Life on the Mississippi
is a memoir by Mark Twain
detailing his days as a steamboat
pilot on the Mississippi River
before and after the American Civil War. The book begins with a brief history of the river from its discovery by Hernando de Soto
in 1541. It continues with anecdotes about training as a steamboat pilot, as the 'cub' of an experienced pilot. He describes, with great affection, the science of navigating the ever-changing Mississippi River. The second half of the book describes Twain's return, many years later, to travel on a steamboat from St Louis
to New Orleans
. He describes the competition from railroads, the new, large cities and his observations on greed, gullibility, tragedy and bad architecture. He also tells some stories that are likely tall tales. Simultaneously published in 1883 in the USA and England, it's said to be the first book composed on a typewriter.
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Beginning in the very early nineteenth century, steamboats enabled transportation upriver, revolutionizing the nature of river commerce. Along with the Missouri, the Mississippi forms the longest river system in the world and ultimately drains almost all of the central United States. Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain, was America's foremost writer and lecturer during the late nineteenth century. Founded in 1764, St. Louis grew as a steamboat center on the Mississippi, as the eastern end of the Oregon Trail, and as the result of industrialization after the Civil War. New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi, was the principal city in French America and became the capital of the state of Louisiana.