Interesting Facts About Mark Twain

Mark Twain Quotes and Curiosities

November 23, 2020
Mark Twain
UC Berkeley Library

Happy 185th birthday, Mark Twain! This famously witty writer was born on November 30, 1835. Here are 10 curious facts about his life. 

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, provided us with endless entertainment through numerous novels, nonfiction books, short stories, and essays—all despite having ended formal schooling after the fifth grade.

10 Curious Facts About Mark Twain

When Was Mark Twain Born?

Baby Clemens arrived prematurely in a two-room shack in Florida, Missouri, on November 30th, 1835. He was a frail infant and sickly child, prompting his mother to admit, “When I first saw him, I could see no promise in him.”

Mark Twain’s Many Cats

The Clemens family had 19 cats at one time during Twain’s childhood. Over the years he gave his cats inventive names such as Bambino, Famine, Pestilence, Satan, Sin, Sour Mash, and Stray Kit.

What Is Mark Twain’s Real Name?

Sam Clemens tried out several pseudonyms, including Rambler, W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab, and Josh, before settling on Mark Twain (meaning “the second mark”—a phrase used by Mississippi River steamboat crews to measure water depth, specifically the depth of two fathoms).

Mark Twain’s Typewriter

In 1874, the author spotted one of the first typewriters, a Remington, in a Boston store window. Although it could only type capital letters and he had to operate the carriage return with a foot pedal, he bought it for $125. Twain also claimed to be the first person in New England to have had a telephone for private use.

How Tall Was Mark Twain?

This literary giant stood 5 feet 8 ½ inches tall and was so well known that he once received a letter addressed “Mark Twain, God Knows Where.”

Mark Twain in New Hampshire

In 1905, he spent the first of two summers in Dublin, New Hampshire (home of The Old Farmer’s Almanac). There he wrote (but never finished) a book called Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes. To keep him company, he rented three kittens from a local farm. While lecturing at the Dublin Lake Club, he noticed that an audience member was knitting a pair of socks while he spoke. Infuriated, Twain declared that he had never played second fiddle to a sock and left the room. The following year, he returned to the Lake Club and spoke for over 2 hours on various topics. He received a standing ovation.


Mark Twain’s Clothing

Twain made headlines in 1907 by walking from his London hotel to a public bath across the street attired in his blue bathrobe and slippers. Back in America, he often wore scarlet socks and all-white suits, which he called his “don’tcareadam suits.”

Mark Twain’s Leisurely Habits

Twain loved to write in bed, and reporters chatted with him there more than once. He said, “I have never taken any exercise, except for eating and resting, and I never intend to take any.”

Mark Twain’s Memory

He once observed: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so that I can not remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.”

When Did Mark Twain Die?

He was born and died when a comet passed, once noting: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year [1910], and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t.” He got his wish. He died on April 21, 1910, just two days after Halley’s Comet had reached its point closest to the Sun. 

10 Quotes by Mark Twain

Which of these many humorous quotes is your favorite?

“Providence protects children and idiots. I know because I have tested it.”

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

“I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”

“Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”

“It used to be a good hotel, but that proves nothing. I used to be a good boy, for that matter.”

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

“Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

Find out about more important people from U.S. history, such as Benjamin Franklin and Robert B. Thomas, or check out Yankee Magazine’s photo tour of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut!

Are you a fan of Mark Twain? Let us know in the comments!


The 2010 Old Farmer's Almanac


Reader Comments

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"Roughing It"

I'm currently reading Mark Twain's "memoir" of his early travels and adventures across the US, and it's great. However, having read his above quote about his remembering everything when he was young, whether it happened or not, I have to laugh. Fiction or non, or some combination thereof, "Roughing It" is a marvelous read.

Mr. Mark Twain

One of a kind; and then some. He is listed as one of my heroes at the top of my LinkedIn page. I am somewhat of a story-teller, idealist and teacher and Mark Twain was that in spades!
Happy birthday Mark! I hope you're up there riding Halley's while cuddling a kitten or three!

Mark Twain

This was a great article. That was a very expensive typewriter he bought way back then!!

Mark Twain

I, too, fell in love with Mark Twain in High School. Read his complete works and did my last high school paper on an A. My favorite is also Diaries of Adam and Eve.

Mark Twain

There are two people with whom I would love to chat: Eleanor Roosevelt and Mark Twain.

I saw Hal Holbrook portraying Mark Twain in Denver years ago. I felt like I was watching the real Mark Twain. It was mesmerizing, and something I will never forget.

Truth as spoken

He once observed: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so that I can not remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.”

I now can attest to this truth. Once the #1 athlete coming out of high school with a football scholarship to just about any school I wanted, now I find the need to sell a 1907 house because I can no longer maintain it & the stairs have become unsafe for me. We come into this world unable to walk & if we live long enough, we leave this world the same way.

Mark Twain's words seem to cause for pause today..

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

“Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.”

“I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Mark Twain

The best thing I have ever read is by Mark Twain. Diaries of Adam and Eve.

Mark Twain

My favorite, " The War Prayer"

Your articles

Bless you all for such informative articles that are delightful! I just love the almanac too! Hard to put down!


My favorite Twain quote is "If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man but deteriorate the cat'.

Stories and Letters From the Earth

Undoubtedly one of the greatest American authors. His many stories are a delight, such as "bad boy" Jim who went on to become a Congressman. Also his Letters from the Earth and his lesser known Mississippi writings such as Pudd'nhead Wilson deserve to be better known. He is attributed to having produced the first type-written manuscript submitted for publication. A prolific writer whose Huckleberry Finn is one of America's greatest novels.

Hannibal, MO

I've loved Twain's life and works all my life. I went to Hannibal, Missouri a decade ago to see his boyhood home and the Samuel Clemens sights. I highly recommend it. My favorite books of Twain's are "Life on the Mississippi" and his autobiography. I hope to see him in the next life. I would love to chat with him.

Mark Twain, defense against depression.

I love this man so much. He is one of the people I wanted to be when I grew up. When the black clouds start to hem me in, I whip out my copy of Roughing It and fight them off. My two favorite books are Roughing It and Dracula. That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? I wish I could have met him. He was a lousy business man but a marvelous human being.

Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer had a cousin Sarah Clemens who was married to one of my ancestors. So he has a special place in my heart. Very interesting and clever man.

mark twain's height

Did you know Mark Twain was 5 ft., 9 in. tall?!?!

Mark Twain

My favorite is the one about cauliflower! Both cauliflower and brussel sprouts are my two favorite vegetables. Heaslthy they are for a person!

I got to see Mark Twain place

I got to see Mark Twain place in Virginia City, it's so tiny! But it was so kool to be be standing in a place where Mark Twain was.

Mark Twain-isms

I need to look up the quote about cauliflower. I had heard it as, "Brussel Sprouts are cabbages with a college education." Either one is not my favorite vegetable!


Where would we be without good ol' Tom and Huck!

Mark Twain

If indeed I dare to claim to be Mark's biggest fan,
then I would have definitely blown him away!

Mark Twain

Mr. Twain is also well-remembered in Virginia City, Nevada. Must have been interesting times, then.

Mark Twain's Study

Mark Twain is well known in my area of Elmira, New York. His study, which used to be on the Langdon Farm overlooking the Chemung river, is now on display at the Elmira College. He spent many summers here on Langdon Farm, which is now a place of sanctuary for writers who come to visit.