The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain. It was his first great success as a writer and brought him national attention.[1] 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. The narrator 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."

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches is also the title story of an 1867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain. It was Twain's first book and collected 27 stories that were previously published in magazines and newspapers.[2]

First edition (published by Charles Henry Webb)

Publication history

The Angels Hotel

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 New York Saturday Press, where it appeared in the November 18, 1865, edition as "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog".[3] 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, 1865; this time titled "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", and Smiley's name was changed to Greeley.[4]

Further popularity of the tale led Twain to use the story to anchor his own first book, which appeared in 1867 with a first issue run of only 1,000 copies. The first edition was issued in seven colors (with no priority): blue, brown, green, lavender, plum, red, and terra-cotta, and is sought after by book collectors, as it fetches thousands of dollars at auctions.[5] In the book version, Twain changed Greeley back to Smiley.[4]

Plot summary

The narrator is sent by a friend to interview an old man, Simon Wheeler, who might know the location of an old acquaintance named Leonidas W. Smiley. Finding Simon at an old mining camp, the narrator asks him if he knows anything about Leonidas; Simon appears not to, and instead tells a story about Jim Smiley, a man who had visited the camp years earlier.

Jim loves to gamble and will offer to bet on anything and everything, from horse races to dogfights, to the health of the local parson's wife. He catches a frog, whom he names Dan'l Webster, and spends three months training it to jump. When a stranger visits the camp, Jim shows off Dan'l and offers to bet $40 that it can out-jump any other frog in Calaveras County. The stranger, unimpressed, says that he would take the bet if he had a frog, so Jim goes out to catch one, leaving him alone with Dan'l. While Jim is away, the stranger pours lead shot down Dan'l's throat. Once Jim returns, he and the stranger set the frogs down and let them loose. The stranger's frog jumps away while Dan'l does not budge, and the surprised and disgusted Jim pays the $40 wager. After the stranger has departed, Jim notices Dan'l's sluggishness and picks the frog up, finding it to be much heavier than he remembers. When Dan'l belches out a double handful of lead shot, Jim realizes that he has been cheated and chases after the stranger, but never catches him.

At this point in the story, Simon excuses himself to go outside for a moment. The narrator realizes that Jim has no connection to Leonidas and gets up to leave, only to have Simon stop him at the door, offering to tell him about a one-eyed, stubby-tailed cow that Jim had owned. Rather than stay to hear another pointless story, the narrator excuses himself and leaves.


Upon discovering a French translation of this story, Twain back-translated the story into English, word for word, retaining the French grammatical structure and syntax. He then published all three versions under the title "The Jumping Frog: in English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil".[6]

In "Private History of the ‘Jumping Frog’ Story", Twain recounts some background to the tale—in particular, his surprise to find that the story bore a striking resemblance to an ancient Greek tale. He wrote:

Now, then, the interesting question is, did the frog episode happen in Angel’s Camp in the spring of ‘49, as told in my hearing that day in the fall of 1865? I am perfectly sure that it did. I am also sure that its duplicate happened in Boeotia a couple of thousand years ago. I think it must be a case of history actually repeating itself, and not a case of a good story floating down the ages and surviving because too good to be allowed to perish.[7]

Later, however, in November 1903, Twain noted:

When I became convinced that the "Jumping Frog" was a Greek story two or three thousand years old, I was sincerely happy, for apparently here was a most striking and satisfactory justification of a favorite theory of mine—to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.... By-and-by, in England, after a few years, I learned that there hadn't been any Greek frog in the business, and no Greek story about his adventures. Professor Sidgwick [in his textbook for students learning to translate English texts into Greek, Greek Prose Composition, p. 116] had not claimed that it was a Greek tale; he had merely synopsized the Calaveras tale and transferred the incident to classic Greece; but as he did not state that it was the same old frog, the English papers reproved him for the omission. He told me this in England in 1899 or 1900, and was much troubled about that censure, for his act had been innocent, he believing that the story's origin was so well known as to render formal mention of it unnecessary.[8]

But in A. Sidgwick's "Note To The Thirteenth Edition" (1907), among "hearty... thanks for... help received", Prof. Sidgwick still failed to acknowledge his use of the Twain tale.[9]


Lukas Foss composed The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, an opera in two scenes with libretto by Jean Karsavina, based on Twain's story. The opera premiered on May 18, 1950, at Indiana University.[10]

The story was also adapted as a scene in the film The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985), in which Mark Twain retells the story in short to Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher.

