Life on the Mississippi
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Samuel Clemens became a licensed river pilot at the age of 24 under the apprenticeship of Horace Bixby, pilot of the Paul Jones. His name, Mark Twain, was derived from the river pilot term describing safe navigating conditions or “mark two fathoms” thus shortened to mark twain by the leadsmen whose job it was to monitor the water’s depth and report it to the pilot.
Although Mark Twain used his childhood experiences growing up along the Mississippi in numerous works, nowhere is the river and pilot’s life more thoroughly described than in Life on the Mississippi.