University of Virginia Library


In April 1867, "Mr. C. H. Webb" announced himself as a publisher by advertising three books for sale in a number of newspapers. Mark Twain's first authorized book, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, And other Sketches, wxsould be ready on 24 April (the event may have been delayed by a few days); it was offered only in cloth, for $1.50. Also available were Webb's own "travesties": a revised and enlarged Liffith Lank and the new St. Twel'mo, a burlesque


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treatment of St. Elmo, a sentimental novel by the Southern writer Augusta Jane Evans, published by Carleton in the previous year. These, the advertisements informed, were the "first instalments of his catalogue"; other "new and popular works would follow in rapid succession." Booksellers were instructed to place their orders with the "American News Company, Agents" at 119 and 121 Nassau Street, New York. Those interested in single copies were told to apply directly to Webb, though he did not list a separate address for himself.56

At this time Mark Twain was in New York, having recently returned from a visit to his family in Missouri. He would soon depart on the excursion to Europe and the Holy Land that would result in The Innocents Abroad (a book that would sell nearly seventy thousand copies in its first year). Shortly before embarking he instructed friend and lecture manager Frank Fuller to collect from Webb his share of the profits from the sales of his book and forward them to his mother. That he did not ask Webb to do this is perhaps a sign that a rift had already opened between the author and his publisher. Mark Twain believed that he would receive ten cents per copy; he eventually received nothing and was much perturbed. Webb did not last long in the trade, and brought forth no further volumes after the three announced in his first advertisement. A document produced to help resolve the dispute over Mark Twain's book indicates that Webb was actively selling the three books into 1870. By the fall of that year, a total of 3,826 copies of Jumping Frog had been printed and bound; according to the same record, Webb's own works fared somewhat better, showing a combined total of over 9,500 copies printed by the fall of 1869.57 Webb seems to have been pleased with the sales of his travesties: already in January 1867 he boasted in the Times of the "remarkable success" of the early Liffith Lank (under Carleton's imprint), which had "reached the third edition." Many years later he inquired of fellow ex-Bohemian Edmund Clarence Stedman, "Didn't I confuse the wretches of publishers who refused my travesties by publishing them myself and making money out of them?"58

Mark Twain was not as happy. Jumping Frog sales were a disappointment in the first place; in the second, he claimed to have received no royalty from them


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at all. In 1906 he recalled that Webb pleaded in 1869 or 1870 that Jumping Frog had been a complete loss to him, and the American News Company had taken all the profits. Mark Twain further recounted a meeting with the manager of the American News Company (for which no independent corroboration has been found), who, he said, proved with his "books and accounts" that Webb had been regularly paid for the sales of Jumping Frog. Mark Twain concluded that "Webb had collected his dues and mine regularly from the beginning and had pocketed the money."59 Contemporary evidence indicates that Mark Twain's memory of the thirty-five year-old events was at least partly accurate. On 22 January 1870 he did inform his new publisher, Elisha Bliss, "I am prosecuting Webb in the N. Y. Courts—think the result will be that he will yield up the copyright & plates of the Jumping Frog, if I let him off from paying me money. Then I shall break up those plates, & prepare a new vol. of Sketches, but on a different & more 'taking' model."60

No independent record of Mark Twain's actions against Webb have been discovered; in November of 1870 he apologized to his friend for having hired a lawyer. On 22 December he reported to Bliss that he had settled matters with Webb: according to Mark Twain's accounting in that letter, he obtained full rights to his book in exchange for $600 in forgone royalties and an additional payment of $800.61 The settlement rankled the author, and it would seem that Webb had held firm, perhaps maintaining that he had been cheated by the American News Company, perhaps feeling that he had done more than anyone to promote Mark Twain and deserved some recognition and profit for this. In the same letter to Stedman cited above, Webb recited some of the services he performed for Mark Twain and other California writers.

Did I not publish Mark Twain when all the publishers refused him? Didn't I pilot him to Sacramento for an engagement with the Union to write letters from the Sandwich Islands? Didn't I get his hat checked to the Islands and back when the Union wouldn't advance the money for his fare? And who reared the stately columns of the Californian and enshrined therein Bret Harte, Mark Clemens, Ina Coolbrith, Charles Warren Stoddard, and others too tedious to mention?

