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Mark Twain, author of beloved works such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, widely considered one of the greatest novels in American literature.
Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in the small village of Florida, MO. As a young man, he worked at various jobs; his time as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi gave Clemens the name under which he later became famous. Big steamboats needed about 12 feet of water—two fathoms, or “mark twain” in the cry of the leadsman who measured the river’s depth—to float safely.
Other works by this prolific writer include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), a celebration of a mythic American boyhood; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889), a novel that satirized aspects of both the Middle Ages and the 19th century; Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), a novel detailing the complications that ensue after a slave mother switches her baby with that of her master; and Life on the Mississippi (1883), beautifully evoking the river of Twain’s youth.