived near Florida, Missouri. John Marshall opened another store with “already bookish, absent-minded, inept,” fifteen-year-old Orion behind the counter [Wecter 57].

Spring Sam started school at Mrs. Horr’s school in Hannibal, a small log cabin at the southern end of Main Street, near Bear Creek. Elizabeth Horr (ca.1790-1873) and daughter Miss Lizzie were the only teachers. On Sam’s first day of school he broke a rule twice and was told to go find a switch for his punishment. He kept looking for smaller and smaller switches until he came back with a cooper’s shaving (a cooper is a barrel maker). Later, Miss Mary Ann Newcomb (1809-1894) would help at the school [Wecter 54]. Sam, during his last visit to Hannibal in 1902, would say: “I owe a great deal to Mary Newcomb, she compelled me to learn to read” [Wecter 84]. McGuffey’s Readers were the new rage.

In his Aug. 15, 1906 A.D. Sam recalled his first school: “There were no public schools in Hannibal in those early years, but there were two private schools in Hannibal—terms twenty-five cents per week per pupil, and collect it if you can. Mrs. Horr taught the children, in a small log house…; Mr. Sam Cross taught the young people of larger growth in a frame schoolhouse on the hill” [AMT 2: 177].

July 28 and 29 Wednesday – The Log Cabin Campaign rally on Market Street in Hannibal would surely have included John Marshall, a devout Whig. Jane Lampton Clemens loved parades and funerals. Four and a half year old Sam no doubt witnessed the celebration [Wecter 58]. Note: For more about Jane Clemens as recalled by her granddaughter Annie Moffett Webster in Fredonia, see May 22, 1870 entry.

OctoberJohn Marshall sold on credit about $1,000 for merchandise bought wholesale to one Ira Stout, who then used the new bankruptcy laws to avoid payment. Ultimately this led to the loss of the Clemens home [Wecter 56].


November 30 Monday Sam’s fifth birthday.




Sam’s father traveled to Tennessee hoping to collect old debts and raise money on the infamous Tennessee Land, some 75,000 acres, which became a millstone to the family; the land was ultimately sold in the 1880s for not much more than John Marshall paid for it. John took a slave, Charlie, to sell, but did not get what he expected. In fact the trip was a total failure, costing Sam’s father about $200 [Powers, Dangerous 124-5]. Together, John Marshall and son Orion had a remarkable string of business failures. Sam would come to nearly support his older brother, mixing a sense of duty with exasperation.

February 7 Sunday – Sam’s sister Pamela joined the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal [Dempsey 55].

February 18 Thursday – Sam’s mother, Jane Clemens, joined the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal [Dempsey 55]. Note: Dempsey found no record that John Marshall Clemens or his sons ever joined the church.

February 22 Monday – Sam’s mother, Jane Clemens, was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church of Hannibal [Dempsey 55].

SeptemberJohn Marshall Clemens sat on a jury at Palmyra which condemned and sent to the penitentiary three abolitionists for a term of twelve years [Dempsey 42; Wecter 72]. Note: See Dempsey, chapters 5 & 6, for a full account of the “crime” and trial of James Burr, George Thompson, and Alanson Work, “the biggest criminal case in Marion County.”


October 13 Wednesday – The Clemenses were forced to transfer the title of their home property to James Kerr, a St. Louis dry-goods merchant to whom they were most indebted [Wecter 70]. Note: The indebtedness may have stemmed from funds John Marshall borrowed to buy the Tennessee Land, incurred before the family moved to Hannibal.

November 30 TuesdaySam’s sixth birthday.



January 5 or 7 Friday – Sam’s father wrote on his failed trip of being unable to collect debts or even to sell Charlie for $40 in Vicksburg [MTB 43]. Powers suggests he sold Charlie for ten barrels of tar [Powers, Dangerous 124]. Wecter cites the letter date as Jan. 5 and the sale for tar as Jan. 24 [74].

May 12 Thursday – Ten-year-old Benjamin L. Clemens died after a weeklong, unexplained illness. “Bilious fever” they sometimes called such illnesses. Sam was six. He remembered his parents’ grief; Orion recalled that his parents kissed—the only time the Clemens children had seen them do this [MTB 44]; Powers writes that it was Sam who remembered; it’s likely both recalled the event. In her grief, Sam’s mother made all the children approach the bedside of Benjamin and touch his dead cheek. For Sam, this act left an impression, and once again, Sam felt partly responsible for a family death.

Sam’s father, already a judge, was elected justice of the peace, but fees were few and far between. (Powers: “probably in 1842”; Paine [MTB 41] states this was in 1840, Wecter [103] also in 1842).

July 17 Sunday ca. – (After this day) – Sam’s brother, Orion, now seventeen and a “very good journeyman printer,” obtained a position in St. Louis, and was able to send support home for the family, three dollars out of ten per week [MTB 44]. (Powers characterizes it as Orion being “sent off.”) Orion wrote home that he was trying to imitate the life of Benjamin Franklin, even to the extent of living on bread and water. While in St. Louis until 1849, Orion made friends with attorney Edward Bates (1793-1869) and began studying law in his office. Bates would later secure Orion an appointment as secretary to the Nevada Territory, a connection that led Sam west and into history [170].

August 12 Friday – Though a boy of nearly seven, Sam probably was witness to the sinking of the side wheel steamboat Glaucus at Hannibal. Such an event would have brought the whole town out to gawk. Sam noted the sinking in his notebook in 1883 [MTNJ 3: 30n52].


October 13 Thursday – Exactly one year before, John Marshall and Jane Clemens lost their real estate in Hannibal, interest being transferred to James Kerr, St. Louis merchant and debt holder. On this day the property was auctioned but failed to meet the amount of the debt [Dempsey 49].


November 30 Wednesday Sam’s seventh birthday.



Sam’s father caught him in a lie. John Marshall Clemens did not often punish his children, for his stern mien often did the trick. The family had made one or two moves since coming to Hannibal, and Sam recalled his father’s punishment in a house they’d only been in a year. During 1843 Sam’s father was building the family a new house [MTB 44]. Some sources site 1844 for the move in.

Sam attended his second Sunday school in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. The first had been for two or three years prior in “a shabby little brick Methodist church on the public square called the Old Ship of Zion” [Wecter 86].

Summer – This was the first year of long summer visits to the Quarles Farm, about three and a half miles northwest of the old Clemens home in Florida, Mo.. These visits would continue until Sam was eleven or twelve (1847-8). Sam was seven on this first visit. He loved his uncle John Quarles, a warm, affable, hospitable, country man who told jolly jokes and played with the children. Quarles made hunting trips through the woods. His wife Aunt Patsy set a marvelous table; they had eight children and about thirty slaves (some sources say far fewer). These idyllic summers were grist for many of Sam’s later stories. Sam had a favorite playmate cousin a year younger than him, Tabitha Quarles (1836-1917), they called “Puss.” He loved cats (his mother had at one time nineteen felines about!). Puss recalled:

When he arrived at the farm father would lift his big carpet bag out of the wagon and then would come Sam with a basket in his hand. The basket he would allow no one except himself to carry. In the basket would be his pet cat. This he had trained to sit beside himself at the table. He would play contentedly with a cat for hours, and his cats were very fond of him and very patient when he tried to teach them tricks [Wecter 92].

Significant was Sam’s exposure and relationship with the Negroes, especially with Aunt Hanner, Uncle Dan’l (b.1805?) and Uncle Ned, the latter a slave of his father’s in the Florida days, and the source of the “Golden Arm” story [Wecter 46].

“It was on the farm that I got my strong liking for the race, and my appreciation of certain of its fine qualities” [Nieder 6].

Sam made a sketch of Uncle Dan’l, using that name in The Gilded Age. He later acknowledged that the Dan’l was the model for Huck’s friend Jim. Lorch writes “it was probably from John Quarles that Mark Twain first heard the Jumping Frog story, an ancestral version of the one he later heard in the barroom at Angel’s Camp in California” [Nieder 10].

September 4 Monday Sam played hooky from school and got home at night, so he climbed into his father’s first floor office, only to discover a corpse, James McFarland, a local farmer stabbed by Vincent Hudson in a drunken argument about a plow. Since John Marshall Clemens was a judge, the body was taken to his office to be embalmed the next day. This was the first recorded murder in Hannibal [Wecter 104].

October 27 FridayJames Kerr, as trustee, sold the Clemens home to James Clemens Jr., of St. Louis, a cousin of John Marshall Clemens. The price on the abstract was $300. The legal description: “the west 20 feet and 6 inches of the east 101 feet of lot 1 in block 9 in the original town of Hannibal” [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p10b].


Late Fall On Mar. 11, 1883 the N.Y. Times, p.4 ran an article, “Judge Clemens” and attributed it from “Communication to the St. Louis Missouri Republican.” The article described John Marshall Clemens as a “stern unbending man of splendid common-sense, and was, indeed, the autocrat of the little dingy room on Bird-street, where he held his court” [as Justice of the Peace]. An excerpt: 

Late in the Fall of 1843 the case of Allen B. McDonald against Jacob Smith was on trial. Judge Clemens was presiding with his usual dignity, and the court-room was filled with witnesses and friends of the parties to the suit. The Hon. R.F. Lakenan, still living and in political life, represented the plaintiff, and old “Horse” Allen, now dead, was counsel for defendant. Frank Snyder, a peaceable citizen, had given his testimony in favor of defendant Smith, and resumed his seat, when McDonald, with an exasperating air, made a face at him. As quick as thought Snyder whipped out an old pepper-box revolver and emptied every barrel at McDonald, slightly grazing Mc’s head with one shot, hurting no one else, but filling the room with smoke and consternation. In the confusion that followed, Judge Clemens, doubtless remembering McDonald’s many mean tricks, instantly concluded that he was the aggressor, and gathering up a hammer that lay near by, he dealt him a blow that sent him senseless and quivering to the floor. The irate court was complete master of the situation. 

Note: Wecter p.104-5 and notes, takes issue with some of the details of the Republican’s story, noting that “R.F. Lakenan did not come to Hannibal to practice law until two years after the date of the incident. Other versions appear in HMC, p.914 [Holcombe’s History of Marion County, Missouri] and Paine, Biography, p.45. In MTP, DV 47, ‘Villagers,’ Mark Twain writes: ‘Judge Carpenter [Clemens] knocked McDonald down with a mallet and saved Charley Schneider,’ and in another note refers to ‘McDonald the desperado (plasterer).’” 


