On a hot August day in 1862 a tired, dusty young man walked through the door of the Territorial Enterprise Office in booming Virginia City, Nevada Territory. He had just walked and hitched over the vast Sierra Nevada Mountains from Aurora, California, where he had finally given up his quest to strike it rich in mining. This 26-year-old Missourian was Samuel Langhorn Clemens, who had come out West to avoid the conflicts of the Civil War in his hometown on the Mississippi and to serve as secretary to his brother, Orion, Secretary to the Governor of the new territory. He had written some humorous articles under the pseudonym "Josh," and then-owner/editor of the Enterprise; Joseph Goodman, liked them and had called upon Clemens to join the newspaper's staff in Virginia City.
The famous Comstock Silver Strike had been made not much earlier, and Virginia City, with a population of 30,000, was the largest town in the west, "The Richest Place on Earth" they called it, and during those halcyon days on the Comstock it was. When Clemens signed on as a reporter, he was given strict instructions to write with boldness and imagination. "Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story" became his motto. And he wrote. High on the literary freedom to mix both fact and fiction in any proportion he wished, Clemens became Mark Twain, America's most well-known and loved author, during his career as editor for the Territorial Enterprise. This is our contribution to the world of literature. On that day Mark Twain began his journey into history and into all our hearts and lives.
Winters are long and cold at those lofty heights of the mining towns on the Comstock. Twain and his lesser known compatriots Dan de Quille, Bret Harte and Joe Goodman sat around the stove through snowbound days and nights weaving yarns that would entertain millions worldwide to this day. Masters of the hoax, they published miles of fictitious copy which affected lives from New York to San Francisco. Phony silver strikes at non-existant mines in made-up places had Wall Street hopping. Presidents and Congressmen, merchants and traders all read the Territorial Enterprise which was Pony Expressed eastward with dispatch to everyone awaiting news of developments in the emerging wild west.
This is the beginning of Virginia City's Mark Twain's Sesquicentennial Celebratlon. It is the Territorial Enterprise with its history of pretention and overstatement, tongue-in-cheek humor and risque editorial that proudly sponsors this year-long Mark Twain commemoration. Join with us in honor of America's favorite author and humorist. Help us support the on-going efforts to totally reconstruct Virginia City as a National Historic District and to maintain a certain amount of blarney in journalism. Subscribe today to Mark Twain's newspaper and enjoy an American institution. --Territorial Enterprise, 1985
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