Mark Twain Takes Work as Printer

The next year, he became a printer's apprentice.

In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his brother Orion. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati. He joined the union and educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, finding wider sources of information than he would have at a conventional school.[15] At 22, Twain returned to Missouri.

Twain Takes Work as Printer
At the age of 15, Samuel leaves school and goes to work as a printer in Hannibal.

The remaining Clemens family (mother Jane, sister Pamela, and brothers Orion, Samuel, and Henry) had to make their way by hook and crook. Orion was already off in St. Louis, working as a journeyman printer. The wages he sent home kept the family afloat. Within a year, however, young Samuel could no longer afford the luxuries of childhood, school and play. Instead, he began his first apprenticeship, to Hannibal printer William Ament, publisher of the grandly named Missouri Courier.

In working for Ament, Sam learned about printing, the first mass production industry, almost as it had been practiced from the beginning. In a country print shop, a printer had to do everything from the editorial side, to type setting, to press-work, to distributing the finished product. There was no division of labor, and only hints of the industrial revolution. Yet brother Orion in St. Louis was working in a major print shop, as a compositor rather than as a printer. Orion, in keeping with craft guild principles, wanted to be his own master, so in 1851, he returned to Hannibal, bought one of the other Hannibal newspapers, the equally grandly named Western Union, and took on his younger brothers Samuel and Henry as his apprentices. He soon combined his struggling newspaper with the Hannibal Journal, but even a merger could not turn a local paper into a good living, especially for an owner whose politics were not fully congenial to Hannibal.