It is testimony to the rapid success of the American News Company that it distributed both Beadle's Dime Book of Fun No. 3, where the jumping frog story appeared without authorial sanction, as well as the authorized edition of Jumping Frog. The firm's collaboration with Beadle and Company took place immediately upon its founding in 1864, and on a colossal scale. The address of the American News Company given in Webb's advertisement was already occupied in the early


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1860s by Beadle's distributor, the agency of Sinclair Tousey. The founding of the new company was the final stage in a long and turbulent process of mergers and takeovers in the news business in New York. It was accomplished in the merger of the two most powerful agencies issuing from this process: Tousey and Company and H. Dexter, Hamilton.62 Beadle and Company, then America's most prolific publisher, automatically became one of their largest clients. A pioneer publisher of mass-market books, Beadle supplied soldiers and civilians alike throughout the Civil War with a variety of cheaply made books costing a "dime" or "half-dime." Beadle's list in the mid-1860s comprised hundreds of commissioned works, including biographies, adventure stories, and sensationalized treatments of episodes from American history. The American News Company distributed these editions from its founding; in an oft-repeated phrase, the company kept a "standing order for sixty thousand copies" of each Beadle title.63 This figure could well have been accurate. The North American Review of July 1864 noted that,
up to April ist, an aggregate of five millions of Beadle's Dime Books had been put in circulation, of which half at least were novels, nearly a third songs, and the remainder hand-books, biographies, &c.... The sales of single novels by popular authors often amount to nearly forty thousand in two or three months. ... Over 350,000 copies of the Dime Song-Book No. 1 have been sold. The Dime National Tax Law has reached a circulation of more than 200,000 copies. The first edition of the Dime Novel "Seth Jones" was 60,000 copies. Sales almost unprecedented in the annals of booksellers.64

An article in the Round Table of 21 April 1866 reported that in addition to distributing most of the nation's magazines and weekly papers (measured by the number of copies), the American News Company was also handling 225,000 dime pub-


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lications per month. The historian of Beadle and Company, Albert Johannsen, found an article in the New York Herald maintaining that the first twenty dime novels (introduced in 1860) had sold 4,352,000 copies by 1 July 1865.65

No publication or sales figures for Dime Book of Fun No. 3 have been discovered, but it seems safe to assume that this volume was printed and distributed in many thousands of copies, perhaps five or ten times as many as the authorized Jumping Frog. (Given its price, however, the Dime Book of Fun might not have returned as much to Beadle and Company as Mark Twain thought his $1.50 book returned to Webb.) The third and last in the series of Beadle anthologies collecting previously published humorous works contained 80 pages and included, without authorization, as far as is known, three stories by Mark Twain: "'Mark Twain' on the Launch of the Steamer 'Capital,'" "Fitz Smythe's Horse," and "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog." While the three pieces are prize examples of Mark Twain's Western writing, the Beadle compiler did much to obliterate their charm. Of the "Launch" sketch, originally written for the Californian, only about half—the "Scriptural Panoramist" section—was selected; the cut-down part was framed with introductory and concluding passages written by someone other than Mark Twain, and retitled "Story Number Six." Beadle reprinted only about one-third of the jumping frog story, in a form showing much tinkering in the dialect. "Fitz Smythe's Horse" is an extract from one of Mark Twain's daily San Francisco letters to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, now otherwise lost (see note 41). The poorly typeset Beadle text is nevertheless coterminous with the extract as it was reprinted three months earlier in the Golden Era; it would therefore seem to derive from it, or a lost intermediate reprinting of the Golden Era text, rather than the Enterprise itself. The number of surviving copies of the third Dime Book of Fun is higher than it would have been had not collectors and libraries identified it, as early as in the 1890s, as the first book publication of the jumping frog story.66 Expressions of this appreciation rarely mention, however, that Beadle's "Jim Smiley's Frog" is only a slight extract of Mark Twain's Saturday Press story.