November 30 Thursday Sam’s eighth birthday.

December – The Clemens family moved out of the Virginia House and into 206 Hill Street, which forever more would be considered Sam’s boyhood home. Sam shared a second-story bedroom with his brother Henry [Powers, MT A Life 34].



Hannibal by 1844 took pride in four general stores, three sawmills, two planing mills, three blacksmith shops, two hotels, three saloons, two churches, two schools, a tobacco factory, a hemp factory, and a tan yard, as well as a flourishing distillery up at the still house branch. West of the village lay “Stringtown,” so called because its cabins and stock pens were strung out along the road. Small industry was the lifeblood of the town [Wecter 60].

The Clemenses had moved into Sam’s boyhood home, built by his father on Hill Street in Hannibal. Across the street lived the Hawkins family. Laura Hawkins (Frazer) (1837-1928), a blonde daughter, was a romantic interest of young Sam’s. She later became the model for Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom Blankenship was a friend of Sam’s who lived up Hill Street. The Blankenships were infamous drunks and ne’er-do-wells; Sam based Huck on Tom Blankenship, a model for rebelliousness in the face of all authority [Powers, MT A life 34].

Summer A measles epidemic swept through Hannibal. Sam’s mother was obsessed with keeping her children from contracting the disease, but Sam decided to expose himself. Sam snuck into his friend Will Bowen’s house and bedroom. He was discovered and chased away, but tried again and slipped into bed with Will. Rediscovered by Will’s angry mother, Sam was taken home, but contracted measles. “I have never enjoyed anything in my life any more than I enjoyed dying that time” [Powers, Dangerous 85].

Will Bowen (1836-1893) later became a steamboat pilot with Sam, and the two would maintain a unique correspondence and relationship throughout their lives. Will had an older brother Barton (1830?-1868) and a younger brother Sam (1838?-1878).

October 22 Tuesday – Sam watched worshippers from the Millerite sect (led by William Miller) wrap themselves in robes and climb the steep hill to Lover’s Leap, expecting the world to end. In his visit back to Hannibal in 1902, Sam and pal John Briggs (1837-1907) went up Holliday’s Hill and pointed over the valley.

“There is where the Millerites put on their robes one night to go up to heaven. None of them went that night John but no doubt many of them have gone since” [Wecter 89].

September 14 SaturdayHenry, a Negro, was tried and convicted in Judge Clemens’ court of “menacing” with a knife. State law prohibited slaves from having weapons. John Marshall Clemens found Henry guilty and imposed punishment of 20 lashes to be given publicly. Dempsey writes, “Nine-year-old Sam liked to play about Hannibal on pretty fall days. A public whipping would have been high entertainment in 1844 Hannibal[54].

November 30 SaturdaySam’s ninth birthday (he didn’t want to be called “Sammy” any longer.) In his 1906 Autobiography, Sam claimed to be a private smoker from age nine, and a public one after his father’s death, in 1847 [Neider 43].




1845 – From Sam’s Autobiography:

I recall Mary Miller. She was not my first sweetheart, but I think she was the first one that furnished me with a broken heart. I fell in love with her when she was eighteen and I nine—but she scorned me, and I recognized this was a cold world….I soon transferred my worship to Artimisia Briggs, who was a year older than Mary Miller. When I revealed my passion to her she did not scoff at it. She did not make fun of it. She was very kind and gentle about it. But she was also firm, and said she did not want to be pestered by children.

And there was Mary Lacy. She was a schoolmate. But she was also out of my class because of her advanced age. She was pretty wild and determined and independent. She was ungovernable, and was considered incorrigible. But that was all a mistake. She married, and at once settled down and became in all ways a model matron…[AMT 2: 212-13].


January 24 Friday – Sam witnessed the premeditated murder of “Uncle” Samuel Smarr (1788?-1845), shot at close range by William P. Owsley. Smarr was carried into the drugstore of Dr. Orville Grant, the very house that poverty would soon force the Clemens to move into. Sam squeezed into the room where they laid the dying Smarr and watched [Wecter 106]. Note: The scene would be grist for Colonel Sherburn’s cold-blooded killing of Boggs, the town drunk, in chapters 21-22 of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


February 24 MondayHannibal, Mo. was granted a city charter [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p10b].


March 19 Wednesday – From the Hannibal, Mo. Library web site: “In 1840 many citizens of Hannibal, Missouri felt a need for a public library. Judge John Marshall Clemens (Mark Twain’s father), Zachariah Draper (1798-1856), Dr. Hugh Meredith, and Samuel Cross (1812-1886) took on the responsibility of this task. They organized the Hannibal Library Institute. On March 19, 1845 this library was chartered by the General Assembly of Missouri. The books were kept in Dr. Meredith’s office in a building at the corner of Main and Bird Streets. This was not a free library. Users paid a membership fee that entitled them access to the 425 books.” In the spring of 1849 Cross led a group of Hannibal citizens to California, settling in Sacramento; he then practiced law and later became a judge [AMT 2: 1906].



Summer Sam stowed away on a steamboat headed south. He was found by a crewmember and put ashore thirty miles down river, at the town of Louisiana, Mo. There he spent the night with Lampton relatives. The next day they returned him home.

August 24 Sunday In Hannibal, John Marshall Clemens wrote to Orion in St. Louis. He enclosed a course of twenty oral lectures on grammar by Professor Hull. John was taking Hull’s class and promised to outline the material and send it on to Orion, who might benefit in the printer’s trade from such lessons. Sam was nearly ten years old and probably received the same instruction at home [MTBus 9-10].


August 25-26 Tuesday – The Philadelphia North America reported on Aug. 26, “Affray at Hannibal, Mo.”—a fight between Dr. Orville R. Grant and a man named Railey, who stabbed Grant with a spear attached to his cane. In his Dec. 2, 1906 A.D. Sam recalled the man’s name as Dr. Reyburn [AMT 2: 590].

Fall – In either 1844 or 1845, Sam left the dame school for a “good common school” on Center Street near the town square, taught by a middle-aged Irishman, William O. Cross [Powers, D. Waters 93].

November 6 Thursday Record of Jimmy Finn’s death [MTP].

November 30 SundaySam’s tenth birthday.



Hard times forced the family to move in with Dr. Orville R. Grant’s family (above Grant’s Drug store; Grant 1815?-1854). Jane Clemens cooked for both families in exchange for rent. For more on the Grant family see AMT 2: 590].

John Marshall Clemens led a civic group organizing a rail line from Hannibal to St. Joseph. The line was chartered and completed twelve years after his death.

March 14 Saturday William P. Owsley, was acquitted of murdering Samuel Smarr by a Palmyra jury. [Wecter 108]. 

Text Box: May 13, 1846 - The United States Declared War on Mexico


Summer Cholera claimed 30 lives in Hannibal. Many fled the town [Wecter 213].

August Hannibal slave dealer William Beebe sued and gained a judgment against John Marshall Clemens for $126.50 stemming from debts for the store [Wecter 112]. 


September 10 Thursday John Marshall Clemens wrote to Buffum & Co., in New York concerning sale of the Tennessee Land. John had canceled the agency of Meredith & McCullough and gave “exclusive sale of my Tennessee lands for two years on the terms propose.—That you will be at the expense of agencies and advertising as in your letter mentioned; and will make sales as speedily and advantageously as possible” [MTBus 11]. Note: The Tennessee Land created a rift between Sam and Orion in later years, and hung around the family’s neck until the 1880s.

October 16 FridayJames Clemens, Jr. leased the Hill Street house to Orion Clemens for a period of 25 years at a rental of $28 per year [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p10b].

NovemberJohn Marshall Clemens chaired a citizens’ committee to promote a macadamized road between Hannibal and St. Joseph, Mo. [Wecter 110]. 

Henry La Cossitt, new to Hannibal, established the Democratic Gazette [Wecter 201]. Note: Wecter surmises that Sam Clemens was briefly an apprentice for the Gazette.

November 5 Thursday – Hannibal Gazette announced John Marshall Clemenscandidacy for clerk of the circuit court in 1847’s election.


November 6 Thursday – County records show $8.25 for coffin Jimmy Finn, pauper, town drunk and model for Huck Finn’s Pap [Wecter 150].


November 30 Monday Sam’s eleventh birthday.

Winter of 1846-7 – Now president of the Hannibal Library Institute, John Marshall Clemens worked for the establishment of a Masonic college in Hannibal [Wecter 111]. 


December 17 Thursday Hannibal slave dealer William Beebe was granted a writ of attachment ordering the sheriff to sell “the goods and chattels and real estate of the said John M. Clemens” [Wecter 112].





In his Dec. 2, 1906 A.D., Clemens recalled their house:

In 1847 we were living in a large white house on the corner of Hill and Main streets—a house that still stands, but isn’t large now, although it hasn’t lost a plank; I saw it a year ago and noticed that shrinkage. My father died in it in March of the year mentioned, but our family did not move out of it until some months afterward. Ours was not the only family in the house, there was another, Dr. Grant’s [AMT 2: 301].


March 11 Thursday John Marshall Clemens rode to the village of Palmyra (the county seat) to attend a judicial hearing that would clear him in a debt matter. Riding home he was chilled by a sleet storm. He became ill from the shock to his system. Judge Ezra Hunt of the Circuit Court at Palmyra “accepted John M. Clemens’ reasonable plea that his own unpaid claims against Beebe be considered as an offset to Beebe’s demands upon him—and with that decision the case fades from the records” [Wecter 112]. John Marshall may have traveled to Palmyra for this particular hearing [115].

March 24 WednesdayJohn Marshall Clemens died of pneumonia at the age of 49. Paine gives some of John’s last words: “Cling to the land,” he whispered. “Cling to the land, and wait. Let nothing beguile it away from you” [MTB 73].

Orion’s comments about his father were included in Sam’s Jan. 29, 1907 A.D. In part:

My father may have hastened the ending of his life by the use of too much medicine. He doctored himself from my earliest remembrance. During the latter part of his life he bought Cook’s pills by the box and took one or more daily [AMT 2: 409]. Note: Cook’s Pills were a combination of strong laxatives used to treat many ailments.

