The Story Behind 'The Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County'

By | May 17, 2019

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A young boy encourages his frog to perform a long jump. AFP PHOTO Source: (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)

American author Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, had a way of crafting memorable stories with colorful characters. Several of his books and short stories were based on actual events or people that Clemens had met. One of his more amusing short stories was “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Despite what you may have heard, Clemens/Twain didn’t write about an established event or witness a frog jumping contest. His story is merely a clever retelling of a bar story he heard. But the short story did create a whole new industry for Calaveras County, California—frog tourism. 

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Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain. Source: (

Mark Twain in California

So many of Mark Twain/Clemens’s books were set along the Mississippi River so it may surprise people to learn that the author who was born in 1835, traveled extensively around the United States and Europe. It was in California in 1865—long before he wrote Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—that Clemens’ work as a journalist took him from Missouri to Nevada, then to Salt Lake City and on to San Francisco.