Art And Culture

Mark Twain’s 150-Year-Old Stories Uncovered

Mark Twain’s 150-Year-Old Stories UncoveredMark Twain’s 150-Year-Old Stories Uncovered

Scholars at the University of California, Berkeley have uncovered and authenticated a cache of stories written by Mark Twain when he was a 29-year-old newspaperman in San Francisco.

Many of the stories are 150 years old. The San Francisco Chronicle reports Twain wrote some of the letters and stories at the newspaper’s offices when it was called the San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle.

Twain’s job included writing a 2,000-word story, or “letter,” every day and sending it off by stagecoach for publication in the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada.

He wrote about everything from San Francisco police to mining accidents, all with varying degrees of truth and humor.

Bob Hirst is editor of the UC Berkeley’s Mark Twain project and says the articles were found by combing through western newspaper archives. The author’s characteristic style authenticated some of the unsigned letters.

“This is new stuff, even for Mark Twain fans,” Hirst told the Chronicle.

In one letter, Twain suggested tough punishment for corrupt police officers in San Francisco, saying they were less useful than “wax figurines,” the Chronicle reported.

“Blackmail, corruption and bribery is the rule, and not the exception, among the municipal body, all of whom are ... like so many shoplifters or highwaymen,” Twain wrote. “The correspondent suggests the necessity of hanging half the policemen.”

Last month, the historic Nevada newspaper where Twain cut his journalistic teeth went back in publication for the first time in three decades. The Territorial Enterprise was revived as an online and monthly print publication by Capitol Publishing Group, the parent company of a weekly newspaper in Jefferson City, Missouri, that focuses on politics and government.

Samuel Clemens, Twain’s real name, assumed his pen name and developed his penchant for western tall tales when he was a reporter from 1862 to 1864 at the feisty newspaper in Virginia City, about 20 miles southeast of Reno.