Sam recalled never having heard his father laugh, and seeing the only kiss his father had given in his presence, a deathbed kiss to Sam’s sister Pamela. The stern, hardworking aspect of Sam’s father underlined the influence he received from his mother. That night, through the keyhole, Sam and Orion witnessed an “autopsy” (or, some sort of post-mortem examination) of his father, a traumatizing event [Powers, MT A Life 43]. Fanning posits the exam took place due to Jane’s suspicions that John Marshall had contracted a venereal disease [14]. (See June 14, 1880 entry on Howell’s reaction to Orion’s lost autobiography.)

March 25 ThursdayJohn Marshall Clemens was buried in the Old Baptist Cemetery a mile and a half from Hannibal. Sam walked in his sleep this night and a few others. In 1876 John Marshall and Henry Clemens were later transferred to the newer Mount Olivet Cemetery, southwest of Hannibal [Wecter 118-9]. The following obituary ran in the Hannibal Gazette:

      Died in this city on yesterday, the 24th inst., after a protracted and painful illness, John M. Clemens, Esq., in the 49th year of his age.

      Unwelcome and awful the visits of death always are. But in this instance, he has not only overwhelmed a family in grief—he has filled a community with sorrow.

      Judge Clemens has been for many years a citizen of North Eastern Missouri and of Hannibal. He had been honored by several public stations which he filled with credit to himself and advantage to the community. He was noted for his good sense and a clear discriminating mind. These added to a high sense of justice and moral rectitude, made him a man of uncommon influence and usefulness. His public spirit was exercised zealously and with effect upon every proper occasion. His efforts to establish a library and institute of learning in our city were such as to entitle him to all commendation, and his untimely death is felt on this account as well as many others as a loss to the whole community….As a good and useful citizen, a lover of his kind, and an honest man, John M. Clemens will hold a place in the recollection of all who knew him [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p.13C].

April – A torchlight parade celebrated victories in the Mexican War. Sam no doubt was there, watching the pomp and a huge transparency showing “Old Zac at Buena Vista.” A band played and the streets were full of cheering townspeople [Wecter 123].


April 12 MondayOrion leased the house on Hill Street from James Clemens, Jr. , a wealthy St. Louis cousin, who bought some of John Marshall’s property [Wecter 102]. Jane and children moved back into the Hill Street house. Sister Pamela, (named for an aunt and sometimes spelled “Pamelia,” and always pronounced as such) now twenty, had been giving piano and guitar lessons in the villages of Florida and Paris, Mo. (Sam became proficient in both) She moved back to take care of her mother Jane.

April 14 Wednesday – The doors of J.D. Dawson’s school, later immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, opened in Hannibal. Dawson’s son, like Henry Clemens and Sid Sawyer, was a model boy, except that the Dawson boy added priggishness. It was in this school that Sam experienced many of the pranks and games that would fill the novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn [Wecter 132; Powers, D. Waters 93]. Note: John D. Dawson (b.1812?).

From Sam’s 1906 recollection of his schoolmates:

I remember Andy Fuqua, the oldest pupil—a man of twenty-five. I remember the youngest pupil, Nannie Owsley, a child of seven. I remember George RoBards, eighteen or twenty years old, the only student who studied Latin. I remember vaguely the rest of the twenty-five boys and girls. I remember Mr. Dawson very well. I remember his boy, Theodore, who was as good as he could be. In fact he was inordinately good, extravagantly good, offensively good, detestably good—and he had pop-eyes—and I would have drowned him if I had had a chance. In that school we were all about on an equality, and, so far as I remember, the passion of envy had no place in our hearts, except in the case of Arch Fuqua—the other one’s brother. Of course we all went barefoot in the summertime. Arch Fuqua was about my own age—ten or eleven…He was our envy, for he could double back his big toe and let it fly and you could hear it snap thirty yards. There was not another boy in the school that could approach this feat. He had not a rival as regards a physical distinction—except in Theodore Eddy, who could work his ears like a horse. But he was no rival, because you couldn’t hear him work his ears; so all the advantage lay with Arch Fuqua [MTA 2: 179-80]. Note: Archibald Fuqua (b.1833?).

April 23 Friday The Marion County Court appointed Orion administrator of John Marshall Clemens’ estate [Wecter 120]. 


Spring and Summer – Sam clerked in a grocery store until he was fired for eating too much sugar. He enrolled at Dawson’s School a few weeks after the death of his father. He worked many odd jobs during these months. He clerked for a bookstore, delivered newspapers, helped out at a blacksmith’s, and even studied law, but gave it up “because it was so prosy and tiresome” [Ch. 42 of Roughing It; Wecter131].

May 6 Thursday The Hannibal Gazette reported that Sparhawk & Layton were giving nightly lectures and demonstrations at Hawkins’ saloon on “human magnetism” (hypnosis). Such subjects as mesmerizing and phrenology excited the town when “experts” arrived. In a few years Sam would engage in outdoing another boy who’d been put in a trance. See AMT 2: 589.

May 21 Friday – An appraisal of John Marshall Clemens’ property was filed in Marion County. The most valuable item was “6 volumes Nicholsons Encyclopedia.” Orion inherited the volumes, which went to Sam’s library after Orion and Mollie’s deaths [Gribben 507].


August 13 Friday – One of Sam’s playmates, Clint Levering, age ten, drowned after falling out of an empty flatboat while playing with “a number of his playmates.” Sam was no doubt among these boys, as he remembered the tragedy in his notebook and wrote of it in Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 54, where Sam called him “Lem Hackett.” (See May 13, 1882 entry.)


August 19 Thursday Reported in the Hannibal Journal: While exploring on Sny Island and Bird Slough with pals John Briggs and Will Bowen, the boys went wading. Tom Blankenship’s older brother “Bence” Blankenship had discovered a runaway slave, Neriam Todd, hiding on the island weeks before, and had secreted food to him until a group of men chased the slave into the water and lost him. When the boys waded, “suddenly the negro rose before them, straight and terrible, about half the length out of the water.” Thinking the corpse was after them, the boys fled in terror [Wecter 148].


September – Sam’s memory wasn’t always accurate. He recalled being “taken from school at once upon my father’s death and placed in the office of the Hannibal Courier,” working for Joseph P. Ament. The Courier, however, was not established in Hannibal until 1848. Wecter says Sam no doubt delivered extras for Henry La Cossitt, owner of the Gazette, in particular after the victorious battle of Chapultepec in the Mexican War, in Sept. 1847 [Wecter 122-3].

November 30 Tuesday Sam’s twelfth birthday.




Text Box: January 24, 1848 – Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California


Text Box: February 2, 1848 - Mexico and the United States signed the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo





February 19 SaturdayOrion made a temperance speech in Hannibal [Wecter 294n5].


May 3 Wednesday – 24-year-old Joseph Ament purchased the Hannibal Gazette and moved his Missouri Courier to Hannibal. He established his newspaper in the second-floor Gazette offices on Main Street, over Brittingham’s Drugstore [Dempsey 155]. The merged papers went under the name of the Hannibal Gazette [Benson 2].


June – The family now in worse financial straits than ever, Sam landed his first full-time job as a printer’s devil for the Missouri Courier, owned by Joseph P. Ament. He worked only a half block from the family home. The journalism field has prepared many a great writer, and typesetting words is where Sam Clemens got his start. A printer’s devil made up pages one letter at a time. Sam was paid meals only and two suits of clothes a year, but got only one, a suit way too big for him. “I had to turn up his pants to my ears just to make them short enough.” Wecter gives the date as “the end of May or beginning of June” [202].

Sam would be an apprentice for two years. During this time he worked with Thomas P. “Pet” McMurry,  a journeyman printer in his twenties; and apprentices William T. League (1832-1870), Richard Rutter, and Wales R. McCormick, “a large lad of eighteen whose hilarious sense of humor, practical jokes, and stories amused and sometimes irritated Sam” [Lorch 11; Dempsey 155]. Note: see Sam’s 1906 remembrance of Wales, MTA 2: 276; also his Dec. 3, 1907 to W.H. Powell, which mentions these and others.

Summer – Either this summer or the prior was the last year of annual visits to Quarles Farm near Florida, Mo These visits to the farm where hunting was allowed (the Clemens boys were never allowed guns), food was bountiful, and Sam thought the slaves (who were never sold or split up from families) were the most joyous people in his boyhood [Wecter 91].


October 12 Thursday – The Hannibal Gazette, where Sam was apprenticing, changed its name to the Missouri Courier [Benson 2]


November 30 Thursday Sam’s thirteenth birthday.


December – The California gold rush was on. Hannibal felt the impact. Emigrants rushed to Hannibal and St. Joseph, eager to travel west. Some 300 Hannibal residents would head west. Sam later ran into a few of his townspeople in California. By the last week in December, Hannibal newspapers reported that the “gold dust of California” is “carrying away crowds of our citizens” [Wecter 216].




Sometime this year, Sam found a page in the street about Joan of Arc, which began his fascination with the figure. Younger brother Henry told Sam about the young maid’s life and fiery end (Wecter cites Isabel Van Kleek Lyon (1868-1958), Mark Twain’s secretary in his later years, as claiming Sam consulted his mother about Joan of Arc). Nevertheless, the chance find of a loose page sparked a desire to read and learn everything he could about medieval history [Wecter 211]. Note: It’s possible this find ultimately sparked Prince and the Pauper as well as Connecticut Yankee. Sam considered his book on Joan his best work.


A group of Hannibal citizens led by Samuel Cross left for California and the gold rush.

On October 3, 1902 Clemens wrote William Dean Howells that he “ran away twice; once at about 13, & once at 17. There is not much satisfaction in it, even as a recollection. It was a couple of disappointments, particularly the first one” [MTHL 2: 746]. Note: the runaway at age 13 would have been in 1849.

Sam assigns this year to an ice-skating episode with Tom Nash, the postmaster’s son. Tom fell in the river in a desperate attempt to regain the shore. Sam writes,

“He took to his bed, sick, and had a procession of diseases. The closing one was scarlet fever, and he came out if it stone deaf” [MTA 2: 97-8].

