Life on the Mississippi

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Life on the Mississippi

Author: Mark Twain
Publisher: Signet Classics
Copyright: 1883
Pages: 384
Cover Price: $ 4.95

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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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Background Information

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.