While Halley's Comet lit up Earth's sky in 1835, America's biggest literature star was born. Though Samuel Langhorne Clemens toiled in obscurity as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi and to this day remains a name oft forgotten, that young man became famous around the globe under his unforgettable pseudonym, Mark Twain.
Although Twain spent the first 30 years of his life working odd jobs, his printing background, sharp wit, and humor helped establish him first as a journalist and later an author. His writing career took off in 1865, after his humorous short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was published. Newspapers enamored with his humorous accounts of his travels began hiring him to chronicle his trips through travelogues.
Twain's meteoric rise in literature took off in the 1870s with the publications of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper, novels that demonstrated Twain's versatility. Tom Sawyer captured the essence of American childhood along the Mississippi and The Prince and the Pauper provided a biting social commentary that displayed Twain's wit and humor. Those books were followed by Twain's crowning achievement, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which combined the whimsical adventurousness of Tom Sawyer with social commentary about American culture and its treatment of blacks. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of America's best known books and has long been regarded as the first great American novel.