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Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog


In the installment tomorrow of my historical novel Railcar Gold, I’ll touch upon the origins of a frog-jumping contest carried out by children in York, PA during 1866.  This post provides the historical background on how that contest got started.

As the nation recovered from the disbelief over the assassination of President Lincoln and with the end of the Civil War, newspapers began to publish more and more lighthearted stories.  While on a railcar business and sales trip to New York City, Charles Billmeyer picks up a November 18, 1865 copy of The New York Saturday Press and brings it back to York, PA.

Within this issue, on the editorial page, is a story entitled “Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog.”  George Billmeyer, Charles son, reads the story; ultimately leading to the frog-jumping contest.

The author of this story is Mark Twain.  It is his first published story that draws national attention.

Mark Twain later changes the title of this story to “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” and then to “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”  This story became the principal tale, along with 26 other tales, in the 1867 first book by Mark Twain: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog.”

The following is a copy of the upper left corner of Editorial Page 248 in the November 18, 1865 issue of The New York Saturday Press.  Note the afternoon amusements in New York City on that date.


The story “Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog” by Mark Twain begins in the second column of Editorial Page 248.  The story continues into page 249.


Links to related posts include:

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts