The original illustrations were done by E.W. Kemble, at the time a young artist working for Life magazine. Kemble was hand-picked by Twain, who admired his work. Hearn suggests that Twain and Kemble had a similar skill, writing that:
Whatever he may have lacked in technical grace ... Kemble shared with the greatest illustrators the ability to give even the minor individual in a text his own distinct visual personality; just as Twain so deftly defined a full-rounded character in a few phrases, so too did Kemble depict with a few strokes of his pen that same entire personage.
As Kemble could afford only one model, most of his illustrations produced for the book were done by guesswork. When the novel was published, the illustrations were praised even as the novel was harshly criticized. E.W. Kemble produced another set of illustrations for Harper's and the American Publishing Company in 1898 and 1899 after Twain lost the copyright.