Sam Clemens Calls Himself Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain when he worked in Virginia City, Nevada at a newspaper known as Territorial Enterprise. At the time, Nevada was a territory, not a state. And Virginia City—because of 19th-century mining—became a very important western town:

The 19th century mining bonanza turned Virginia City into the most important industrial city between Denver and San Francisco, and it turned destitute prospectors from all over the world into millionaires.

They built mansions, hospitals, churches, opera houses and schools, and imported furniture, fashions, and entertainment from Europe and the Orient.

They helped finance the Civil War [for the U.S. federal government], and went on to build empires around the world. Among the finest examples is San Francisco, a city built with Comstock silver. (See the website "Visit Virginia City" and its article, "A City of Silver and Gold.")

This image depicts the desk Sam Clemens used at the Territorial Enterprise , together with his chair, books and other items. Today these artifacts are maintained at the Mark Twain Museum in Virginia City.

The National Park Service tells us more about the newspaper where Sam Clemens first started to use Mark Twain as his pen name:

The Enterprise was known for the flamboyant style of journalism developed in its earlier years by such writers as Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille.

While reporting on the Nevada constitutional convention for the Enterprise, Samuel Clemens began using his penname Mark Twain. During his time with the paper, Twain gathered material for his stories and books from the colorful characters and activities of the Comstock [referencing the "Comstock Lode," a large gold and silver deposit, worked by many miners, in Virginia City and Gold Hill, Nevada].

William Sharon of the Bank of California purchased the paper in 1874 for an estimated $500,000 in order to silence the paper's criticism of him. The paper suspended publication in 1893, but was revived in 1895 when the first Linotype west of the Mississippi was installed.

It shut down again in 1916, only to be revived again in 1952 by Charles Clegg and Lucius Beebe, both New York journalists and prominent historians of the West.

As far as historians know, Clemens' first recorded use of his pen name—Mark Twain—occurred in a letter which he wrote to the editors of the Territorial Enterprise . That letter was reportedly published on February 3, 1863.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 24, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Nov 04, 2016

Media Credits

Image, depicting Mark Twain's work tools while he was employed at the "Territorial Enterprise" newspaper, online via the Mark Twain Museum in Virginia City, Nevada. Unnamed Photographer.


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"Sam Clemens Calls Himself Mark Twain" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 24, 2016. Nov 22, 2019.
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