Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

Virginia City, NV

Mark Twain arrived in this mining boomtown twelve miles northeast of Carson City in September 1862 and stayed for almost two years. While prospecting, he began reporting for the daily Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, first earning $25, then $40, a week. Encouraged by Enterprise co-owner Joseph T. Goodman to be imaginative and irreverent Twain invented outlandish hoaxes—for example, one about the discovery of a petrified man with a wooden left leg. Twain later concluded: “To write a burlesque so wild that its pretended facts will not be accepted in perfect good faith by somebody, is very nearly an impossible thing to do.” In May 1864 Twain and a friend, Enterprise compositor Steve Gillis, suddenly left Virginia City for San Francisco—“vamoosed, cut stick, absquatulated,” in the words of the Gold Hill Daily News—after Twain challenged the owner of the rival Virginia City Daily Union to a duel. Twain contended he left Virginia City not out of fear for his life, not out of shame for proposing the duel, but because he wanted to dodge arrest under an anti-dueling law. Today the Enterprise building, relocated to 53 South C Street, serves as a Mark Twain museum.

December 6

Posts from Virginia City, NV

Remembrances of death as well as life in Unionville

To get to Unionville, Nevada, where Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) tried prospecting for silver and gold, we drive south for 17 miles from Interstate 80 along desert-like, brush land marked by yellow “Open Range” road signs, … Read more >>

Our race across the West takes us to Virginia City, Carson City and Angels Camp

We race west across Nevada and California to find places where Mark Twain worked, and we find, instead, places he sort of, kind of, well, he didn’t work. In the freezing basement of a Virginia City, … Read more >>