The Mark of Twain

America's first political funnyman continues to leave his indelible mark on our humor, our literature and our desire to attain racial equality

Portrait for TIME by Michael J. Deas

Twain called the Conklin's self-filling pen, which he endorsed in advertisements beginning in 1903, a "profanity saver" because it wouldn't roll off his desk.

In the New York Public-School system, we read Huck Finn in the eighth grade. For a kid from the suburbs, the picaresque story of Huck and Jim was wonderfully exotic. Who wouldn't want to live along the Mississippi and drift down the river on a skiff? The buddy story of Huck and Jim was not only a model of American adventure and literature but also of deep friendship and loyalty. It's not hard to see why Ernest Hemingway said all of American literature can be traced back to Mark Twain. Plus, Twain was funny, the hardest trick of all.

Mark Twain...

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