In "My Début as a Literary Person," an essay appearing in the Century Magazine in 1899, Mark Twain recalled with bemusement the hopes he had once attached to an early journalistic "scoop." It came during his time as Hawaii correspondent of the Sacramento Union, a job secured for him by Webb, who, as


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"John Paul," was the Union's popular San Francisco correspondent. In June 1866 the author was in Honolulu when most of the survivors of the Hornet, a clipper ship that had burned at sea, were brought there. Inopportunely suffering from severe saddle-boils, Mark Twain had himself carried on a stretcher to the convalescing men and with the help of a friend (the U.S. minister to China, Anson Burlingame) recorded their testimony. He worked all night on a long report of the ordeal and posted it on a San Francisco-bound schooner the following morning (likely 25 June); on 19 July the story appeared on the front page of the Union, then the West's most important and widest-circulating newspaper. No other paper east or west was able to present a more focused picture of the Hornet disaster. Mark Twain's letter gave a detailed account of the calamity—the uncontrollable fire that broke out in the hold of the kerosene-laden ship; the call to abandon ship in the remote South Pacific; the three lifeboats and thirty-one men that came away with ten days' rations each; and the single boat that survived forty-three days at sea, landing safely (with the help of alert Hawaiians) at the island of Hawaii. Not one of the fifteen occupants of the boat was lost. All owed their lives to their helmsman, the Hornet's captain, Josiah A. Mitchell of Freeport, Maine. He had carefully controlled the skimpy rations while piloting the craft across an estimated four thousand miles of ocean. Mark Twain was aware that he had described a great feat of navigation, one of the greatest in American history, equal to that of William Bligh's escape three-quarters of a century earlier.67 He wrote his mother that the story might be reprinted "all over the world."

He was not far wrong. A condensed version soon appeared in the hometown paper of two surviving passengers, the Stamford (Conn.) Advocate (17 August). Then the New York Herald, one of the nation's highest-circulating periodicals, reprinted the greater part of the letter on 27 August. It was thereafter copied far


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and wide, in the United States, England, and Australia.68 Not long after posting his story, Mark Twain left Hawaii, sailing on the Smyrniote, another clipper, bound for San Francisco. Among his fellow passengers were Captain Mitchell and two other Hornet survivors, Samuel and Henry Ferguson (the Stamfordians). All three had kept diaries during the ordeal, which they allowed Mark Twain to copy; from the entries he fashioned "Forty-three Days in an Open Boat," a documentary history of the experience with his commentary, which he submitted to Harper's Monthly. As explained in "My Début," his expectation was that an appearance in the most important magazine in New York would secure for him an Eastern reputation. The piece was accepted and published, but his plan to achieve fame by it was frustrated, when in the Harper's annual index his article was attributed, so he recalled, to "Mike Swain" (actually the entry read "Mark Swain").69

Mark Twain's memory in "My Début" was selective; the view he remembers having in 1866, of discounting the importance of the jumping frog story's publication because it appeared "in a mere newspaper" (the Saturday Press) was not entirely accurate. By placing "Forty-three Days" in Harper's Monthly he did hope to enlarge upon the renown the jumping frog tale had brought him, but was foiled when the Harper's typesetter failed to recognize his name in manuscript. The choice of Harper's may have been guided by "C. H. Webb" and "Fitz Hugh Ludlow," Harper's index names belonging to two writers whom Mark Twain looked upon as mentors. Ludlow (1836–70) was the author of The Hasheesh Eater, anonymously published by Harper and Brothers in 1857. In addition to his contributions to Harper's Monthly, Ludlow wrote for the Atlantic and many New York papers; like his friend Artemus Ward he had been a subeditor of Vanity Fair. Like Artemus he traveled west in 1863, accompanying the painter Albert Bierstadt; in San Francisco he became a contributor to the Golden Era. Before returning to the East, he offered an assessment of California writers that included high praise for Mark Twain and Bret Harte. "Harper's and the Atlantic," he said, would welcome contributions from Harte; of Mark Twain he stated that in "funny literature, that Irresistible Washoe Giant, Mark Twain, takes quite a unique position. He makes me laugh more than any Californian since poor Derby [John


