This Day in History – November 18th, 1865

“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is a short story by Samuel Longhorne Clemens, more popularly known as Mark Twain, and was his first great success as a writer, bringing him national attention.

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The story has also been published as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” (its original title) and “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. In it, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, Simon Wheeler, at the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, about the gambler Jim Smiley. Twain describes him: “If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road.

Artemus Ward, nom de plume of Charles Farrar Browne

Artemus Ward, nom de plume of Charles Farrar Browne

Twain first wrote the title short story at the request of his friend Artemus Ward, for inclusion in an upcoming book. Twain worked on two versions but neither was satisfactory to him—neither got around to describing the jumping frog contest. Ward pressed him again, but by the time Twain devised a version he was willing to submit, that book was already nearing publication, so Ward sent it instead to The Saturday Press, where it appeared in the November 18th, 1865 edition as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog”. Twain’s colorful story was immensely popular, and was soon printed in many different magazines and newspapers. Twain developed the idea further, and Bret Harte published this version in The Californian on December 16; this time titled “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, and the man named Smiley was changed to Greeley.

If you wish, read “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” here.

“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” is also the title story of an 1867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain. Twain’s first book, it collected 27 stories that were previously published in magazines and newspapers.

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