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Meet Amazing Americans Writers & Artists Mark Twain
Bird's-eye view of St. Louis with riverboat traffic, 1859
Riverboats were a popular way to get around in Mark Twain's day

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Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain
In 1863, when Clemens was 27, he wrote a humorous travel story and decided to sign his name "Mark Twain." This name comes from something shouted by crewmen on a boat. To test the depth of the water, a crewman shouts "mark twain!" The crewman is calling for two fathoms, or a depth of 12 feet, which is barely enough for a boat to navigate safely. "Twain" is an old-fashioned way of saying "two" and a fathom is six feet. "Mark Twain" is a "pen name" in the same way that many people in show business use a "stage name." Do you know any famous people who don't use their real name?
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