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Phrenix] died. He imitates nobody. He is a school by himself."70 Ludlow need not have pointed his new friends in the direction of Harper's Monthly, however: Mark Twain would have known it as one of the few American periodicals with a national circulation. Each issue then appeared in over one hundred thousand copies; ten thousand alone were sent to California (a number about equal to the complete print runs of the leading California newspapers). The Atlantic's issue of perhaps fifty thousand copies was barely less impressive, but this magazine did not then attract his designs.71 Its reputation could have put him off for the same reasons that it attracted Bret Harte, who there published "The Legend of Monte del Diablo" in 1863: the Atlantic was regarded as a repository of higher culture and learning, and a keeper of a polite Bostonian attitude. This perception was a somewhat distorted one, since the standing of the Atlantic was in great measure created by the saucy essays of Holmes and the vernacular voice of Hosea Biglow; Fitz Hugh Ludlow, furthermore, was a favored contributor by 1865. While Mark Twain might have approached the Atlantic (perhaps with something other than "Forty-three Days"), his Pfaffian connections would have afforded him clearer advantage at Harper's.

While the Hornet's men were undergoing their tortuous ordeal, Mark Twain was having an opposite experience. In April and May of 1866 he was enjoying the hospitality of several American sugar barons and especially the company of their daughters, during five weeks of leisure on the island of Maui. On 22 May he returned to Honolulu from what he called a "perfect jubilee to me in the way of pleasure." "Few such months," he wrote his sister-in-law, Mollie Clemens, "come in a lifetime." He did no work at all nor even allowed himself to think of "business, or care, or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness." But his thoughts did not linger long on his tropical idyll. He soon turned to confront his own uncertain future and the care-worn lives of his family back in the States. He fumed about the Clemens family's failure to profit from a Tennessee land holding and then paused long enough to reflect on a literary matter. "If I were in the east, now," he told his correspondent, "I could stop the publication of a piratical book which has stolen some of my sketches."72 By this "complaint" Mark Twain was slyly informing the family that he was known outside the West, as an author whose work Eastern publishers valued enough to steal.

Scholars have assumed that the piracy in question was Beadle's Dime Book of Fun No. 3, which issued in New York on 19 April 1866. Yet it is difficult to see


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how Mark Twain could have heard of this book in time to have mentioned it to his sister-in-law on 22 May: the authors of the pieces it contained were not advertised in advance and the date of publication was too late for news of its appearance to have reached him in Hawaii. On the other hand, each advertisement for Wit and Humor did include a list of contributors, with his name on it; these, furthermore, began to appear on 14 March, soon enough for Mark Twain to have received news of them. Given where the advertisements were printed, they were bound to attract the attention of his literary friends and associates. In light of his remark that he could have stopped publication were he in the States, he may have been sent a clipping of the advertisement in one of the three versions in which it was implied that the book was still in preparation. The present state of the evidence, therefore, no longer permits an assumption that the piracy to which Mark Twain referred in his letter was the Beadle book. His reference more reasonably fits Wit and Humor; or Odds and Ends, which boldly announced itself in journals that had been legitimately promoting the Eastern reputations of many of the mysterious piracy's unwitting contributors, including newcomers Mark Twain and Bret Harte.


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A burlesque pamphlet by "McArone," Life and Adventures of Jeff. Davis, appeared in 1865, with comic illustrations possibly by Arnold (New York: J. C. Haney and Co.); William Winter edited two collections of Arnold's poems: Drift: A Seashore-Idyll and Other Poems (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866), and Poems Grave and Gay (Ticknor and Fields, 1867), which were combined in George Arnold's Poems: Complete Edition (Fields and Osgood, 1871).


"C. H. Webb," Nation 4 (25 April 1867): 342; this advertisement also appeared in the Philadelphia trade journal American Literary Gazette and Publishers' Circular 9 (1 May 1867): 26 (with the alternate title, "To the Trade").


Mark Twain to Frank Fuller, I and 8 June 1867, and 7 June 1867, in Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 2:1867–1868, op. cit., pp. 53, 60. The document recording printing and binding information is a copy of a statement by Webb's printer and binder, Samuel W. Green (of [John A.] Gray and Green, a firm that had briefly employed the teen-aged Samuel Clemens as a typesetter in 1853). Dated 10 December 1870, Green's statement is preserved in the Mark Twain Papers, The Bancroft Library, University of California (CU-MARK); it has been transcribed and discussed by Robert Hirst in Early Tales & Sketches, Volume 1: 1851–1864, op. cit., pp. 544–545, 545 n. 43.