Short story collection

The short story collection The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches, Twain's first book, contains 27 short stories and sketches.[2] It was released by the American News Company in 1867 under the editorship of Twain's friend Charles Henry Webb.[11] Privately, to his colleague Bret Harte, Twain wrote it was "full of damnable errors of grammar and deadly inconsistencies of spelling in the Frog sketch because I did not read the proofs".[12] After its May release, the book suffered from lackluster sales.[13] The collection included:

  • "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"
  • "Aurelia's Unfortunate Young Man"
  • "A Complaint about Correspondents, Dated in San Francisco"
  • "Answers to Correspondents"
  • "Among the Fenians"
  • "The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn't Come to Grief"
  • "Curing a Cold"
  • "An Inquiry about Insurances"
  • "Literature in the Dry Diggings"
  • "'After' Jenkins"
  • "Lucretia Smith's Soldier"
  • "The Killing of Julius Caesar 'Localized'"
  • "An Item which the Editor Himself could not Understand"
  • "Among the Spirits"
  • "Brief Biographical Sketch of George Washington"
  • "A Touching Story of George Washington's Boyhood"
  • "A Page from a Californian Almanac"
  • "Information for the Million"
  • "The Launch of the Steamer Capital"
  • "Origin of Illustrious Men"
  • "Advice for Good Little Girls"
  • "Concerning Chambermaids"
  • "Remarkable Instances of Presence of Mind"
  • "Honored as a Curiosity in Honolulu"
  • "The Steed 'Oahu'"
  • "A Strange Dream"
  • "Short and Singular Rations"

See also


  1. ^ Lewis, Randy (May 14, 2015). "The frog that jump-started Mark Twain's career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Twain, Mark (1867). The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches. New York: C. H. Webb. Republished by Oxford University Press (1997), ISBN 978-0-19-511400-3.
  3. ^ Mark Twain (November 18, 1865). "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog". The Saturday Press. pp. 248–249.
  4. ^ a b "Mark Twain in The Californian, 1864–1867". Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  5. ^ "The Celebrated Jumping Frog". Royal Books. Archived from the original on 2012-02-11.
  6. ^ Twain, Mark (1903). The Jumping Frog: in English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  7. ^ Twain, Mark. "Private History of the 'Jumping Frog' Story". The Internet Archive.
  8. ^ Twain, Mark & Strothman, F. (Illustrator). The Jumping Frog: In English, Then in French, and Then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil (MCMIII ed.). New York and London: Harper & Brothers, Publishers. pp. 64–66.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Sidgwick, A. (1907). "Note to the Thirteenth Edition". Introduction to Greek Prose Composition with Exercises (13th ed.). London: Longmans, Green & Co.
  10. ^ "The Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County".
  11. ^ Messent, Peter. The Short Works of Mark Twain: A Critical Study. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001: 10. ISBN 0-8122-3622-X
  12. ^ Nissen, Axel. Bret Harte: Prince and Pauper. University Press of Mississippi, 2000: 83. ISBN 1-57806-253-5
  13. ^ Muller, John. Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: The Adventures of a Capital Correspondent. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013: 73. ISBN 978-1-60949-964-8

External links

A Dog's Tale

"A Dog's Tale" is a short story written by Mark Twain. It first appeared in the December 1903 issue of Harper's Magazine. In January of the following year it was extracted into a stand-alone pamphlet published for the National Anti-Vivisection Society. Still later in 1904 it was expanded into a book published by Harper & Brothers.

Angels Camp, California

Angels Camp, also known as City of Angels and formerly Angel's Camp, Angels, Angels City, Carson's Creek and Clearlake, is the only incorporated city in Calaveras County, California, United States. The population was 3,835 at the 2010 census, up from 3,004 at the 2000 census. It lies at an elevation of 1378 feet (420 m).

