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The New York Times, June 25, 1899


When Mark Twain first struck the trail and made for Nevada with the hope of finding a golden fortune there the first town that he located was Aurora, which is situated about 100 miles south of Carson City. Aurora was so named because of the remarkable sunrise effects there. Every morning when the sun began to climb up from the distant margin of the sagebrush horizon and illumined the bleak arrays of prospecting holes the effect was one of such grandeur that the early settlers named their town Aurora.

Twain seemed to see in the town the makings of a great city. Like all other Comstock mining camps, it had its rows of logwood saloons, its scattered cabins, its jail, and its church; the Mayor was cheek by jowl with the "deacon," and no man dared to be better than any other man under penalty of losing his poker license.

Mark Twain took his stand with the others, and with the sturdy determination of a man who expects to see a twenty-pound nugget turn up with every thrust of the pick worked hard for many days. His little claim developed nothing, however, and the only gold he saw was the gold of his dreams. Finally he gave it up as a thankless job, and he would go about town making jokes and telling stories until he became the centre of attraction at every social gathering.

The Fourth of July was a hand, and it had been decided to give a grand celebration. Twain was selected to arrange the programme, and he put the Mayor on the list as orator of the day. Now it so happened, as all old Comstockers can attest, that the Mayor of Aurora was not elected for his judicial or scholarly qualifications, but because he was in the habit of opening more jackpots than any other man in town. Twain was told by the Mayor that he could not make a speech, so Twain agreed to write one for him if he would read it.

This was agreed on, and Twain saw a chance for a joke. He wrote a burlesque speech which he began with these words: "I was sired by the great American eagle and born by a Continental dam," and winding up with "the only mistake that Washington made was that he was not born in Aurora."

The Mayor could never tell why the populace laughed at him instead of taking him seriously. Mr. Joseph T. Goodman, then the editor of The Virginia City Enterprise, heard of the speech and wrote for it for publication. When he learned that Twain was the author he sent him a letter saying that if he was not making more money than a certain weekly salary would make him he had better quit mining and become a reporter on The Enterprise. The first response was when Mark Twain walked into The Enterprise office. He did not even have a bundle tied up in a handkerchief. Instead it was a roll of dirty blankets, which he carried on his shoulder, and which with a shrug he dropped. The next morning he did not change his raiment, nor did he seem to care to do so until his friends spoke to him about it. Usually it was hard to decide whether his shirt front was lined with tobacco splashings, or tobacco with here and there a suspicion of linen. But he wrote droll stories, and the life of Virginia City was materialized by his pen from day to day either by a real literary picture or a literary caricature, some of which, it is said, were as fine as anything he has written since.

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