Webb to Edmund Clarence Stedman, [14 November 1900], in Laura Stedman and George M. Gould, Life and Letters of Edmund Clarence Stedman, 2 vols. (New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1910), quotation from 2:275; "A Remarkable Piece of Literary Enterprise," op. cit. In an article praising Jumping Frog as "not unworthy of a place beside the works of John Phrenix, A. Ward's books, and the two volumes of the Rev. Mr. Nasby," the Nation explained of the early Liffith Lank that "Webb was really its publisher, though it bore the imprint of G. W. Carleton & Co." and that it has "sold very well indeed" ("Mr. Charles Webb ...," Nation 4 [9 May 1867]: 369).


Autobiographical dictation dated 23 May 1906, CU-MARK, in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2, op. cit., p. 50.


Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 4: 1870—1871, ed. Victor Fisher and Michael B. Frank (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1995), p. 34.


Ibid., p. 281; see also pp. 274 and 282 n. 4. Robert Hirst has pointed out that for there to have been $600 in royalties, Mark Twain would have been due ten percent of sales, or fifteen cents per copy, rather than ten cents (Early Tales & Sketches, Volume 1, op. cit., pp. 545 nn. 43–44). Hirst has further commented that the author had only an oral agreement with Webb, and its terms have not been precisely recovered.


Sinclair Tousey's name and address (121 Nassau St.) appear on early Beadle titles; see, for example the cover of Louis Le Grand, M. D., The Military Hand-Book and Soldier's Manual of Information, Beadle's Dime Series (New York: Beadle and Co., 1862). An account of the merger that created the American News Company is in "Sketches of the Publishers: The American News Company III," Round Table 3 (21 April 1866): 250 (see also the two previous parts of this long article, in the issues for 7 and 14 April). The close relations of Beadle and Company and Tousey and the American News Company are also discussed by Albert Johannsen in his history The House of Beadle and Adams and Its Dime and Nickel Novels: The Story of a Vanished Literature, vol. I, foreword by John T. McIntyre (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1950). Johannsen believed, for example, that the series American Tales begun by Sinclair Tousey or the American News Company in 1863 was actually published by Beadle, which took nominal control of the series with the issuance of the forty-fifth volume in 1868 (see Johannsen, pp. 45–48, 55).


An early (and possibly original) use of this phrase appears in George C. Jenks's "Dime Novel Makers": "In the old days enormous numbers were sold of each new story, as it appeared, the standing order of the American News Company, which handled the bulk of the edition, being sixty thousand copies. Often these, sixty thousand would be all sold in a week, with other editions following each other from week to week. Some novels ran into as many as ten or twelve editions" (Bookman 20 [October 1904]: 113). The wording, "standing order" of "sixty thousand copies," has been since repeated in many works of historical scholarship, though without credit to Jenks or any other source.


"Beadle's Dime Books ... 1859–1864," North American Review 99 (July 1864): 303–309, quotation from 303–304.


For the Round Table article, see note 62 above; Johannsen (op. cit., p. 49) cites Prentiss Ingraham, "The Classic Dime Novel and Its Gradual Disappearance," New York Herald, 3 February 1901.


A long description of the third Dime Book of Fun, based on an examination of multiple copies, is given in Merle Johnson's A Bibliography of the Works of Mark Twain, Revised and Enlarged (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1935), pp. 5–6. A photo facsimile of the cover and further discussion can be found in Albert Johannsen, op. cit., pp. 404–406. A copy came to the New York Public Library in 1922, as part of its acquisition of nearly 1,600 separate Beadle titles: see The Beadle Collection of Dime Novels Given to the New York Public Library by Dr. Frank P. O'Brien (New York: New York Public Library, 1922), pp. 1, 14, 22. CU-MARK acquired a copy of this volume in 1973, as part of the Appert Collection.


