Mark Twain’s Failed Paige Compositor Investment

“Ah, if only he could die temporarily!” Mark Twain’s signature character Tom Sawyer thought after initial romantic rejection from neighbor girl Becky Thatcher.

In real life in April 1894, in what is now the Eastern District of Missouri Bankruptcy Court, the balance sheet of Samuel Clemens did experience such a temporary death.

Twain, who had built a fortune of approximately three-million dollars due to over a decade of royalty payments from both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, invested nearly all of that money in escalating bets on “The Paige Compositor”, a revolutionary typesetter that promised the possibility of tripling newspaper production during the midnight hours.

The problem? The Paige Compositor had over 18,000 parts. Not only did this make the cost of the technological advancement unrealistic for publishers, but as anyone who has driven a European car with all the fancy gadgets can attest, the high number of component parts … Read the rest of this article!