The Financial Troubles of Mark Twain: Bankruptcy for the Author of the “Great American Novel”

Everyone has heard of or has read some literature authored by Mark Twain. His most famous works include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is no surprise that given the success of his literature, Mark Twain saw a substantial amount of financial success. However, what many people fail to realize is that Twain was not very investment-savvy.

For example, Twain invested $8 million (fixed for inflation) in a typesetting machine. Despite the grandness of this technological wonder, the machine was particularly vulnerable to mechanical failure. Eventually, the machine broke, and before it could be fixed, it was made obsolete by a newer, more efficient machine. Needless to say, Twain lost a ton of money on this investment.

Twain’s other big investment failure occurred when he invested all his money in forming a new publishing house because he was not satisfied with his current publisher.  Like the typesetting machine, this investment failed. Twain had too much debt, and he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Not many people know of the difficult financial situations Twain was forced to endure throughout his life.

Because of my interest in great American novelist, to further understand Mark Twain and his struggles, I decided to do a little research on consumer bankruptcy. I knew that bankruptcy law had been around for a very long time, so I figured that there could not have been that many changes from Twain’s time to the current situation. Also, even if there were changes, I concluded that the stresses and difficulties with consumer bankruptcy remained the same from Twain’s time to today.

During my research, I came across a thorough article by Greenway Bankruptcy Law, LLC that explained consumer bankruptcy. Specifically, the article’s main point was to describe a type of stressor that is often associated with consumer bankruptcy: consumer harassment.

According to the article, consumer harassment occurs when pesky creditors go after a person in debt to try to collect money. Sometimes, the harassing creditors will resort to unethical, rude, and illegal acts. One of the main points of the article was that debt itself can be very stressful, and when harassing creditors get involved, the stress gets overwhelming. The debtors are victims, and it is difficult to imagine that they are treated so poorly by unethical creditors.

The article opened my eyes to the pressures Mark Twain must have been facing. It is strange that not many people are aware that he had serious financial problems to the point that he had to file for bankruptcy. In fact, I would not be surprised if Twain had to endure some type of creditor harassment. The man lived a very troubled life and having creditors hound him for money certainly could have added to his troubles. However, when you make multiple bad business moves, you only have yourself to blame when the creditors come looking for you.

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