Mark Twain's writings reveal that the ordeal of the Hornet's boat bore striking similarities to Bligh's experience ("Letter from Honolulu," Sacramento Union, 19 July 1866, p. 1; "Forty-three Days in an Open Boat," Harper's New Monthly Magazine 34 [December 1866]: 104–113). In his memoir Bligh records the forced voyage he made after being expelled by mutiny from the Bounty in April 1789. The ship's twenty-three-foot launch, with nineteen occupants, a quadrant, compass, and scant rations, reached "the coast of Timor in forty-one days ... having in that time run, by our log, a distance of 3618 miles; and that, notwithstanding our extreme distress, no one should have perished in the voyage" (Lieutenant William Bligh, A Voyage to the South Sea, London: George Nicol, 1792, pp. 154–160, 176, 227, 237; quotation from p. 227). In "Letter from Honolulu," Mark Twain noted that after twenty-four days, the Captain Mitchell reckoned his boat was approximately 1,000 miles from where the Hornet burned (a point arrived at by a presumably circuitous route). In "Forty-three Days" Mark Twain gave his considered estimate of Captain Mitchell's odyssey as "4000 miles in reality and 3360 by direct courses" (p. 112). Another source gives a more modest measure of 2,500 miles ("Terrible Disaster at Sea," Sailors' Magazine, and Seamen's Friend 39 [November 1866]: 68, reprinting the Pacific Commercial Advertiser). That figure is incorrectly low, even if it was meant to convey the distance in nautical miles. Mark Twain reported the latitude and longitude coordinates Samuel Ferguson recorded as the Hornet's location when it burned; accordingly the direct distance from that point to Laupahoehoe, Hawaii, where the men landed, is over 3,140 statue miles (2,728 nautical miles). Additional coordinates reported in "Forty-three Days" allow the 4,000-statute-mile journey to be plotted: see the chart on p. 78 of "My Début as a Literary Person" (see note 69).


The extent to which Mark Twain's Sacramento Union letter was copied has not been fully explored; in the United States it also appeared in the [Portland, Me.] Eastern Argus (18 August 1866), the McConnelsville, Ohio, Conservative (7 September 1866); internationally it appeared in the Liverpool Mercury (11 September 1866), the Belfast News-Letter (13 September), the [London] Penny Illustrated Paper (15 September), the [Sydney] Empire (27 November), the Sydney Morning Herald (29 November), the [Hobart, Tasmania] Mercury (30 November), the Brisbane Courier (4 December), Queanbeyan [New South Wales] Age and General Advertiser (13 December), the [Brisbane] Queenslander (15 December), the Perth Gazette and West Australia Times (1 February 1867). Mark Twain and the Sacramento Union were both credited in the New York Herald and some other reprints in the United States; in other reprints, especially those in Britain and its dominions, only the Union received credit.


"'My Début as a Literary Person' by Mark Twain (formerly 'Mike Swain')," Century Magazine 59 (November 1899): 76–88; the Harper's index was the only place where contributors' names were revealed; the index for volume 34 (where "Forty–three Days" appeared) was printed in the first issue of volume 35 (December 1866).


Fitz Hugh Ludlow, "P. P. C., A Good-bye Article," Golden Era 11 (22 November 1863): 4. Mark Twain would later reveal the meaning of the prefatory initials used by Ludlow in the title: they stood for "Pay Parting Call," and were customarily inscribed on the calling card of a neighbor who planned to leave town, requesting a visit from the recipient (see The Gilded Age, ch. 33).


[Alfred Hudson Guernsey], "Making the Magazine," Harper's New Monthly Magazine 32 (December 1865): 1—31, see pp. 2, 15, 21. George P. Rowell's American Newspaper Directory (1869, op. cit.) gives the Atlantic's circulation, probably for 1867 (p. 177), and lists five San Francisco papers as claiming 10,000 or more in circulation (also for the year 1867); the largest, 14,000, is claimed for the San Francisco Morning Call (pp. 11, 175).


Quotations from Samuel L. Clemens (SLC) to Mary E. (Mollie) Clemens, 22 May 1866, in Mark Twain's Letters, Volume 1:1853–1866, op. cit., pp. 341–342; see also in the same volume SLC to Jane Lampton Clemens, 4 May 1866, pp. 336–337.