Text Box: March 5, 1849 - Zachary Taylor was sworn in as the 12th President of the United States






Summer, earlyHannibal suffered from a cholera epidemic.

Fall –Sam remembered in his Autobiography the scene of practicing for his part as a bear in his sister’s autumn party. He’d chosen a vacant house to try out moves for his part, and went there with a “little black boy, Sandy….” Not noticing a screen in the corner and costumes on a hook, Sam pranced about in his birthday suit until “a smothered burst of feminine snickers” came from the other side of the screen, which had enough holes to make it interesting for the voyeurs. After a clamorous escape, Sam avoided girls for several weeks. He would discover the identity of one of the peepers 47 years later, in Calcutta, India [MTA 1: 127-9].


September, first week – The telegraph came to Hannibal. Dempsey calls the event Hannibal’s “technological coming of age.” Before the telegraph, news came from boats from St. Louis or across the river in Quincy, Illinois. The intersection of Main and Hill Streets became known as “Telegraph Corner[Dempsey 125]. At the Courier, Sam was well regarded, and was put in charge of gathering telegraph information on the Mexican War and other news that came over the wire [Benson 6-7].

October 26 Friday – The U.S. Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) was an “occasional visitor to town,” and on this day gave a “large rally of Hannibalians in fiery vein.” Wecter notes that “Sam Clemens shared Tom Sawyer’s emotions when the ‘greatest man in the world…Mr. Benton, an actual United States Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment—for he was not twenty-five feet high’ ” [Wecter 195].


October 30 Tuesday – The date of the horrendous attack by a slave named Ben, owned by Thomas Glasscock (Glascock), a Marion County farmer, upon twelve-year-old Susan Bright, and her ten-year-old brother Thomas Bright, who were looking for walnuts in the woods. See Dempsey, chapter 13 for a full account [Dempsey 126].

November 8 Thursday “Glasscock’s Benwas accused of killing Thomas Bright with a rock, then raping his twelve-year-old sister, Susan Bright, and mutilating her. He was hanged early the next year.

Yellow fever hit Hannibal in early winter, as well as another siege of cholera [Wecter 214].

November 30 Friday Sam’s fourteenth birthday.


December 4 Tuesday“Glasscock’s Benwas convicted and sentenced to be hanged on Jan. 11, 1850 [Dempsey 130].

December 6 ThursdayJoseph P. Ament’s newspaper printed a long account of the Glasscock’s Ben trial. The Negro was found guilty and sentenced to death. Sam was a printer devil at Ament’s Missouri Courier. Two comic verses (“Amalgamation here we view,…” and “Abigail Brown, with a span new gown….”) ran with marriage announcements and a note that the printer was “duly remembered.” Branch attributes these to Sam [“Chronological” 113].

Vol 1 Section 0007

School Days – A Proper Hanging – Cadets Cannot Smoke

Aunt Patsy Passes – Orion the Newspaperman

Sam had four different schoolteachers in Hannibal: Mrs. Horr, Miss Newcomb, J.D. Dawson, and William O. Cross [Wecter 211]. Wecter concludes that the chance find of a page about Joan of Arc seemed to stimulate Sam to learn more than all these teachers put together [211]. Paine says that Sam learned a little German by ear from the village shoemaker, briefly tackled Latin, and about five years later was teaching himself French. Paine also writes that Sam claimed to have read the Bible through “before I was 15 years old” [MTB 1281].


Music, often in church, was part of Sam’s early years. Here are two inserts of an 1869 Song Book, annotated some 20 years later, by Clemens. Many of these he heard in 1850. Designated as 1850 are A Life on the Ocean Wave, A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea, Bell Brandon, By the Blue Alsatian Mountains, and Larboard Watch:


January 11 Friday Glasscock’s Ben Negro was hanged before a huge crowd—the first legal execution in the history of Marion County. In Villagers of 1840-3 Sam wrote in 1897:

“The Hanged Nigger. He raped and murdered a girl of 13 in the woods. He confessed to forcing three young women in Virginia, and was brought away in a feather bed to save his life—which was a valuable property” [Wecter 215].


Note: Dempsey writes, “there is no evidence in the court records or newspaper accounts that Ben killed anyone in Virginia or that he was too valuable to be hanged there…This story seems to be an invention of Clemens’s, which, like other of his inventions, occasionally shows up in history books” [131].


January 29 Tuesday Yellow fever still raged in Hannibal. Sam’s sister Pamela wrote Orion in St. Louis:


“I suppose you have not been attacked with the yellow fever, that by the way is raging so her that it is feared it will carry off nearly half the inhabitants, if it does [not] indeed depopulate the town. In consequence of it many of our best citizens intend starting for California so soon as they can make preparations” [Wecter 214].


January 30 WednesdayJane Clemens wrote Orion about the availability of the Hannibal Journal, a paper her late husband had always wanted to buy [Wecter 224].


April – Sam joined the “Cadets of Temperancein order to wear the regalia and march in parades. The organization began about May 1847, with a cadet branch opening three years after. During the late 1840s, temperance crusades were common in the country. A requirement of cadets was to abstain from drinking, swearing, and smoking. Sam joined to wear the uniforms and march in the May Day and Fourth of July parades. Then he quit, counting it too high a price to pay. Sam would try several times in his life to quit smoking, but was always unsuccessful. He later professed that the only sensible rule of abstinence was never to smoke more than one cigar at a time. The roster of Cadets included Henry Clemens, Tom Nash (b.1835?), Jimmy McDaniel, John D. Meredith (1837-1870), and others. Sam’s name on the roster was marked “withd” meaning “withdrew” [Wecter 153-4]. Note: Dr. Meredith had two sons, John D. (above) and Charles (b.1833?) [MTP].

April 6 Saturday Arnold Buffum wrote Pamela Clemens that the price of the Tennessee Land had gone down to ten cents per acre. Pamela forwarded the letter to Orion in St. Louis, saying “Ma thinks you had better accept Buffum’s proposal and let him sell a portion of the land in that way, say half or more, limiting him to the quantity.” Pamela was suspicious that Buffum simply wanted the land for himself [MTBus 17]. John Marshall Clemens had placed great hope for the family’s future in the land he paid four or five hundred for in the 1830s, and even cautioned them to hang on to it on his deathbed. Orion may have simply been inept, or failed to sell the land out of respect to his dead father.


April 11 Thursday – Sam witnessed a killing on this date.

“…the young California emigrant who was stabbed with a bowie knife by a drunken comrade; I saw the red life gush from his breast” [Wecter 219].

May – A traveling mesmerizer (hypnotist) stopped in Hannibal for a two-week show. Sam volunteered to be a subject, but unlike another boy, failed to go under. When Sam saw all the attention that others got when hypnotized he volunteered again and went along with a ruse that fooled everyone. He even allowed himself to be stuck with needles without flinching, convincing even his mother [Neider 50-58]. Well, Sam could easily fool his mother about many things (or thought he could).

May 1 Wednesday – Sam marched in the May Day parade with the Cadets of Temperance [Wecter 153].


May 3 Friday – A fragment of the Tennessee Land was sold for $50. Orion may have used this money and savings to start a new paper in Hannibal in September [Wecter 225].

June 27 Thursday – “Doing’ a Dandy,” a sketch of Sam’s ran in Ament’s Courier under the pseudonym of “Fred Ballard[Wecter 247].


Summer Orion returned to Hannibal [Wecter 225].

July 4 Thursday – Sam marched in the parade with the Cadets of Temperance, and later recollected that he picked up a cigar butt from the street, smoked it, and quit the group [Wecter 153].


Text Box: July 10, 1850 - Millard Fillmore was sworn in as the 13th President of the United States






July 23 Tuesday Aunt Martha Ann (Patsy) Quarles died. She was Jane Lampton Clemens’ sister. Less than two years later, John Quarles sold his farm [Wecter 290n20].


September 6 FridayOrion began printing the Hannibal Western Union, a weekly Whig newspaper. Sam probably continued working for Joseph Ament the first few months Orion established the newspaper [Wecter 225]. Note: Dempsey gives the date as Sept. 5 [158].


Text Box: September 18, 1850
Fugitive Slave Act - Compromise of 1850 Approved





November 14 Thursday The Hannibal Western Union printed an article, “Humorous Content Upon the Excellence of a Wedding Cake,” byline “Devil,” attributed by Branch to Sam Clemens [Branch, “Chronological” 113].

November 29 Friday – Sam had his picture taken holding the typestick containing “SAM” on the eve of his fifteenth birthday [MTP].

November 30 Saturday – Sam’s fifteenth birthday.

Vol 1 Section 0008

Sam Worked for Orion – First Humorous Articles

Sister Pamela Married Well – Part of Tennessee Land Sold


January Sam ended his commitment to Joseph Ament of the Missouri Courier and went to work with brother Henry for Orion, who promised him a salary of $3.50 a week. Orion was never able to pay Sam a penny. Orion secured cousin Dr. Jim Lampton and uncle John Quarles as sales agents [A. Hoffman 28]. Sam served Orion daily as a printer and editorial assistant. Sam’s attitude toward his older brother was established in the period of his work on the Courier. Wecter called his attitude “a mixture of affection and contempt, which later days hardened into an amalgam of generosity and sadism” [Wecter 225-6].

January 9 Thursday A fire broke out one door from the print shop where Sam worked with brothers Orion, Henry, and a newcomer who was the butt of many of Sam’s practical jokes, Jim Wolfe. This episode was the basis for a humorous sketch printed a week later [Wecter 236].


January 16 Thursday – Sam began his new position on Orion’s newspaper; he wrote a comic piece, “A Gallant Fireman,” lampooning Jim Wolfe, their new apprentice and his dim-witted reaction to a minor fire at a shop next door to the Western Union [ET&S 1: 61]. (Note: Dempsey cites this article as the first known authored by Sam [158].) Sam tried to add vigor to the paper by using local color and frontier language, while Orion filled the paper with moralistic pieces, dull compositions and summaries of national news. The brothers, so different in temperament and style, created conflict which doomed collaboration on the newspaper. As the man of the family, Orion tried to exert control over Sam, but was feckless in the face of the challenge; Sam was bound not to accept any such control.


