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Clemens was born in Florida Missouri in 1835 and grew up in nearby Hannibal on the Mississippi River His father died in 1847 leaving the family with little financial support and Clemens became a printers apprentice eventually working for his brother Orion Through all his years in the print shop Clemens tried his hand at composing humorous pieces using the heavy-handed techniques of local colorists who were popular at the time By 1856 he was accomplished enough to receive a commission from the Keokuk Saturday Post for a series of comical letters reporting on his planned travels to South America But on his way down the Mississippi Clemens temporarily abandoned his literary ambitions to take up a trade he had dreamed about as a boy He apprenticed himself to become a riverboat pilot and after 18 months of training spent the next three years navigating the Mississippis waters When the Civil War closed traffic on the river in the spring of 1861 Clemens spent a few inglorious weeks as a volunteer in the Confederate army then deserted to join Orion again whose abolitionist views had won him appointment as territorial secretary in Nevada By mid-August the brothers were in Carson City where Clemens tried his luck with timber then mining then finally found a measure of success in 1862 as a feature writer for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise It was as this papers reporter at the Nevada constitutional convention that Clemens began to sign his work Mark Twain The experience of filing daily reports on the picturesque doings in a Nevada mining town helped Clemens sharpen and broaden his abilities as a writer After two years he carried those talents to San Francisco where he wrote for a variety of newspapers and periodicals In 1870 Clemens married Olivia Langdon of Elmira New York The couple settled briefly in Buffalo New York then permanently in Harford Connecticut where Clemens finally turned from journalism to produce
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