Mark Twain and the Mississippi River
By Taylor Ettinger
• I chose Mark Twain and the Mississippi River
because I enjoy the beauty of nature.
• Mark Twain’s life along the Mississippi was very
• I thought it would be a fun topic to present.
Map of the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River
• The Mississippi River is a beautiful river running from
Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
• It is the second largest river in the United States.
• It is 2,320 miles long.
• The name Mississippi is derived from the Ojibwe word misi-
ziibi (meaning "Great River")
Mark Twain and the Mississippi River
• For most people, the name "Mark Twain" is virtually
synonymous with the life along the Mississippi River
immortalized in the author's writing.
• Clemens first signed his writing with the name in February
1863, as a newspaper reporter in Nevada.
• "Mark Twain" ("Mark” meaning number two) was a
Mississippi River term.
Mark Twain’s Background
• On November 30, 1835, nearly
thirty years before he took the
pen name Mark Twain, Samuel
Langhorne Clemens was born in
Florida, Missouri, a hamlet
some 130 miles north-northwest
of St. Louis, and 30 miles
inland from the Mississippi River.
• His father, John Marshall Clemens, had
earlier that year moved the family there
• In Tennessee, he had accumulated much
land, a pair of slaves, a wife, and five
children, but his efforts as a lawyer,
storekeeper, and local politician did not
yield the wealth he desired.
• In 1857, at the age of twenty-one, he became a "cub"
• The Civil War ended that career four years later by halting
all river traffic.
• Although Clemens never again lived in the Mississippi
valley, he returned to the river in his writing throughout his
Life on the Mississippi
• Mark Twain visited the Mississippi River a number of times.
• In 1882 he started writing “Life on the Mississippi River”
• It was his fullest and most autobiographical account of the
region and its inhabitants.
Mark Twain’s Notebook
• Clemens kept a notebook as a cub pilot.
• The notebook was dated April-July 1857
• Famous quote from it: "My boy, you must get a little
memorandum-book, and every time I tell you a thing, put it
down right away. There's only one way to be a pilot, and
that is to get this entire river by heart. You have to know it
just like A B C."
• The Mississippi River is more than just a river; it is a unique
resource and the best example of a multi-purpose river in
the United States.
• The river ecosystem is home to a diverse array of fish and
wildlife that find habitat in its channels, backwaters,
sloughs, wetlands, and adjacent uplands.
• Millions of people visit the area every year to participate in water
activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, or simply enjoying the
Tom Sawyer Days
• Samuel Clemens had a favorite word whenever he
described his boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri
• He meant that it was a place halfway between
sleeping and awake, a lazy outpost on the Mississippi
River, where he and his friends lived in a world of
straw hats, corn-cob pipes, trout fishing, playing
hooky, and watching steamboats ply the river.
• Clemens would later call these his “Tom Sawyer
days,” a time when he himself pulled many of the
pranks he later attributed to his young hero.
• He lived there from the age of four to fifteen, and he
relived those days for the rest of his life in books like
Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the
Old Times On The Mississippi
• When Clemens was a boy, he had an ambition to be a
• The highest of all steamboatmen was the pilot, the cool-
headed hero responsible for navigating the river’s ever-
• Clemens became a “cub” for the famed pilot,
• He spent the next two years memorizing the
entire river from St. Louis to New Orleans,
eventually getting a pilot’s license.
• Quote from Life on the Mississippi, “Mississippi steamboating was born
about 1812; at the end of thirty years, it had grown to mighty
proportions; and in less than thirty more, it was dead! A strangely short
life for so majestic a creature. Of course it is not absolutely dead; neither
is a crippled octogenarian who could once jump twenty-two feet on level
ground; but as contrasted with what it was in its prime vigor, Mississippi
steamboating may be called dead.”
• Before trains, cars, trucks and airplanes existed, rivers were used for
travel. They carried people and goods from one place to another.
• River travel was often slow because speed of travel depended on the river
current and manpower. That all changed with the introduction of
steampowered boats in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
• All his life, Clemens loathed
aspects of the small-town South,
and especially its casual cruelty,
which he immortalized in the
words of Huckleberry Finn
• Shortened quote: “All the streets
and lanes was just mud; they
warn’t nothing else BUT mud—
mud as black as tar and nigh
about a foot deep in some
places, and two or three inches
deep in ALL the places.”
• Mark Twain wrote the
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
• When I find a well-drawn character in fiction or biography I
generally take a warm personal interest in him, for the reason
that I have known him before--met him on the river.
- Life on the Mississippi
• The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering
skill can persuade it to do otherwise...
- Mark Twain in Eruption
• In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower
Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles.
That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year.
Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see
that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next
November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million
three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of
Mexico like a fishing-rod.
• And by the same token any person can
see that seven hundred and forty-two
years from now the Lower Mississippi
will be only a mile and three-quarters
long, and Cairo and New Orleans will
have joined their streets together, and
be plodding comfortably along under a
single mayor and a mutual board of
aldermen. There is something
fascinating about science. One gets
such wholesale returns of conjecture
out of such a trifling investment of
- Life on the Mississippi
• It is strange how little has been
written about the Upper Mississippi.
The river below St. Louis has been
described time and again, and it is the
least interesting part. One can sit on
the pilot-house for a few hours and
watch the low shores, the ungainly
trees and the democratic buzzards,
and then one might as well go to bed.
One has seen everything there is to
• Along the Upper Mississippi every hour brings something new. There are crowds of
odd islands, bluffs, prairies, hills, woods and villages--everything one could desire
to amuse the children. Few people every think of going there, however. Dickens,
Corbett, Mother Trollope and the other discriminating English people who 'wrote up'
the country before 1842 had hardly an idea that such a stretch of river scenery
existed. Their successors have followed in their footsteps, and as we form our
opinions of our country from what other people say of us, of course we ignore the
finest part of the Mississippi.
- interview in Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1886
• If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
• The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
The National Mississippi River Museum
• The museum is located in Dubuque, Iowa
• The museum has an exhibit about Mark Twain in the National Rivers Hall of Fame.
• It shares his life and shows his books on display.
Mark Twain Landing Resort
• The Mark Twain Landing Resort is located in Monroe City, Missouri
• It is located 1/2 mile from Mark Twain boat ramp, it is the gateway to a
wealth of boating, fishing and hunting pleasures. We have cabins, motel
rooms, and condos along with beautiful RV sites.
• It is one of the best water amusement parks in the state. With three
water slides, a speed flume, a space bowl slide, the Lazy River Ride, and a
50,000 gallon wave pool and splash pad.
Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge
• The Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWR) was
established for the protection of migratory birds including
waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.
• It is located along the Mississippi Flyway, one of the major routes
for migrating waterfowl.
• The lands and waters of the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge
Complex provide fish and wildlife habitat along 350 miles of the
Mississippi River corridor between Muscatine, Iowa and Gorham,