May A municipal ordinance passed forcing farmers to sell their eggs through the city market. Sam put a letter to the editor in the Hannibal Western Union sarcastically praising this “most eggscellent, eggs-plicit, eggs-travagant and eggs-traordinary ordinance.” Throughout the summer, Sam attempted to inject humor, local interest and pep into Orion’s otherwise dull newspaper [Wecter 239].

June 5 Thursday Orion’s newspaper, the Hannibal Journal, reported on this day that steamboats “were burying their passengers at every wood yard, both from cabin and deck.” Cholera had hit the river again, claiming 24 citizens of Hannibal [Wecter 214].

July 10 Thursday The Hannibal Western Union printed an unsigned article, “The New Costume,” attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.]. It seems likely that Sam wrote other sketches and articles for Orion’s paper, now lost. Note: Dempsey attributes the article to “one of the Clemens boys” [209].


August 28 Thursday – The last day the Hannibal Western Union printed under that name [Benson 7].


August, late Orion took over the Hannibal Journal from “Big Joe” Buchanan’s son, “Little Joe.” Big Joe went to California in the spring of 1850 with his brother Robert [Wecter 239, 223]. Note: Robert (1802-1875), Joseph S. Buchanan (b.1806) [MTP].

September 4 Thursday Orion, from his old office on Bird Street, brought out the first issue of the consolidated Hannibal Journal and Western Union [Wecter 239]. Five months later the name was shortened. Orion had acquired the extinct Hannibal Weekly Dollar Journal which ran a few months in 1849-50 (by Robert Buchanan and Samuel Raymond), as well as the subscription list, and so named the paper from the Hannibal Western Union to the Hannibal Western Union and Journal, and to the shorter, Hannibal Journal [Dempsey 136].

September 9 Tuesday – Orion shortened the name of his weekly paper from the Hannibal Journal and Western Union to the Hannibal Journal [Benson 7].


September 20 Saturday – Sister Pamela (Pamelia), who just turned 24 a week before, married well on this day. Her new husband, William Anderson Moffett (1816-1865) was a successful Hannibal merchant who sold out his interests and moved with his new wife to St. Louis where he established a successful wholesale business. With the growth of Western Territories, St. Louis grew rapidly. The pair married in Green County, Kentucky. Pamela was visiting her Aunt Pamelia and Will Moffett was traveling to visit his Virginia relatives for the first time since he and his brother had left home. Since they had planned a trip to Niagara Falls, they decided to combine the trips [MTBus 19].

Fall – The Clemens family received notice of the sale of part of their Tennessee Land, the asset that the late John Marshall Clemens had put so much faith in. The farmer who purchased the land then discovered it unfit to farm, so Orion went to Tennessee to resolve the issue. His trip took two months and was a total failure. Soon after his return the Journal office burned. Orion moved it to the Hill Street house where the family lived; they all got the paper back up and running [A. Hoffman 29].

Colonel Edward Zane Carroll Judson (1823-1886), who wrote under the pseudonym of Ned Buntline, came to Hannibal to lecture on “Cuba and Her Martyrs.” Judson was the author of The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main, to which Sam referred in his sketch “Jul’us Caesar” and also in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer [Wecter 195; Gribben 362]. Note: Fifteen year old Sam Clemens would undoubtedly have seen Judson speak, having read his “dime novel” works, which Sam later called “Wildcat Literature.” Judson’s arrival was heralded by Orion’s Hannibal Journal.

November 30 Sunday Sam’s sixteenth birthday.


December 29 Monday – A piece by Orion datelined “Near Glasgow, Ky., Dec. 29, 1851” ran in the Journal on Jan. 22, 1852 upon Orion’s return, showing that he left Hannibal on his fruitless trip to Tennessee, somewhat before this date, probably just after Christmas [Wecter 242].


Vol 1 Section 0009


Satire & Pen Names – Sam Played Editor When Orion was Away

Final Appearance in the Hannibal Journal


January 8 Thursday “The Editor is absent,” announced the Hannibal Journal editorial. Orion was still away [Wecter 242].


January 15 Thursday – “The Editor is still absent” [Wecter 242].

January 22 ThursdayOrion announced his return in the paper [Wecter 242].


January 29 Thursday The Journal was able to beat the other town papers to a story about a fire—this one in the Journal office. Orion collected insurance money and soon restarted the paper. The Journal, like most of Orion’s endeavors, never made a profit [Wecter 243]. On page 2 of the Hannibal Journal and Western Union a lot of Orion Clemens’ is advertised for sale to satisfy a tax assessment [Hannibal Courier-Post, Mar. 6, 1935 p13c].


February – Orion moved the Journal “to the room over Stover & Horr’s Clothing Store, on Main Street” [Wecter 243].

April 9 FridayThe Saluda, a side-wheel, wooden hull packet, 223 tons, christened in 1846, sank in 1850 but eventually was raised and restored. On Apr. 9, 1852, Good Friday, with Mormon emigrants aboard, the boat was headed for Council Bluffs, Iowa. Upon arriving at Lexington, the current was swift. Pilot Charles S. LaBarge pushed her too hard and her boilers blew. Pilot and Master Belt and about 75 others died. It was the worst disaster to that time on the Missouri River. At that time, Sam was still in Hannibal, working on Orion’s newspaper, the Journal and must have heard and even reported the news. Still when Samuel E. Belt wrote Sam on Feb. 12, 1905 asking for his recollection of the disaster, Isabel Lyon answered for Clemens:


“Mr. Clemens wishes me to say that if he ever knew anything about the Saluda disaster it long ago went out of his memory” [MTP].


March 25 Thursday Sam wrote the descriptive piece, “Hannibal Missouri,” which he submitted to the Philadelphia American Courier, published on May 8, 1852 [ET&S 1: 68]. In this glowing description of his hometown, Sam included the Mississippi River, the St. Joseph Railroad, and the cave south of town. Dempsey points out he “completely omitted any reference to slaves or slavery” [168].


May – The Journal moved above T.R. Selme’s on Main Street opposite the Post Office [Dempsey 158].


May 1 SaturdayThe Carpet Bag, a Boston journal that provided rustic humor, and was often sent to Western towns, carried a 425-word sketch of Sam’s titled “The Dandy Frightening the Squatter.” It was signed with Sam’s initials, “S.L.C.” The sketch related a steamboat passenger showing off to female passengers by acting brave, only to be one-upped by a Hannibal man [A. Hoffman 29]. No payment was made, but the glory was all Sam’s. This may be one of the two pieces that Sam mistakenly recalled having contributed to the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post [ET&S 1: 63].

Note: Sam would have been familiar with The Carpet Bag, edited by Benjamin Shillaber (1814-1890), because wholesale agents in the West distributed it widely. Plus, Orion quoted articles from the humor publication more than a dozen times between Mar. 4 and June 3, 1852 [“Benjamin Shillaber and his ‘Carpet Bag’, by Cyril Clemens, The New England Quarterly Vol. 14, No. 3, Sept. 1941 p.527; See also My Own Story by J.T. Trowbridge (1903) p. 181-2].

In an interesting side note, eighteen-year-old Charles Farrar Browne (1834-1867), known after 1858 as Artemus Ward, had been working as a compositor for The Carpet Bag over the past year, and probably set the type for the May 1 issue [538]. Shillaber’s most important literary work was The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington (1854), a popular work in Sam’s library years later [Gribben 641].

May 8 SaturdayThe Philadelphia American Courier ran “Hannibal, Missouri,” a description of Hannibal by Sam (dated Mar. 25, 1852). This was heady stuff for a mere sixteen-year-old. Sam used these successes to brag to various females in the town and to throw them up to Orion. Easterners were curious about the Western frontier; many Eastern papers sought articles about the West [A. Hoffman 30]. Again, no payment was made for these articles.

Summer – Sam, now sixteen, swam the Mississippi River to the Illinois side, then turned back and swam back to Hannibal without landing. It was two miles round trip, and on the return leg Sam got a cramp and had to navigate home with only his arms [MTB 57].


July 1 Thursday Sam became an uncle with the birth of Annie E. Moffett to Sam’s sister Pamela Ann and her husband, William Anderson Moffett. Annie would always be a favorite of Sam’s; she married Charles Luther Webster (1851-1891) in 1875, the man Sam would hire to run his publishing business [MTL 1: 382].

Orion had been forced to move the Journal into the living room of his mother’s house on Hill Street. Jim Wolfe moved in with the family and shared Sam’s bedroom. One night a cow wandered into the parlor, knocked over a type-case, and “ate a couple of composition rollers” [Wecter 244].


July 15 Thursday Sam wrote a facetious piece of “the Dog Law” which from that day forth ordered all canines to be licensed at a dollar a head and wear collars. An early case of Sam pulling legs—readers’ legs, not dogs’ [Wecter 249].

The Hannibal Journal (formerly the Hannibal Western Union) printed an unsigned article, “Paragraph on a Military Company Formed by Town Boys,” attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.].


July 24 Saturday – Sam reported that a calf had been bitten by a mad dog. A not-so-serious proposal, signed “A Dog-be-deviled Citizen,” called for all dogs to be exterminated. The dog pieces brought Ament’s Hannibal Courier to the defense of dogs, and the Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger also joined in. It’s likely that Orion humored Sam these small needles in print, or perhaps did not notice the humor in them. Such was Orion’s nature, humorless, oblivious [Wecter 249].


August, late – Ament’s Hannibal Courier and the Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger printed pieces defending the town dogs [Wecter 249].


September 9 Thursday – Orion left town for a week and turned the paper over to Sam, who printed gossip to liven things up. He printed an account titled “A Family Muss” about fighting among an Irish family on Holliday’s Hill. Sam used the pen name “W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins,” and showed the sort of fictionalizing of news he would later develop in Nevada and California [Wecter 249; ET&S 1: 69].

September 16 Thursday – Sam satirized Josiah T. Hinton, the new editor of the competing Hannibal Tri-Weekly Messenger, in an article, “Local Resolves to Commit Suicide.” See insert. It seems Hinton had been a jilted lover, so went to the river one night to drown himself, but could not follow through. Sam heard of this and wrote his article along with engravings he fashioned from wood blocks, picturing the editor testing the water’s depth. After the editor retaliated, Sam published two more ridiculing sketches. In a rage, the editor stormed the Journal’s office, only to find seventeen-year-old Sam sitting calmly in the editor’s chair [A. Hoffman 30]. Also during Orion’s absence, Sam’s first use of a pen name appeared: W. Epaminondas Adrastus Perkins (See Sept. 9 entry.) Perkins was soon changed to “Blab” [Powers, Dangerous 199].