Mark Twain based his short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" on a story he claimed he heard at the Angels Hotel in 1865. The event is commemorated with a Jumping Frog Jubilee each May at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, just east of the city. Because of this, Angels Camp is sometimes referred to as "Frogtown."

The city is California Historical Landmark #287.

Angels Hotel

The Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, was the hotel where the author Mark Twain heard a story that he would later turn into his short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County".The hotel was originally a canvas tent erected by C. C. Lake in 1851, and replaced by a one-story wooden structure. It was rebuilt with stone in 1855, and a second story was added in 1857.In front of the building is the "Frog Hop of Fame", where commemorative plaques are embedded in the sidewalk for the winners of the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee frog jumping contest.The building, no longer operated as a hotel, is registered as California Historical Landmark #734. It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is currently an apartment complex.

Calaveras County, California

Calaveras County, officially the County of Calaveras, is a county in the northern portion of the U.S. state, California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 40,171. The county seat is San Andreas. Angels Camp is the only incorporated city in the county. Calaveras is the Spanish word for skulls; the county was reportedly named for the remains of Native Americans discovered by the Spanish explorer Captain Gabriel Moraga.

Calaveras County is in both the Gold Country and High Sierra regions of California.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, is in the county several miles east of the town of Arnold on State Highway 4. Credit for the discovery of giant sequoias here is given to Augustus T. Dowd, a trapper who made the discovery in 1852 while tracking a bear. When the bark from the "Discovery Tree" was removed and taken on a tour around the world, the trees became a worldwide sensation and one of the county's first tourist attractions. The uncommon gold telluride mineral calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861 and is named for it.

Mark Twain set his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", in the county. The county hosts an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, featuring a frog-jumping contest, to celebrate the association with Twain's story. Each year's winner is commemorated with a brass plaque mounted in the sidewalk of downtown Historic Angels Camp and this feature is known as the Frog Hop of Fame.

In 2015, Calaveras County had the highest rate of suicide deaths in the United States, with 49.1 suicides per 100,000 people.

Dan'l Webster

Dan'l Webster may refer to:

Daniel Webster, a United States Senator and Secretary of State;

Dan'l Webster (train), a named train that used to run between New York City and Boston;

Dan'l Webster, the name of a fictional frog featured in Mark Twain's short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

Frog jumping contest

Frog jumping is a competitive pastime for humans in which frogs are entered into competitions to jump certain distances. Frog jumping contests are held in small communities scattered around the United States, as part of the folk culture.

Frog jumping was made famous in a short story by Mark Twain, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." An event, inspired by the Twain story, has been held annually in Angels Camp, in California's Calaveras County, since 1928, with other events held in Indiana, Ohio, Washington, Maine, Missouri, Louisiana, New York, and also in Manitoba, Canada.

With 4,000 contestants in 2007, the Calaveras County contest has imposed strict rules regulating the frogs's welfare, including limiting the daily number of a frog's jumps and mandating the playing of calming music in their enclosures. Entering specimens of the California Red-legged Frog in the competition, since it is an endangered species, is illegal. (It is also illegal, and likewise considered poor sportsmanship, for any competing frog to be weighted down by any means, as the frog in the Twain story was by the stranger who cheated in the contest as described.) Participants entering the longest-jumping frog were to win a $750 prize, or $5,000 if their frog were to break the 1986 record of 21 feet, 5¾ inches, set by "Rosie the Ribeter."

Mark Twain (crater)

Mark Twain is a crater on Mercury. It has a diameter of 149 kilometers. Its name was adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1976. Mark Twain is named for the American author Mark Twain, who lived from 1835 to 1910.

Mark Twain bibliography

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), well known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. Twain is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which has been called "the Great American Novel," and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). He also wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and non-fiction.

Mark Twain in popular culture

Mark Twain's legacy includes awards, events, a variety of memorials and namesakes, and numerous works of art, entertainment, and media.

