Mark Twain Net Worth At Death – How Did He Get Rich?

Mark Twain Net Worth At Death

Mark Twain has an estimated net worth of $15 million at death. Mark Twain, the writer, adventurer and wily social critic born Samuel Clemens, wrote the novels ‘Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ The majority of his income came from his career as a writer, entrepreneur, publisher and lecturer.

Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens, was the celebrated author of several novels, including two major works of American literature, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was also a riverboat pilot, a journalist, a lecturer, a business owner, and an inventor.

To calculate the net worth of Mark Twain, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity she has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as student loans and credit card debt, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Mark Twain
Net Worth: $15 million
Monthly Salary: $100 Thousand+
Annual Income: $1 million+
Source of Wealth: Writer, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer

Early Life

Twain was born on November 30, 1835, in the tiny village of Florida, Missouri, as the sixth child of John and Jane Clemens. His family relocated to nearby Hannibal, a bustling river town of 1,000 people, when he was four years old.

John Clemens worked as a storekeeper, lawyer, judge, and land speculator, dreaming of wealth but never achieving it, and struggling to feed his family at times. He was a grim character; according to legend, Sam never saw his father laugh.

His mother, on the other hand, was a cheerful, tenderhearted housewife who spent many a winter night entertaining her family by telling stories. When John died unexpectedly in 1847, she took over as head of the household.

According to biographer Everett Emerson, the Clemens family “now became almost destitute,” and was forced into years of economic struggle — a fact that would shape Twain’s career.

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Twain in Hannibal

Twain remained in Hannibal until he was 17 years old. The Mississippi River town was a wonderful place to grow up in many ways.

Steamboats tooted their whistles three times a day; circuses, minstrel shows, and revivalists paid visits; a decent library was available; and tradesmen such as blacksmiths and tanners practiced their entertaining crafts for all to see.

However, violence was common, and young Twain witnessed much death: when he was nine, he witnessed a local man murder a cattle rancher, and when he was ten, he witnessed an enslaved person die after a white overseer struck him with a piece of iron.

Several of Twain’s fictional locations, including “St. Petersburg” in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, were inspired by Hannibal. These fictitious river towns are complex places: sunlit and exuberant on the one hand, but also viper’s nests of cruelty, poverty, drunkenness, loneliness, and soul-crushing boredom — all aspects of Twain’s childhood.

Sam continued his education until he was about 12 years old, when, with his father dead and the family in need of money, he found work as an apprentice printer at the Hannibal Courier, which paid him with a meager ration of food. At the age of 15, he began working as a printer and occasional writer and editor at the Hannibal Western Union, a small newspaper owned by his brother, Orion.

Steamboat Pilot

Then, in 1857, Twain, then 21, realized a lifelong ambition: he began learning the art of piloting a steamboat on the Mississippi. By 1859, he was a licensed steamboat pilot, and he quickly found regular work plying the great river’s shoals and channels.

Twain adored his job because it was exciting, well-paying, and high-status, similar to flying a jetliner today. However, his service was cut short in 1861 when the Civil War broke out, halting most civilian traffic on the river.

As the Civil War began, Missourians were bitterly divided between Union and Confederate support. Twain chose the latter, joining the Confederate Army in June 1861 but serving only a few weeks before his volunteer unit was disbanded.

Where would he find his future, he wondered? What venue would provide him with both excitement and money? His response: the vast American West.

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Heading Out West

In July 1861, Twain boarded a stagecoach bound for Nevada and California, where he would spend the next five years.

He began prospecting for silver and gold, convinced that he would become the savior of his impoverished family and the sharpest-dressed man in Virginia City and San Francisco. But nothing worked out, and by the middle of 1862, he was broke and looking for work.

Twain knew his way around a newspaper office, so he went to work as a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise that September. He wrote news stories, editorials, and sketches under the pen name Mark Twain — steamboat slang for 12 feet of water.

Twain rose to prominence as one of the West’s most well-known storytellers. He developed a distinct narrative style that was friendly, funny, irreverent, frequently satirical, and eager to deflate the pretentious.

In 1865, one of his stories about life in a mining camp, “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog,” was published in newspapers and magazines across the country (the story later appeared under various titles).

‘Innocents Abroad’

His next rung on the success ladder came in 1867, when he embarked on a five-month Mediterranean cruise, writing humorously about the sights for American newspapers in the hopes of turning the trip into a book.

The Innocents Abroad was published in 1869 and quickly became a national best-seller.

At the age of 34, this handsome, red-haired, affable, astute, egocentric, and ambitious journalist and traveler had become one of America’s most popular and famous writers.

Marriage to Olivia Langdon

Twain, on the other hand, was concerned about being a Westerner. During those years, the cultural life of the country was dictated by an Eastern establishment centered in New York City and Boston — a straight-laced, Victorian, moneyed group that cowed Mark Twain.

“An undeniable and almost overwhelming sense of inferiority bounced around his psyche,” scholar Hamlin Hill wrote, noting that these feelings competed with his aggressiveness and vanity. Twain’s deep desire was to become wealthy, support his mother, rise socially, and receive “the respectful regard of a high Eastern civilization.”