Posing as an observer of local society and morals, Sam satirized a drunk and family on Holliday’s Hill. Such subjects were not usually mentioned in newspapers. Sam through Blab, reported with sarcasm on the wife beating by the drunk as “an extreme case of matrimony.” Sam also wrote other pieces with the W.E.A.B. or Blab nom de plume, “Historical Exhibition—A No.1 Ruse,” and “Blabbing Government Secrets!” [ET&S 1: 78]. “Editorial Agility” appeared unsigned and is attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.].


September 23 Thursday – “Blab’s Tour”; “Letter to ‘Mr. Editor’” byline Blab; “Letter to ‘Mr. Editor’” byline A Dog-be-Deviled Citizen,” [Camfield, bibliog.] and “‘Pictur’ Department,” were printed with additional thrusts at the Messenger’s “Local.” Orion returned; Blab announced, “I have retired from public life to the shades of Glascock’s Island” [Wecter 253; ET&S 1: 72-4]. Blab announced his final appearance in the Journal [ET&S 1: 83].

November 4 Thursday “Conubial Bliss,” another unsigned sketch of Sam’s about a rowdy Irishman on “Holliday’s Hill” appeared in the Hannibal Journal [ET&S 1: 85]:

A squalid family living on the side of Holliday’s Hill is under the ‘protection’ of a big fellow who once in a while, say about every afternoon, gets drunk and ‘cuts up’ considerably. Sometimes he gathers the baby and goes staggering and stumbling and pitching about over the hill, to the great dismay of his wife. Having amused himself in this manner till tired, he lays down the child, and ‘lams’ its mama; and if the unwashed, tow-headed boarder, who stands by with his hands in his pockets, offers to interfere he ‘lams’ him too. Within a few days past, his amusements of this sort have been charmingly varied:—such as taking sheets and dresses from the clothes line, and tearing them into ribbons; smashing up the cooking stove, throwing a brick at his wife’s head, and chasing her around the house with a ten foot pole. Quite a contrast, doubtless the poor woman thinks, when her mind wanders back to the courtship and the ‘honey-moon!’ Well, we are all subject to change—except printers; they never have any spare change [ET&S 1: 86].

November 25 ThursdayOrion’s newspaper, the Hannibal Journal, commented on Joseph Ament’s sale of the Hannibal Missouri Courier:


[Ament’s ability had] made him an efficient supporter of his party principles, while his courtesy and uniformly manly course, procured him many friends among his opponents. We heartily wish him success wherever he may bend his steps, and in whatever business he may undertake—except making proselytes to his party [Benson 6]. Note: the two papers had been political rivals.


November 30 Tuesday Sam’s seventeenth birthday.




Vol 1 Section 0010

A Drunk Burned – Sam Again in Charge – Grumbler vs. Rambler – Assistant’s Column Sam Left Hannibal for St. Louis –New York City Typesetter

Philadelphia’s Better Than New York


January 23 Sunday – Sam gave a drunk some matches for his pipe. Later that night the drunk was arrested and jailed in a brick house by the river. At 2 AM the jail caught fire from the drunk’s pipe and people could only watch as the man burned to death. It was an episode that loaded more guilt on Sam, and in 1870 he recalled the death in a letter to his boyhood pal, Will Bowen: “we accidentally burned up that poor fellow in the calaboose” [MTL 4: 51]. Just how the fire started, no one could tell, yet Sam carried guilt from that episode his entire life. (Date calculated from Orion’s Jan. 27 account in the Journal) [Wecter 254].

March, early – An accident at the Journal ruined several columns of type, as reported by the Messenger on Mar. 5. Orion announced the paper would now be a daily as well, to make up for lost editions, under the name the Hannibal Daily Journal [Benson 7].

Text Box: March 4, 1853 – Franklin Pierce
 was sworn in as the
14th President of the United States






April 16 Saturday The Journal printed an unsigned comic verse, “On Miss Anna Bread,” attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.].


April 29 Friday – Two humorous pieces appeared in the Journal over the name “Rambler,” one a report of a stagecoach that crashed through a cellar, and the other a report that “some French gentleman or gentlemen” stole “two hams only” from Brittingham’s pork house [Wecter 257].


May 5 Thursday – Orion once again left the Journal in Sam’s hands. Sam printed three stanzas of vernacular humor in verse “The Heart’s Lament,” dated May 4, under the pen name, “Rambler,” one he would use again in 1858 for the St. Louis Missouri Democrat. The rival Messenger paper was outselling the Journal, now a daily, and Sam was overburdened with getting the paper out. Brother Henry Clemens was a slow and careless typesetter, who probably didn’t like the work; Sam had to keep long hours to correct Henry’s errors [Wecter 257; ET&S 1: 88-90].

May 6 Friday An unsigned article printed in the Daily Journal: “The Editor left yesterday for St. Louis,” is attributed to Sam [Camfield, bibliog.]. “This must be our excuse if the paper is lacking in interest.” Sam made up a controversy about a love poem to “Katie of H——L,” confusing on purpose Hannibal and Hell and again signed “Rambler.” He then proceeded to write objections back and forth. Another unsigned article and headline hoax, “Terrible Accident!” was printed in the Journal and is attributed to Sam. Lastly, an unsigned item, “Two paragraphs ridiculing Abner Gilstrap,” is also attributed to Sam. On his return, Orion finally gave Sam his own column, which ran only three issues. [Wecter 257-8; Camfield bibliog.].


May 7 Saturday Two items ran in the Hannibal Journal, one signed “Grumbler” and one unsigned and attributed to Sam—“Letter to ‘Mr. Editor’,” and “Married in Podunk” [Camfield, bibliog.]. Sam introduced “Grumbler” to continue a dialogue protesting, “Rambler’s” verses to “Katie in Hell.”


May 9 Monday Two items ran in the Journal, one signed “Rambler” and one unsigned and attributed to Sam—“For the Daily Journal,” and “Nonsense Riddle. Making a Bid for Subscription Remittances” [Camfield, bibliog.].


May 10 Tuesday A signed “GrumblerJournal item titled, “To Rambler,” continued the back and forth faux controversy. “Sunday Amusements,” an article written for the Journal, and signed only “J” is attributed to Sam [ET&S 1: 376]. This verbal sparing anticipated the exercises with “The Unreliable,” a rival Virginia City journalist.


May 12 Thursday Four items appeared in the Journal using Sam’s various pen names or unsigned and attributed to him: “Drunken Spree on the Ferry Boat,” (unsigned); “For the Daily Journal,”(signed by “Peter Pencilcase’s Son, John Snooks”); “Increase in the Population of England for 1853,” (unsigned); and a poem, “Separation,” (“Rambler”) [Camfield, bibliog.].


May 13 Friday Wecter says that Sam gave “his most polished effort just as Orion returned” [260]. This Journal article was titled, “Oh, She has a Red Head,” signed by “Son of Adam,” a defense of all who had red hair, claiming that Jefferson and Adam and even Jesus Christ had red hair [ET&S 1: 102]. This time, however, Orion allowed Sam’s humor to continue in the paper [Wecter 260].

Also appearing in the Journal this day was an unsigned piece, “About Rambler and his Enemies,” attributed to Sam; an unsigned/attributed editorial note praising the Red Head piece; another “For the Daily Journal,” signed by “Rambler,” and “Two Short Editorials on Abner Gilstrap,” unsigned and attributed [Camfield, bibliog.].

May 14 Saturday – Sam wrote “News Item About Steamboat Arrivals,” in the Journal as “Rambler,” praising the “charming” steamboat Kate Kearney, which “came walking the water like a thing of life” [Branch, “Steersman” 206n10]. Orion, upon his return he printed an editorial “commanding the peace [as]. in the manner of Judge Clemens” [Wecter 259]. “It is a great bore to us,” wrote Orion in the Journal, “and doubtless to the public generally.” Sam’s fun was somewhat dampened [Wecter 259].

May 18 Wednesday – Westward emigrant parties were making their way through Hannibal—Mormons headed to Salt Lake and gold seekers to California. The Hannibal Daily Journal of this date ran a typical notice:

Several California teams passed through here this morning. Messrs. T.W. Bunberry, A.J. Price, and Sam’l Fry started this morning with a good, light wagon and four yoke of fine oxen [Benson 22].

Even a few of Sam’s companions went with their families. Sam would recall:

“I remember the departure of the cavalcade when it spurred Westward. We were all there to see and to envy. And I can still see that proud little chap sailing by on a great horse….We were all on hand to gaze and envy when he returned, two years later, in unimaginable glory—for he had traveled” [MTA 2: 183]


May 20 Friday An unsigned/attributed “Editorial Comment on Abner Gilstrap” appeared in the Journal [Camfield, bibliog.].


May 23 Monday – Sam wrote in “Our Assistant’s Column” of the Journal that the steamboat Jennie Deans had put ashore two children stricken with cholera [Branch, “Steersman” 206n10]. More importantly, Sam poked fun at the rival town of Quincy, Illinois (“one horse town with stern wheel prospects”), and insulted the Bloomington (Missouri) Republican [Wecter 261]. Sam was an instigator, forever trying to stir up fun and controversy in an otherwise boring newspaper. Also in the column was a satire of “The Burial of Sir John Moore” titled, “The Burial of Sir Abner Gilstrap, Editor of the Bloomington ‘Republican’”[ET&S 1: 106; MTL 1: 2].

May 25 Wednesday Sam wrote another “Assistant’s Column” in the Journal [MTL 1:2].

A notice first ran in the Journal: “WANTED! AN APPRENTICE OF THE PRINTING BUSINESS. APPLY SOON.” The ad ran for two weeks.

Wecter concludes this date marked Sam’s departure from Hannibal [Wecter 263]. Sam had promised his mother that he would abstain from cards and liquor [Wecter 262].

