Mark Twain Google Doodle
On November 30th 2011, the Google doodle team created a Mark Twain Google Doodle to celebrate what would have been the 174th birthday of one of America’s greatest novelists. The doodler responsible for the Mark Twain Google Doodle task was Google’s exceptionally talented Jennifer Hom.
In a blog to commemorate the Mark Twain Google Doodle, Hom discussed the creative process behind it. She wrote, “Since Google never likes to take itself too seriously, I wanted to pick a scene from Twain’s work that is both recognizable and funny. The fence-painting sequence from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer seemed a perfect fit. Not only does it incorporate a little bit of mischievous humor (painting fences is certainly thrilling!) it also plays cleverly with the white space of the homepage. Alluding to a comic-book format, I drew Tom and Ben working on the fence and, therefore, spreading our famous white space across the Mark Twain Google Doodle.”
The Mark Twain Google Doodle is not the first doodle dedicated to a literary giant. Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, HG Wells and Jane Austen have also received the same doodles treatment. Twain was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, his name at birth was Samuel Longhorne Clemens. He was one of seven siblings, of which only three survived into adulthood. Aged four Twain’s family moved to the port town of Hannibal, situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. It is thought that it was here were he drew inspiration for the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which features in both Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. At this time Missouri was a slave state and whilst living here the young Twain became familiar with the institution of slavery, a theme which he would explore extensively in his later writings.
At the age of 18, Twain left Hannibal and worked as a printer in a number of American cities including New York, St. Louis and Cincinnati. He spent his evenings educating himself in public libraries gaining access to wider information than had been made available to him during his schooling. Whilst on a steamboat voyage down the Mississippi, Twain was inspired by the boat’s pilot, Horace E. Bixby to become a pilot himself. The pilot was responsible for navigating the rivers ever changing course, allowing the boat to stop at the river’s hundreds of small towns, villages and wood-lots. He spent over two years studying the 2000 miles of the Mississippi before obtaining his steamboat pilot licence in 1859. It was here that he adopted his pen name “Mark Twain”, the name came from the expression which was used to measure a river depth of two fathoms.
Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, Twain briefly served on the Confederate side, before leaving to work for his brother in Nevada.
He revisited his experience during the Civil War in the sketch “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.”
The sketch told of how Twain and his friends had joined served as Confederate volunteers for two weeks and then disbanded the company.
Twain spent the next few years travelling and spending a brief and highly unsuccessful period working as miner. Following this failure, Twain went to work as a journalist for the Virginia County paper, The Territorial Enterprise. He first used his pen name on February 3rd 1863 when he signed off a piece he had written titled “Letter From Carson – re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson’s; music”. The piece was a humorous travel account. His first real success as a writer occurred on November 18th 1865 when a New York weekly, The Saturday Press printed his humorous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The success of the story brought him national attention.
During 1867 a local newspaper provided Twain with the funding to embark on a trip around the Mediterranean Ocean.
During the trip, which featured visits to Europe and the Middle East, Twain wrote a series of highly popular travel letters.
These letters were later published as a collection entitled “The Innocents Abroad” in 1869. During this trip, whilst on a boat bound for the Holy Land, he met the man who was to become his brother in law, Charles Langdon. Charles showed Twain a picture of his sister Olivia, Twain later claimed that he fell in love immediately, at first seeing Olivia.
During 1868, Olivia and Twain exchanged a series of letters. Although Olivia rejected his initial proposition for marriage, two months later the couple were engaged. They married during February 1870 in New York. The marriage lasted 34 years until Olivia died in 1904. During their marriage they had one son, Langdon who died of diphtheria aged 19months. The couple also had three daughters, Susy, Clara and Jean. Only Clara lived past her early twenties, such was life expectancy in early twentieth century America.
In 1873, Twain and his family moved to the town of Hartford in Connecticut and commissioned the building of a family home. The home was saved from demolition in 1927 by some of Twain’s local admirers and is now transformed into a museum dedicated to the memory of Twain and his achievements. During the 1870s and 1880s Twain and his family spent their summers at Quarry Farm which was the home of Olivia’s sister Susan Crane. This period is recognised as Twain’s most productive years. During this time he wrote much of his most successful work, including a number of his best known novels. These novels include, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Fin (1885), among others.
In addition to his literary talents, Twain was deeply interested by science. He formed a deep friendship with Nikola Tesla and the two spent much time together in Tesla’s laboratory. His scientific interest resulted in the patenting of three inventions, the most successful of which was a self-pasting scrapbook.
Twain’s final years were tainted by deep depression. The depression began in 1896 when his daughter Susy died from meningitis. The depression was exacerbated by the death of his wife Olivia in 1904 and the death of another of his daughters, Jean, on Christmas Eve 1909. However these years were not all gloom for Twain, in 1907 Oxford University awarded him with an honorary doctorate in letters. Twain predicted his own death, in 1909 he is quoted by Albert Bigelow Paine in Mark Twain: a Biography, saying, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
His prediction proved accurate, Twain died from a heart attack on April 21st 1910 one day after the comets closest approach to the earth was recorded. The Mark Twain Google Doodle celebrating his accomplishments and the accompanying blog can still be viewed by clicking here.
A number of Twain’s quotes are shared to this day through social media, some of these include:
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”