Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens on Nov. 30, 1835 in Missouri. According to the Mark Twain House & Museum, Twain spent his formative years in a frontier town on the banks of the Mississippi River. His father was a slave owner, and Twain "spent many boyhood summers playing in the slave quarters‚ listening to tall tales and the slave spirituals" that would appear later in his writing.
As a young man, Twain dabbled in newspaper writing, but was also a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi before the Civil War. After a failed bid to become a silver prospector, Twain returned to journalism, writing for a Nevada newspaper and using the pen name Mark Twain for the first time, the museum said.
Twain's first short story was published in 1865, but he soon fell into travel writing. A compilation of his travel-related stories became his first book, The Innocents Abroad, which was published in 1869. During his travels, he met his future wife Olivia and the duo settled in Buffalo, New York in the 1870s.
Between 1874 and 1891, Twain penned his most famous works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881) and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
Twain made some bad investments later in life, prompting a move to Europe and a lecture tour to earn money. The family returned to the U.S. in 1900, but as the museum noted, Twain's later work was quite dark, focusing on human greed, cruelty and the like.
Twain died on April 21‚ 1910 in Connecticut at the age of 74.