May 26 Thursday – Sam wrote his last “Assistant’s Column” inserting a paragraph about the Crystal Palace in New York City. He wrote that the fifteen to twenty thousand persons who were “continually congregated” there engaged in “drunkenness and debauching…carried on to their fullest extent.” Sam was thinking about leaving Hannibal by this time, and New York may have already been his desired destination, but he spoke only of St. Louis to his mother [Wecter 262; MTL 1:2].


May 27Friday June, early By this time Sam was in St. Louis to find his way in the world. Paine writes he took a night boat to St. Louis [MTB 94]. Sam likely stayed with his sister Pamela and found work as a typesetter. He vowed never to let a place trap him again. Orion was so depressed that he did not publish another edition of the Journal for a month [Powers, Dangerous 217].

June 2 Thursday Four unsigned news articles appeared in the Journal attributed to Sam days after he left town: “Friday Evening, May 27, 1853,” “Saturday Evening, May 28, 1853,” “Monday Evening, May 30, 1853. Small Pox Gone,” and “Tuesday Evening, May 31, 1853” [Camfield, bibliog.]. It is likely that Sam had left these, either complete or for Orion to finish and use as he saw fit. Sam’s only other items in the Journal were two letters home that ran in September.


June 11 SaturdayOrion failed to get out the Hannibal Daily Journal for a whole month, beginning on this date. In one sense, Sam never truly left Hannibal—he carried it in his heart and memory and poured it out into The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal in those pages would become a universal boyhood home, an icon like the man himself. Sam would visit again in 1882 to gather material for Life on the Mississippi, and the last time in 1902. In many ways Sam Clemens would always be the boy of Hannibal—his wife Livy would call him “youth.”

“White town drowsing in the sunshine of a summers morning…the great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun…” [LM ch.4].

SummerSt. Louis in the summer of 1853 was a burgeoning city of 100,000 souls, the largest city of the West. The city offered Western freedom together with many of the luxuries and affectations of the East. For a young man from Hannibal, such a city must have been dazzling. Sam had kept plans secret from his family, to work in St. Louis long enough to make fare to New York City. Sam had read stories about the World’s Fair there, The Crystal Palace Fair, and he’d included them in his Journal column. He probably stayed with the Moffetts and set type for the St. Louis Evening News.

In 1903 Sam remembered “the time in St. Louis in ’53, aged 17 ½, that I took the shy pretty girl from up country to Ben DeBar’s theatre” to see The Toodles, A Domestic Drama in Two Acts (1832 by Richard John Raymond) and then couldn’t get his too-tight shoes on after the performance [Gribben 570]. This was a play he would see again Jan. 12, 1864 in Carson City and report on. The girl he took is unidentified.

August 19 Friday – At 8 AM Sam boarded a boat and started a journey by train and boat to New York. He did not tell his mother about the trip, which took about five days. From St. Louis to Alton, Ill by the sidewheeler steamer Cornelia, 11:00 AM, from Alton to Springfield on the partly completed Chicago and Mississippi Railroad; by Frink’s stage to Bloomington, Ind. [MTL 1: 5n2]. Dempsey notes that the train station was “just a few blocks” from the law office of Abraham Lincoln [232].

August 20 Saturday – Sam took the Illinois Central line to LaSalle, then the Chicago and Rock Island into Chicago, arriving at 7 PM [MTL 1: 5n2; Dempsey 232]. He “laid over all day Sunday” [MTL 1: 3].

August 21 Sunday – Sam took the 9 PM Michigan Central to Toledo, Ohio, then to Monroe, Michigan on the Northern Indiana and Michigan Southern railroads [Dempsey 232]. In his letter he wrote he traveled from Chicago to Monroe, Michigan “by railroad, another day” [MTL 1: 3].

August 22 Monday – 8 AM “from Monroe, across Lake Erie, in the fine Lake palace, ‘Southern Michigan,’ to Buffalo, another day. Sam would revisit Buffalo and Niagara Falls in 1869 [MTL 1: 3; Reigstad 59]. Dempsey: “He traveled to Buffalo, New York, aboard the steamer Southern Michigan [Dempsey 232].

August 23 Tuesday – 7 AM “from Buffalo to Albany, on the “Lightning Express” railroad, another day” [MTL 1: 3; Powers, MT A Life 64]. Dempsey gives this train trip as beginning at 8 A.M. [232].

August 24 Wednesday“…and from Albany to New York, by Hudson river steamboat [Isaac Newton], another day—an awful trip, taking five days, where it should have been only three” [MTL 1: 3]. Sam arrived in New York City at 5 AM with “two or three dollars in his pocket and a ten-dollar bill concealed in the lining of his coat” [MTB 95; MTL 1: 5n2; Powers, MT A Life 64]. (See letter of this date for a more exacting suggested itinerary.)

Sam wrote his mother Jane Clemens  with a somewhat backhanded apology for shocking her at his destination. He then described an exhibit of what would later become “the wild men of Borneo,” and a brief mention of the Crystal Palace and the Marble Palace. Sam found lodging in a mechanics’ boarding house on Duane Street [MTL 1: 3-5; MTB 96].


My Dear Mother: you will doubtless be a little surprised, and somewhat angry when you receive this, and find me so far from home; but you must bear a little with me, for you know I was always the best boy you had, and perhaps you remember the people used to say to their children—“Now don’t do like Orion and Henry Clemens but take Sam for your guide!”

Well, I was out of work in St. Louis, and didn’t fancy loafing in such a dry place, where there is no pleasure to be seen without paying well for it, and so I thought I might as well go to New York. I packed up my “duds” and left for this village, where I arrived, all right, this morning.

It took a day, by steamboat and cars, to go from St. Louis to Bloomington, Ill; another day by railroad, from there to Chicago, where I laid over all day Sunday; from Chicago to Monroe, in Michigan, by railroad, another day; from Monroe, across Lake Erie, in the fine Lake palace, “Southern Michigan,” to Buffalo, another day; from Buffalo to Albany, by railroad, another day; and from Albany to New York, by Hudson river steamboat, another day—an awful trip, taking five days, where it should have been only three. I shall wait a day or so for my insides to get settled, after the jolting they received, when I shall look out for a sit; for they say there is plenty of work to be had for sober compositors.

The trip, however, was a very pleasant one. Rochester, famous on account of the “Spirit Rappings” was of course interesting; and when I saw the Court House in Syracuse, it called to mind the time when it was surrounded with chains and companies of soldiers, to prevent the rescue of McReynolds’ nigger, by the infernal abolitionists. I reckon I had better black my face, for in these Eastern States niggers are considerably better than white people.

I saw a curiosity to-day, but I don’t know what to call it. Two beings, about like common people, with the exception of their faces, which are more like the “phiz” of an orang-outang, than human. They are white, though, like other people. lmagine a person about the size of Harvel Jordan’s oldest boy, with small lips and full breast, with a constant uneasy, fidgety motion, bright, intelligent eyes, that seems as if they would look through you, and you have these things. They were found in the island of Borneo (the only ones of the species ever discovered,) about twenty years ago. One of them is twenty three, and the other twenty five years of age. They possess amazing strength; the smallest one would shoulder three hundred pounds as easily as I would a plug of tobacco; they are supposed to be a cross between man and orang-outang; one is the best natured being in the world, while the other would tear a stranger to pieces, if he did but touch him; they wear their hair “Samson” fashion, down to their waists. They have no apple in their throats, whatever, and can therefore scarcely make a sound; no memory either; what transpires to-day, they have forgotten before to-morrow; they look like one mass of muscle, and can walk either on all fours or upright; when let alone, they will walk to and fro across the room, thirteen hours out of the twenty-four; not a day passes but they walk twenty-five or thirty miles, without resting thirty minutes; I watched them about an hour and they were “tramping” the whole time. The little one bent his arm with the elbow in front, and the hand pointing upward, and no two strapping six footers in the room could pull it out straight. Their faces and eyes are those of the beast, and when they fix their glittering orbs on you with a steady, unflinching gaze, you instinctively draw back a step, and a very unpleasant sensation steals through your veins. They are both males and brothers, and very small, though I do not know their exact hight. I have given you a very lengthy description of the animals, but I have nothing else to write about, and nothing from here would be interesting anyhow. The Crystal Palace is a beautiful building—so is the Marble Palace.11 If I can find nothing better to write about, I will say something about these in my next.

em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem space[ closing and signature missing] [MTPO].

August 29 Monday – Sam got “a permanent situation…in a book and job office and went to work.” He was paid 23 cents per 1000 ems, the lowest rate. He worked in the fifth floor office of John A. Gray, 95-97 Cliff Street [MTL 1: 9; Powers, MT A Life 65]. His earnings were four dollars a week; he managed to save as much as fifty cents a week [MTB 96].

August 31 Wednesday – In New York, Sam wrote to his mother, Jane Clemens, of his new position, his rooming house, a derogatory description of “brats” in the city, and food.


My dear Mother:

New York is at present overstocked with printers; and I suppose they are from the South, driven North by the yellow fever. I got a permanent situation on Monday morning, in a book and job office, and went to work. The printers here are badly organized, and therefore have to work for various prices. These prices are 23, 25, 28, 30, 32, and 35 cents per 1,000 ems. The price I get is 23 cents; but I did very well to get a place at all, for there are thirty or forty—yes, fifty good printers in the city with no work at all; besides, my situation is permanent, and I shall keep it till I can get a better one. The office I work in is John A. Gray’s, 97 Cliff street, and, next to Harper’s, is the most extensive in the city. In the room in which I work I have forty compositors for company. Taking compositors, pressmen, stereotypers, and all, there are about two hundred persons employed in the concern. The “Knickerbocker,” “New York Recorder,” “Choral Advocate,” “Jewish Chronicle,” “Littell’s Living Age,” “Irish ——,” and half a dozen other papers and periodicals are printed here, besides an immense number of books. They are very particular about spacing, justification, proofs, etc., and even if I do not make much money, I will learn a great deal. I thought [Thomas] Ustick was particular enough, but acknowledge now that he was not old-maidish. Why, you must put exactly the same space between every two words, and every line must be spaced alike. They think it dreadful to space one line with three em spaces, and the next one with five ems. However, I expected this, and worked accordingly from the beginning; and out of all the proofs I saw, without boasting, I can say mine was by far the cleanest. In St. Louis, Mr. Baird said my proofs were the cleanest that were ever set in his office. The foreman of the Anzeiger told me the same—foreman of the Watchman the same; and with all this evidence, I believe I do set a clean proof.

