The Six: Six Things You Didn’t Know About Mark Twain
Once a controversial figure banned from student libraries, Mark Twain has been called the greatest American author ever to have lived. His novels can be found in literature classrooms around the world…if they’re not banned that is.
1. His other penname was Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass. 
Most people are gleefully aware that Mark Twain was the penname of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but don’t realize that he used other pseudonyms, particularly when he was younger. In a series of three humorous letters published in a small Iowa newspaper, Twain adopted the persona of Snodgrass, a country bumpkin who criticizes city life. For each mock letter, he was paid approximately five dollars.
His other pennames included both W. Epaminandos Adrastus Blab and Josh.
2. He declared bankruptcy. 
Authors of all ages imagine hitting it big with that special novel, and Mark Twain was no different. However, he was a terrifically successful author who was extremely terrible at investing. There’s a reason English majors don’t go into finance.
Twain was so smitten with a new typing machine known as the Paige Compositor that he invested $300,000 into its development (several million dollars in today’s money). The machine flopped, prone to mechanical errors and he was forced to declare for bankruptcy before starting a new business venture. Interestingly, Twain later paid off all his creditors even after he had declared bankruptcy, which he was not legally required to do.
3. He may be the most misquoted person to have ever lived. 
A mix of nearly universal name recognition and American nostalgia have led many a lazy writer to end profound quotations with the name “Mark Twain”. Due to the advent of the Internet, many quotations are sloppily attributed to him that he never actually uttered. Was Twain the first to come up with this nugget?: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Nope, that honor goes to Benjamin Disraeli (who?), which doesn’t seem to give it that same punch as if Twain had first written it. Another reason why these quotations are so often attributed to him is that he was REALLY good at making them up. He did write this: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.” Who doesn’t love a good procrastination joke?
4. He believed his greatest book was about Joan of Arc.
For a great number of people, when we hear the words “great American author” an image of Mark Twain dressed in his signature white suit pops into our heads. But forget all your Huckleberry Finns and your Tom Sawyers and even that damned jumping frog, for his most prized novel, and the one he wanted everybody to read, was about a long-dead Frenchwoman.
Columnist Daniel Crown has a theory of why he thinks Twain undertook such an effort: “Published in 1896, when its author was 61, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc has long been viewed as something of an aberration, a curio—the type of genre-bending work that a bored, established writer often undertakes in order to buck audience expectations.”
Twain’s fascination with Joan of Arc was so curious that a group of illustrators whom Twain was addressing with a speech dressed up a young girl in fifteenth-century French armor to “award” the American author with a laurel wreath. Twain was said to have the look of seeing a ghost.
5. He was a Confederate soldier.
Since Twain’s novels often combat the racism and slavery of nineteenth-century America, it seems odd that Twain would have fought for the Confederate forces, whom wanted to keep those institutions in place. Yet from early in his life Twain was exposed to this lifestyle: his father had owned slaves on their estate in Missouri, a border state which allowed slavery and had many Confederate sympathizers.
Twain joined a Confederate militia in 1861 and was said to have participated in the war effort for the short period of two weeks. After that, he deserted the Confederate forces, most likely because the Union government threatened militia members with confiscation of family property and hanging.
6. He has a shirtless photo.
You know the world is coming to an unholy end when a shirtless picture of the President of the United States on vacation becomes the top story of the day. Even so, it’s fascinating to know that shirtless photographs of any famous person before 1950 exist, let alone one snapped of this American icon.
The photograph, taken in 1883, conjures images of nineteenth-century pugilists playing at fisticuffs, but is said to have been snapped to market a product that Twain wished to endorse, but never officially did.
-  The Mark Twain House and Museum, “A note on Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.” http://marktwainhouse.blogspot.com/2009/06/note-on-thomas-jefferson-snodgrass.html
-  The Mark Twain House and Museum, “A Life Lived in a Rapidly Changing World: Samuel L. Clemens‚ 1835-1910.” http://www.marktwainhouse.org/man/biography_main.php
-  NPR, “Misquoting Mark Twain.” http://www.npr.org/2013/02/22/172433807/misquoting-mark-twain
-  Newswise, “Mark Twain: Staunch Confederate? Once Upon a Time, 150 Years Ago, Professor Says.” http://www.newswise.com/articles/mark-twain-staunch-confederate-once-upon-a-time-150-years-ago-baylor-professor-says