In This Section

Bookmark and Share


Visit our companion site, American Passages. Produced in conjunction with Oregon Public Broadcasting, this rich site includes an archive featuring over 3,000 images, audio clips, presentation software, and more.


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


Texts and Contexts

American Literature 1865-1914

Texts Contexts
1855 Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
1860—65 Emily Dickinson writes several hundred poems
  • 1860 Short-lived Pony Express Runs from Missouri to California
  • 1861 South Carolina Batteries fire on Fort Sumter, initiating the Civil War • Southern states secede from the Union and found the Confederate States of America
1865 Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps
  • 1865 Civil War ends • Reconstruction begins • Lincoln assassinated • Thirteenth Amendment ratified, prohibiting slavery
  • 1867 United States purchases Alaska from Russia • Jesse Chisholm maps out the Chisholm Trail, connecting Texas cattle ranches to railheads in Kansas City, Cheyenne, Dodge City, and Abilene
1868 Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
  • 1868 Fourteenth Amendment passed, guaranteeing citizenship to all peoples born in the United States (exclusive of Native peoples) • Congress institutes eight-hour workday for federal employees • sweatshops, using mostly immigrant labor, begin to proliferate in cities
  • 1869 First transcontinental railroad completed by construction crews composed largely of Chinese laborers • Susan B. Anthony elected president of American Equal Rights Association; Elizabeth Cady Stanton elected president of National Women's Suffrage Association
1870 Bret Harte, The Luck of Roaring Camp and other Sketches
  • 1870 Fifteenth Amendment, giving African American men the right to vote, ratified
  • 1871 Indian Appropriation Act ends the practice of negotiating treaties with the tribes as sovereign nations
1872 Mark Twain, Roughing It
  • 1872 Yellowstone, first U.S. national park, established
  • 1873 Economic panic: financial depression lasts until 1879
  • 1874 Women's Christian Temperance Union founded in Cleveland • invention of barbed wire effectively ends the open range
1876 Charlot, "[He has filled graves with our bones]"
  • 1876 Custer's regiment defeated by the Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Big Horn River, Montana • Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone
  • 1877 Reconstruction ends • segregationist Jim Crow laws begin
1878 Henry James, Daisy Miller
  • 1879 Thomas Edison invents the electric lightbulb • female lawyers permitted to argue before Supreme Court
1880 Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings
  • 1880—1910 Massive immigration from Europe
1881 Helen Hunt Jackson, A Century of Dishonor
  • 1881 Tuskegee Institute founded
  • 1882 J.D. Rockefeller organizes Standard Oil Trust • Chinese Exclusion Act instituted
1883 Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"
1884 Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • 1884 Tailors' strike in New York City brings national attention to sweatshops
1885 María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don
  • 1886 Statue of Liberty dedicated • Haymarket Square labor riot leaves eleven dead • American Federation of Labor organized
  • 1887 General Allotment Act or Dawes Act permits the president to divide tribally owned lands into individual allotments to be held in trust for twenty-five years, with "surplus" lands to be sold to non-Indians. This led the Indians to lose some 90 million acres of land by the time Dawes was repealsed in 1934
1889 Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West • Hamlin Garland, "Under the Lion's Paw"
1890 Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
  • 1890 U.S. Bureau of Census declares the "frontier" "to be closed." There is no more "free" or "unoccupied" land • HSitting Bull killed. Massacre of Big Foot's Minneconjou band by federal troops at Wounded Knee Creek ends the Ghost Dance amoung the Sioux • Ellis Island immigration station opens
1896 Paul Laurence Dunbar, Lyrics of a Lowly Life • James Mooney publishes Ghost Dance Songs
  • 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson upholds segregated transportation
1897 Crane, The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure
  • 1897—98 Klondike Gold Rush
1899 Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman and The Life of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line • Kate Chopin, The Awakening • Frank Norris, McTeague
1900 Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie • Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mob-Rule in New Orleans • Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces
  • 1900 U.S. population exceeds seventy-five million
1901 Zitkala Sa, Impressions of an Indian Childhood and The School Days of an Indian Girl • Norris, The Octopus • London, "The Law of Life" • Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
  • 1901 J.P. Moragn founds U.S. Steel Corporation • first transatlantic radio • oil discovered in Spindletop, Texas
1903 W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folks • London, The Call of the Wild • Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain
  • 1903 Henry Ford founds Ford Motor Co. • Wright brothers make the first successful airplane flight • The Great Train Robbery is first U.S. cinematic narrative
1904 Edith Wharton, "The Other Two"
  • 1904 National Child Labor Committee formed
1905 William Dean Howells, "Editha"
  • 1905 Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) founded
1906 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
  • 1906 April 18: San Francisco earthquake and fire
1907 Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, privately printed
  • 1909 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded
1910 Jane Adams, Twenty Years at Hull-House • Sui Sin Far,"Mrs. Spring Fragrance"
  • 1910 Mexican Revolution
1912 James Weldon Johnson • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • 1914 U.S. Marines invade and occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico • Panama Canal opens