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Timelines

These timelines will help you connect authors and literary works to their historical contexts.

Authors

Texts and Contexts

American Literature 1820-1865

Texts Contexts
1815 Founding of the North American Review
  • 1815 Treaty of Ghent, ending the second war with England: before news of the treaty reaches Andrew Jackson, he leads American troops to victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
1817 William Cullen Bryant, "Thanatopsis"
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1820 Washington Irving, The Sketch Book
  • 1820 Missouri Compromise admits Missouri as a slave state, Maine as a free state, and excludes slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of latitude 36° 30'
1821 Bryant, Poems
  • 1821 Sequoyah (George Guess) invents syllabary in which Cherokee language can be written
1823 James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers
  • 1823 Monroe Doctrine warns all European powers not to establish new colonies on either American continent
  • 1825 Erie Canal opens, connecting Great Lakes region with the Atlantic
1826 Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans
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1827 David Cusick, Sketches Of Ancient History of the Six Nations • Lydia Sigourney, Poems. Catharine Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
  • 1827 Baltimore & Ohio, first U.S. railroad
 
  • 1827-28 Cherokee Nation ratifies its new constitution. The newspaper The Cherokee Phoenix founded
1828-30 Cherokee Council composes Memorials to Congress
1829 William Apess, A Son of the Forest • David Walker, Appeal
  • 1829-37 President Andrew Jackson encourages westward migration of white population
  • 1830 Congress passes Indian Removal Act, allowing Jackson to negotiate treaties with the eastern tribes for their relocation west of the Mississippi
  • 1831 William Lloyd Garrison starts The Liberator, antislavery journal • Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia; approximately sixty whites are killed and two hundred blacks are killed in retaliation
1833 Black Hawk, Life
1835 William Glmore Simms, The Yemassee: A Romance of Carolina
1836 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
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1837 Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales
  • 1837 Financial panic: failures of numerous banks lead to severe unemploy­ ment that persists into the early 1840s
 
  • 1838 Around this time, Underground Railroad begins aiding slaves escaping north, often to Canada
  • 1838-39 "Trail of Tears"; Cherokees forced from their homelands by federal troops
1839 Caroline Stansbury Kirkland, A New Home-Who'll Follow?
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1840 Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years before the Mast
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1843 Margaret Fuller, "The Great Lawsuit" • Lydia Maria Child, Letters from New-York
  • 1840 Founding of the Washingtonian Temperance Society; temperance quickly emerges as one of the most popular social reform movements of the period
 
  • 1844 Samuel Morse invents telegraph
1845 Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven" • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • 1845 United States annexes Texas
 
  • 1846 David Wilmot, a congressman from Pennsylvania, proposes in Congress that slavery be banned in territories gained from the Mexican War; his proviso is defeated
  • 1846-48 United States wages war against Mexico; Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes entire Southwest to United States
1847 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline
  • 1847 Brigham Young leads Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake, Utah Territory
  • 1848 Seneca Falls Convention inaugurates campaign for women's rights
  • 1848-49 Beginning years of the California Gold Rush, which brings hundreds of thousands of new settlers to California
1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
  • 1850 Fugitive Slave Act of the Compro­ mise of 1850 obliges free states to return escaped slaves to slaveholders
1851 Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
1853 William Wells Brown, Clotel
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1854 Henry David Thoreau, Walden • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects
  • 1854 Republican Party formed, consolidating antislavery factions • Kansas-Nebraska Act approved by Congress; the act repeals the Missouri Compromise, making it legal for the white voting residents of a territory to determine whether it should be admitted as a slave or free state
1855 Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass • P. T. Barnum, The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself
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1857 Fanny Fern (Sarah Willis Parton), Fresh Leaves
1858 Abraham Lincoln, "A House Divided"
  • 1857 Supreme Court Dyed Scott decision denies citizenship to African Americans
1859 E.D.E.N. Southworth, The Hidden Hand
  • 1859 First successful U.S. oil well drilled, in Pennsylvania
1860-65 Emily Dickinson writes several hundred poems
  • 1860 Short-Lived Pony Express runs from Missouri to California
1861 Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl • Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills
  • 1861 South Carolina batteries fire on U.S. fort, initiating the Civil War; Southern states secede from the Union and found the Confederate States of America
  • 1861-65 Civil War
1862 Elizabeth Stoddard, The Morgesons
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  • 1863 Emancipation Proclamation • Battle of Gettysburg
  • 1865 Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery in the United States
1866 John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow- Bound: A Winter Idyl
  • 1866 Completion of two successful trans­ atlantic cables • Civil Rights Act
  • 1868 Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to those born or naturalized in the United States
1868-69 Louisa May Alcott, Little Wonten
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  • 1869 First transcontinental railroad completed; Central Pacific construction crews composed largely of Chinese laborers