My boarding house is more than a mile from the office; and I can hear the signal calling the hands to work before I start down; they use a steam whistle for that purpose. I work in the fifth story; and from one window I have a pretty good view of the city, while another commands a view of the shipping beyond the Battery; and the “forest of masts,” with all sorts of flags flying, is no mean sight. You have everything in the shape of water craft, from a fishing smack to the steamships and men-of-war; but packed so closely together for miles, that when close to them you can scarcely distinguish one from another.

Of all the commodities, manufactures—or whatever you please to call it—in New York, trundle-bed trash—children I mean—take the lead. Why, from Cliff street, up Frankfort to Nassau street, six or seven squares—my road to dinner—I think I could count two hundred brats. Niggers, mulattoes, quadroons, Chinese, and some the Lord no doubt originally intended to be white, but the dirt on whose faces leaves one uncertain as to that fact, block up the little, narrow street; and to wade through this mass of human vermin, would raise the ire of the most patient person that ever lived. In going to and from my meals, I go by the way of Broadway—and to cross Broadway is the rub—but once across, it is the rub for two or three squares. My plan—and how could I choose another, when there is no other—is to get into the crowd; and when I get in, I am borne, and rubbed, and crowded along, and need scarcely trouble myself about using my own legs; and when I get out, it seems like I had been pulled to pieces and very badly put together again.

Last night I was in what is known as one of the finest fruit saloons in the world. The whole length of the huge, glittering hall is filled with beautiful ornamented marble slab tables, covered with the finest fruit I ever saw in my life. I suppose the fruit could not be mentioned with which they could not supply you. It is a perfect palace. The gas lamps hang in clusters of half a dozen together—representing grapes, I suppose—all over the hall.

em spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem spaceem space[closing and signature missing]

P.S. The printers have two libraries in town, entirely free to the craft; and in these I can spend my evenings most pleasantly. If books are not good company, where will I find it? [MTL 1: 9-12]. Note: for more on the publications Sam listed in the first paragraph, see p.11n4 in source; for more on the Printers’ Free Library and Reading Room see n.10. Thomas Watt Ustick (b. 1800/01) prominent St. Louis printer.


September 3? Saturday – In New York, Sam wrote at 2 AM to his sister, Pamela Moffett in St. Louis. After describing Crystal Palace of the World’s Fair, he wrote that the daily visitors average 6,000, double Hannibal’s population, and that the city’s water was supplied by the Croton Aqueduct from a reservoir in Westchester County, some thirty eight miles away. Such figures impressed Sam. After descriptions he wrote of family:

I am very sorry to learn that Henry has been sick. [in margin: Write, and let me know how Henry is] He ought to go to the country and take exercise; for he is not half so healthy as Ma thinks he is. If he had my walking to do, he would be another boy entirely. Four times every day I walk a little over one mile; and working hard all day, and walking four miles, is exercise—I am used to it now, though, and it is no trouble. Where is it Orion’s going to? Tell Ma my promises are faithfully kept; and if I have my health I will take her to Ky. in the spring—I shall save money for this. Tell Jim and all the rest of them to write, and give me all the news. I am sorry to hear such bad news from Will and Captain Bowen. I shall write to Will soon. The Chatham-square Post Office and the Broadway office too, are out of my way, and I always go to the General Post Office; so you must write the direction of my letters plain, “New York City, N. Y.,” without giving the street or anything of the kind, or they may go to some of the other offices. (It has just struck 2 A.M. and I always get up at 6, and am at work at 7.) You ask where I spend my evenings. Where would you suppose, with a free printers’ library containing more than 4,000 volumes within a quarter of a mile of me, and nobody at home to talk to? I shall write to Ella soon. Write soon.

Truly your Brother


P.S I have written this by a light so dim that you nor Ma could not read by it [MTL 1: 13]. Note: Ella Evelina Hunter married James A.H. Lampton, Jane’s younger (by 21 years) half-brother, in Nov. 1849. Paine misidentified Ella as Ella Creel who lived in Keokuk; Twain didn’t visit Keokuk until 1855.

September 5 Monday Orion printed Sam’s Aug. 24 letter to his mother as an unsigned article in the Hannibal Journal [Camfield, bibliog.].


September 10 Saturday Orion printed Sam’s Aug. 31 letter to his mother as an unsigned article in the Hannibal Journal [Camfield, bibliog.].


September 22 Thursday Orion sold the Hannibal Journal and moved the family to Muscatine, Iowa, where he soon started another paper, the Muscatine Journal with a partner, John Mahin [MTL 1: 18n3; Powers, Dangerous 229-30].

September 30 Friday – The Muscatine Journal published its first edition. Orion sent a copy to Sam, who later submitted letters for Orion to use in the paper [Powers, Dangerous 230].

October 8 Saturday – In New York, Sam wrote to Pamela, saying he hadn’t written to any of the family for some time and gave the reason that he had “been fooling myself with the idea that I was going to leave New York, every day for the last two weeks. I have taken a liking to the abominable place…” He confessed he didn’t know where the family was, due to his receipt some days before of the final issue of the Journal. He supposed they were in St. Louis. Sam told of seeing Edwin Forrest in the role of Spartacus in the play Gladiator at the Broadway Theater. He told her not to worry about him, that he would be as “independent as a woodsawyer’s clerk” [MTL 1: 16-18].

October 1921 Friday – Sam left New York for Philadelphia. The trip lasted four and a half hours, by steamboat from New York to South Amboy, New Jersey and from there by train to Camden, ferry across the Delaware River. In several letters, Sam decided he liked Philadelphia much more than New York [MTL 1: 28n20]. Paine briefly mentions a boarding-house roommate, an Englishman named Sumner who now and then grilled herring, which was “regarded as a feast” [MTB 98].


October 26? 28 Friday – In Philadelphia, Sam wrote to Orion and Henry. He received the last edition of the Journal, which carried a notice that the paper had been sold,

“…and I very naturally supposed from that, that the family had disbanded, and taken up winter quarters in St. Louis. Therefore, I have been writing to Pamela, till I’m tired of it, and have received no answer.”

Most of the letter was description of Philadelphia, local customs and Sam’s reactions to the city. He continued the “Katie in H——l” joke by ending Orion’s section with “Tell me all that is going on in H——l” [MTL 1: 19].

November 11 Friday – Sam’s letter from Philadelphia of Oct. 26 to Orion and Henry was printed in the Muscatine Journal [MTL 1: 19].

November 23 Wednesday – Sam went to the third anniversary ball and banquet of Philadelphia Typographical Union No. 2. Publishing people met to discuss how to raise money for a monument to Benjamin Franklin [MTL 1: 28].

November 28 Monday – In Philadelphia, Sam wrote brother Orion after receiving his letter, not extant.

My Dear Brother:

I received your letter to-day. I think Ma ought to spend the winter in St Louis. I don’t believe in that climate—it’s too cold for her. [in Muscatine]

The printers annual ball and supper came off the other night. The proceeds amounted to about $1.000. The printers, as well as other people are endeavoring to raise money to erect a monument to Franklin, but there are so many abominable foreigners here (and among printers, too,) who hate everything American, that I am very certain as much money for such a purpose could be raised in St Louis, as in Philadelphia[.] I was in Franklin’s old office this morning,—the “North American” (formerly “Philadelphia Gazette”), and there were at least one foreighner for every American at work there.

How many subscribers has the Journal got? What does the job-work pay? and what does the whole concern pay? I have not seen a copy of the paper yet.

I intend to take Ma to Ky., anyhow, and if I possibly have the money, I will attend to the deeds too.

I will try to write for the paper occasionally, but I fear my letters will be very uninteresting, for this incessant night work dulls one[’s] ideas amazingly.

From some cause, I cannot set type near so fast as when I was at home. Sunday is a long day, and while others set 12 and 15,000, yesterday, I only set 10,000. However, I will shake this laziness off, soon, I reckon.

I always thought the eastern people were patterns of uprightness; but I never before saw so many whisky-swilling, God-despising heathens as I find in this part of the country. I believe I am the only person in the Inquirer office that does not drink. One young fellow makes $18 for a few weeks, and gets on a grand “bender” and spends every cent of it.

How do you like “free-soil?[”] I would like amazingly to see a good, old-fashioned negro. My love to all

Truly your brother

Sam [MTL 1: 28-9].

November 30 WednesdaySam’s eighteenth birthday.

December 4 Sunday – In Philadelphia, Sam wrote a letter to Orion’s newspaper, the Muscatine Journal, describing the layout of the city, the “unaccountable feeling of awe” one feels when entering the Old State House in Chestnut Street where the Declaration of Independence was passed by Congress on July 4, 1776. He also told of a local practice of “free-and-easy” at saloons, which was a sort of karaoke laugh-fest. Sam noted the attraction of “two fat women, one weighing 764, and the other 769 pounds, to ‘astonish the natives’ ” [MTL 1: 30-1].

December 5 Monday – In Philadelphia, Sam wrote a short note to sister Pamela: 

My Dear Sister:

I have already written two letters within the last two hours, and you will excuse me if this is not lengthy. If I had the money, I would come to St. Louis now, while the river is open; [i.e., not frozen] but in the last two or three weeks I have spent about thirty dollars for clothing, so I suppose I shall remain where I am. I only want to return to avoid night work, which is injuring my eyes. I have received one or two letters from home, but they are not written as they should be; and know no more about what is going on there, than the man in the moon. One only has to leave home to learn how to write an interesting [letter] to an absent friend when he gets back. I suppose you board at Mrs. Hunter’s yet—and that, I think, is somewhere in Olive street above Fifth. Phila is one of the healthiest places in the Union. I wanted to spend this winter in a warm climate; but it is too late now. I don’t like our present prospect for cold weather at all.

Truly your brother

Sam [MTL 1: 33]. Paine says Sam was “clearly homesick” [MTB 101].


December 16 Friday Sam’s letter of Dec. 4 was printed in the Muscatine Journal [MTL 1: 30].


December 24 Saturday – In Philadelphia, Sam wrote to the Muscatine Journal, describing the weather, a recent fire, the price of turkeys at $7 [MTL 1: 34-5].