Named for English astronomer Edmond Halley who first recorded the comet in 1682, the short-period comet was seen again in 1758, 1835, 1910, with the most recent sighting in 1986.
It is said most of us will have the chance to see this phenomenon twice in a lifetime. It was two weeks after the spectacular sighting of the comet in November 1835 that Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on Nov. 30. And, it was at the next sighting of the comet in 1910 that he died on April 21.
By 1910, the humorist had earned quite a reputation as the famed humorist known as Mark Twain. In 1910, he predicted his own death stating: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” He was not to be disappointed!
Many locals don’t know Mark Twain lived off and on in Carson City for three years, first arriving by stagecoach in July 1861 at the age of 25 to serve as secretary to his brother Orion who had just been appointed as the Nevada Territorial Secretary by President Abraham Lincoln. The house in which he lived with his brother and his family still stands today at 502 N. Division St.
Many also don’t know that Mark Twain — the pseudonym — was born right here in our city. It was after 48 hours of partying that he began his long literary career by penning a letter to the editor of the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise on Jan. 31, 1863, detailing the events of the party held at the home of former California Gov. J. Neely Johnson. He signed off, “yours dreamily, Mark Twain.” The letter was published Feb. 3. Henceforth, he became ever known as Mark Twain making a mark on the world no author/lecturer/humorist to date has ever rivaled.
To date, Carson City has made little mention of Twain, his life in Nevada, or his mark upon Nevada’s history as the “honorary President of the Nevada Constitutional Convention.” In his book, “Roughing It,” (available at the Chamber gift shop) the reader can learn of the many trials and tribulations of this man trying to find his place in the world.
He and a friend left Carson City on May 19, 1864, to make their way to San Francisco after being encouraged by disenchanted locals to leave our fair city. He only returned twice – in 1866 and 1868 – after locals forgave his past discretions. By then, he was famous instead of infamous.
Our lack of recognition, however, is soon to be remedied, for finally, after what will be 155 years since his last appearance here, planning is now underway to recognize Mark Twain as one of our more famous residents. On April 21, 2023, which would have been his 113th birthday, Mark Twain will finally be recognized during Mark Twain Days.
The weekend-long celebration will honor the man known the world-over attracting those who still today appreciate Twain’s humor and style. And, while Halley’s Comet won’t be seen again until 2061, the 2023 event will showcase his meteoric rise to fame and fortune.
The proposed event is in the early planning stages under the umbrella of the Carson City Visitors Bureau. Coordinator Debra Soule can be reached at 775-687-7410 by those wishing to volunteer their services or otherwise wishing to participate. We all need to work as a village to pull off what we hope will be a world-class event to honor a world-class author.