MARK TWAIN —
How Sam Clemens obtained his nom de plume of Mark Twain.
A true story by the Eureka Sentinel:
We knew Clemens in the early days, and know exactly how he came to be dubbed “Mark Twain.”
John Piper’s saloon, on B street, used to be the grand rendezvous for all of the Virginia City Bohemians. Piper conducted a cash business, and refused to keep any books. As a special favor, however, he would occasionally chalk down drinks to the boys on the wall, back of the bar. Sam Clemens, when localizing for the Enterprise, always had an account, with the balance against him, on Piper’s wall. Clemens was by no means a Coal Oil Tommy, he drank for the pure and unadulterated love of the ardent. Most of his drinking was conducted in single-handed contests, but occasionally he would invite Dan De Quille, Charley Parker, Bob Lowery or Alf. Doten, never more than one of them, however, at a time, and whenever he did his invariable parting injunction to Piper was to “mark twain,” meaning two chalk marks, of course. It was in this way that he acquired the title which has since become famous wherever the English language is read or spoken.
Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) May 11, 1877