National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.


The Life and Times of Mark Twain

  1. 1830s
    • 1835: Halley's Comet streaks across the night sky.
    • 1835: Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who later adopts the pen name Mark Twain, is born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30.
    • 1839: The Clemens family moves to nearby Hannibal.
  2. 1840s
    • 1847: Clemens's father dies of pneumonia.
    • 1848: Gold discovered in California, mere weeks after U.S. annexation of the territory in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
    • 1848: Clemens apprenticed to his older brother Orion as a printer.
  3. 1850s
    • 1858: Clemens's brother Henry dies from injuries sustained in a riverboat explosion.
    • 1858: Comstock silver lode discovered in Nevada.
    • 1859: Clemens gets his license to pilot steamboats on the Mississippi River.
  4. 1860s
    • 1861: The Civil War begins and lasts four blood-drenched years. Clemens joins the Confederate side and lasts all of two weeks.
    • 1861: Clemens heads west to find his fortune and discovers a career in journalism instead.
    • As a journalist, Twain tours Europe and the Middle East in 1867 and brings back the makings of his first book, The Innocents Abroad, 1869.
  5. 1870s
    • 1870: Twain marries Olivia "Livy" Langdon.
    • 1873: Greed and corruption run rampant in postwar America, yielding the subject for Twain's first (co-written) novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.
    • 1876: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published.
  6. 1880s
    • 1882: After the Civil War ends, Twain embarks on a research trip for Life on the Mississippi.
    • 1885: Inspired partly by his return visit south, Twain finishes Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
    • 1886: Twain buys half-interest in a typesetting machine, which will yield him no end of grief and no rate of return.
  7. 1890s
    • 1894: Twain declares bankruptcy and embarks on an exhausting world lecture tour to dig himself out of debt.
    • 1896: Twain's beloved daughter Susy dies.
    • Mahatma Gandhi agitates for Indian independence; Sigmund Freud pioneers psychoanalysis; Twain meets both, and many other luminaries, during his travels.
  8. 1900s
    • Twain writes brilliant, increasingly bitter essays against lynching, war, and imperialism.
    • 1904: Livy dies in Italy.
    • 1905: President Theodore Roosevelt busts trade monopolies at home, pursues imperialist aims abroad, and entertains Twain at the White House.
    • 1908: Henry Ford introduces the Model T.
  9. 1910
    • 1910: Halley's Comet returns.
    • 1910: Mark Twain dies on April 21.
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