Merry Tales

Merry Tales is a short volume with sketches by Mark Twain, published by Webster in 1892,

National Tom Sawyer Days

National Tom Sawyer Days is a yearly event on 4 July, organized by the Hannibal JayCees in Hannibal, Missouri in the United States. In the town, National Tom Sawyer Days and the fourth of July are celebrated at the same time. Hannibal is the hometown of the famous author Mark Twain, the writer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Many local Tom fans or some other fans from all over the world are attracted by the big parade float, flea market, carnival for children. Fans can enter a no speed-limited car competition and a Mud Volleyball Tournament.Most of the competitions are inspired from the novels written by Mark Twain, for instance, the inspiration “Frog long jump” is from The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County which is Mark Twain’s first famous book. This activity and contest “Tom and Becky ” are one of the earliest activities which were celebrated in National Tom Sawyer Days. Besides, a couple of goodwill ambassadors from Junior school students in Grade 7 will be selected to introduce the local culture in Hannibal.

“Painting fence contest” is the same as “Tom and Becky”, which is based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Aunt Polly punishes Tom to paint the fence, but little Tom asked some friends to help him paint the fence. Children from place to place aged from ten to thirteen will dress up as Tom, because the costume is one of the 3 standards for evaluation. The other two dominating factors are the speed and the quality of painting the fence. Once the child wins the preliminary contest, he or she qualifies for the final competition.

Old Times on the Mississippi

Old Times on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain. It was published in 1876. It was later incorporated into his 1883 work, Life on the Mississippi.

The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories

The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories (1906) is a collection of thirty comic short stories by the American humorist and writer Mark Twain. The stories contained span the course of his career, from "Advice to Young Girls" in 1865 to the titular tale in 1904. Although Twain had ample time to refine his short stories between their original publication date and this collection, there is little evidence to suggest he took an active interest in doing so. "A Burlesque Biography" contains only a few minor technical revisions which make it different from the 1871 version found in Mark Twain's "(Burlesque) Autobiography and First Romance". "Advice to Little Girls" shows slight revision from its earlier publication in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985 film)

The Adventures of Mark Twain (released in the United Kingdom as Comet Quest) is a 1985 American stop motion claymation animated fantasy film directed by Will Vinton. It received a limited theatrical release in May 1985. It was released on DVD in January 2006.The film features a series of vignettes extracted from several of Mark Twain's works, built around a plot that features Twain's attempts to keep his "appointment" with Halley's Comet. Twain and three children, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher, travel on an airship between various adventures.

The Saturday Press (literary newspaper)

The Saturday Press was the name of a literary weekly newspaper, published in New York from 1858 to 1860 and again from 1865 to 1866, edited by Henry Clapp, Jr.Clapp, nicknamed the "King of Bohemia" and credited with importing the term "bohemianism" to the U.S, was a central part of the antebellum New York literary and art scene. Today he is perhaps best known for his spotlighting of Walt Whitman, Fitz-James O'Brien, and Ada Clare – all habitués of the bohemian watering hole named Pfaff's beer cellar – in The Saturday Press. Clapp intended the Press to be New York's answer to the Atlantic Monthly. The Press was constantly troubled by financial problems, and Clapp died in poverty and obscurity.Mark Twain's first short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", was first published under the title "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" in The Saturday Press in 1865.

The Stolen White Elephant

"The Stolen White Elephant" is a short story written by Mark Twain and published in 1882 by James R. Osgood. In this detective mystery, a Siamese white elephant, en route from Siam to Britain as a gift to the Queen, disappears in New Jersey. The local police department goes into high gear to solve the mystery but it all comes to a tragic end.

Valley City, Ohio

Valley City is an unincorporated community in central Liverpool Township, Medina County, Ohio, United States. The west branch of the Rocky River and Plum Creek flow near Valley City from south to north.

It is located at intersection of State Routes 252 and 303 in the northwest corner of Medina County. Settled in 1810, the township around it was established in 1816. Together with Litchfield and York Townships, Liverpool Township composes the Buckeye Local School District. Valley City is part of Ohio District 7 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Short stories
Places and events
Popular culture

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.