Year
1862
Month Day
July 06

Mark Twain begins reporting in Virginia City

Writing under the name of Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens begins publishing news stories in the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise.

Born in Missouri in 1835, Clemens followed a circuitous route to becoming an observer and writer of the American West. As a young man he apprenticed as a printer and worked in St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1856, he briefly considered a trip to South America where he thought he could make money collecting coca leaves. A year later, he became a riverboat pilot apprentice on the Mississippi River, and worked on the water for the next four years.

In 1861, Clemens’ brother Orion was appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada. Clemens jumped at the offer to accompany Orion on his western adventure. He spent his first year in Nevada prospecting for a gold or silver mine but was no more successful than the vast majority of would-be miners. In need of money, he accepted a job as reporter for a Virginia City, Nevada, newspaper called the Territorial Enterprise. His articles covering the bustling frontier-mining town began to appear on this day in 1862. Like many newspapermen of the day, Clemens adopted a pen name, signing his articles with the name Mark Twain, a term from his old river boating days.

Clemens’ stint as a Nevada newspaperman revealed an exceptional talent for writing. In 1864, he traveled farther West to cover the booming state of California. Fascinated by the frontier life, Clemens drew on his western experiences to write one of his first published works of fiction, the 1865 short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The success of this classic western tall tale catapulted Clemens out of the West, and he became a world-hopping journalist for a California newspaper.

In 1869, Clemens settled in Buffalo, New York, and later in Hartford, Connecticut. All told, Clemens spent only a little more than five years in the West, and the majority of his subsequent work focused on the Mississippi River country and the Northeast. As a result, Clemens can hardly be defined as a western writer. Still, his 1872 account of his western adventures, Roughing It, remains one of the most original and evocative eyewitness accounts of the frontier ever written. More importantly, even his non-western masterpieces like Tom Sawyer (1876) and Huckleberry Finn (1884) reflected a frontier mentality in their rejection of eastern pretentiousness and genteel literary conventions.

READ MORE: 8 Things You May Not Know About Mark Twain 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game is held

On July 6, 1933, Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game took place at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The brainchild of a determined sports editor, the event was designed to bolster the sport and improve its reputation during the darkest years of the Great Depression. Originally ...read more

Congress issues a “Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms”

On July 6, 1775, one day after restating their fidelity to King George III and wishing him “a long and prosperous reign” in the Olive Branch Petition, Congress sets “forth the causes and necessity of their taking up arms” against British authority in the American colonies. The ...read more

Fire engulfs circus big top in Hartford, killing 167

In Hartford, Connecticut, a fire breaks out under the big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus, killing 167 people and injuring 682. Two-thirds of those who perished were children. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it spread at incredible speed, racing up the ...read more

Women inducted into U.S. Naval Academy for the first time

In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admits women for the first time in its history with the induction of 81 female midshipmen. In May 1980, Elizabeth Anne Rowe became the first woman member of the class to graduate. Four years later, Kristine Holderied became ...read more

Anne Frank’s family takes refuge

In Nazi-occupied Holland, 13-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family are forced to take refuge in a secret sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The day before, Anne’s older sister, Margot, had received a call-up notice to be deported to a Nazi “work camp.” Born in ...read more

Althea Gibson is first African American to win Wimbledon

On July 6, 1957, Althea Gibson claims the women’s singles tennis title at Wimbledon and becomes the first African American to win a championship at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Gibson was born on August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina, and raised in the ...read more

George Walker Bush is born

On July 6, 1946, George Walker Bush, the son of future President George Herbert Walker Bush, is born in New Haven, Connecticut. When he was two years old, Bush’s parents moved to Texas. where the elder Bush worked in the oil industry. Bush was nicknamed “Dubya” for his middle ...read more

John Lennon meets Paul McCartney for the first time

The front-page headline of the Liverpool Evening Express on July 6, 1957, read “MERSEYSIDE SIZZLES,” in reference to the heat wave then gripping not just northern England, but all of Europe. The same headline could well have been used over a story that received no coverage at all ...read more

Dalai Lama, leader of Tibet, is born

On July 6, an infant named Tenzin Gyatso, future leader of Tibet, is born to a peasant family in Takster, Tibet. At age two, he will be declared the Dalai Lama.  In 1937, the child was declared the reincarnation of a great Buddhist spiritual leader and named the 14th Dalai Lama. ...read more

“Forrest Gump” opens, wins Tom Hanks a second Oscar

On July 6, 1994, the movie Forrest Gump opens in U.S. theaters. A huge box-office success, the film starred Tom Hanks in the title role of Forrest, a good-hearted man with a low I.Q. who winds up at the center of key cultural and historical events of the second half of the 20th ...read more

George “Bugs” Moran is arrested

FBI agents arrest George “Bugs” Moran, along with fellow crooks Virgil Summers and Albert Fouts, in Kentucky. Once one of the biggest organized crime figures in America, Moran had been reduced to small bank robberies by this time. He died in prison 11 years later. Bugs Moran’s ...read more

Civil war breaks out in Nigeria

Five weeks after its secession from Nigeria, the breakaway Republic of Biafra is attacked by Nigerian government forces. In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, ...read more