In February 1870, he raised his social standing by marrying Olivia (Livy) Langdon, the daughter of a wealthy New York coal merchant. Twain couldn’t believe his good fortune in a letter to a friend shortly after his wedding: “I have… the only sweetheart I have ever loved… she is the best girl, and the sweetest, and gentlest, and daintiest, and she is the most perfect gem of womankind.”

Livy, like many people at the time, was proud of her pious, high-minded, genteel way of life. Twain hoped she would “reform” him from his rustic ways as a mere humorist. The couple eventually settled in Buffalo and had four children.

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Mark Twain’s Books

Twain’s glorious “low-minded” Western voice, thankfully, broke through on occasion.

‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, and he soon began work on the sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

According to biographer Everett Emerson, writing this work temporarily liberated Twain from the “inhibitions of the culture he had chosen to embrace.”

‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’

“All modern American literature derives from one book by Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1935, dismissing Herman Melville and others while making an interesting point.

Hemingway’s remark specifically refers to Twain’s masterpiece’s colloquial language, as for perhaps the first time in America, the vivid, raw, not-so-respectable voice of the common folk was used to create great literature.

Huck Finn took Twain years to conceptualize and write, and he frequently put it aside. Meanwhile, he sought respectability with the 1881 publication of The Prince and the Pauper, a charming novel enthusiastically endorsed by his genteel family and friends.

‘Life on the Mississippi’

Life on the Mississippi, an interesting but safe travel book, was published in 1883. When Huck Finn was finally published in 1884, Livy was unimpressed.

Following that, Twain valued both business and writing as he set about his primary goal of making a lot of money. In 1885, he achieved success as a book publisher by publishing the best-selling memoirs of the recently deceased former President Ulysses S. Grant.

He spent countless hours on this and other business ventures, certain that his efforts would be rewarded with enormous wealth, but he never achieved the success he anticipated. His publishing house eventually failed.

‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’

Twain’s financial problems, which were similar to his father’s, had serious consequences for his mental health. They contributed significantly to his growing pessimism, a deep-seated belief that human existence is a cosmic joke perpetrated by a chuckling God.

Perhaps another source of his angst was his unconscious resentment of himself for not paying full attention to his deepest creative instincts, which were centered on his Missouri boyhood.

Twain released A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a science-fiction/historical novel set in ancient England, in 1889. In 1894, he published The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, a somber novel that some critics described as “bitter.”

He also wrote short stories, essays, and books, including a biography of Joan of Arc. Some of his later works have lasted, and his unfinished work The Chronicle of Young Satan still has ardent fans today.

Twain’s last 15 years were filled with public honors, including Oxford and Yale degrees. He was probably the most famous American of the late nineteenth century, and he was photographed and applauded everywhere he went.

Indeed, he was one of the world’s most prominent celebrities, traveling extensively abroad, including a successful ’round-the-world lecture tour in 1895-96 to pay off his debts.

Family Struggles

However, while those years were adorned with honors, they also brought him much anguish. He and Livy had lost their toddler son, Langdon, to diphtheria early in their marriage; in 1896, his favorite daughter, Susy, died at the age of 24 from spinal meningitis. The loss broke his heart, and to make matters worse, he was out of the country at the time.

Jean, his eldest daughter, was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Jean died of a heart attack in 1909, at the age of 29. Twain’s relationship with his middle daughter Clara was strained for many years.

Livy died after a long illness in June 1904, while Twain was traveling. “The full nature of his feelings toward her is perplexing,” scholarly R. Kent Rasmussen wrote. “If he valued Livy’s friendship as much as he claimed, why did he spend so much time apart from her?”

But, absent or present, Twain had loved his wife throughout their 34-year marriage. “Wherever she was, there was Eden,” he wrote in her honor.

Twain became bitter in his later years, despite presenting an amiable persona to the public. In private, he displayed breathtaking insensitivity to friends and loved ones.

“He spent much of the last decade of his life in hell,” Hamlin Hill wrote. He wrote a lot but was unable to complete most of his projects. His memory began to fail.

Twain had volcanic rages and horrible bouts of paranoia, as well as many periods of depressed indolence, which he tried to alleviate by smoking cigars, reading in bed, and playing endless hours of billiards and cards.


On April 21, 1910, Twain died at the age of 74. He was laid to rest in Elmira, New York.

The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, is a popular tourist attraction and a National Historic Landmark.

Twain is remembered as a great chronicler of 19th and early 20th century American life.

Twain explored the American soul with wit, buoyancy, and a keen eye for truth in his grand tales about Sawyer, Finn, and the mighty Mississippi River.

Further Reading

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How To Become Rich Like Mark Twain?

Mark Twain did not become rich by luck. To become as rich as Mark Twain, you have to work smart.

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Thanks to the Internet, the world has changed massively in recent years. Nowadays it has become much easier to make money online.

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If you seize this golden opportunity in time, you can become as successful as Mark Twain one day.

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