Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events

Pre-1650 1650 1700 1750 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840
Search 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920
Literature, Music, and Movies
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s
Political and Social History Literature
  • James Monroe is almost unanimously reelected as president over John Quincy Adams, winning 231 of 232 electoral votes.
  • Missouri Compromise balances slave and free states admitted to the union.  Missouri is admitted as a slave state, but no slavery will be permitted anywhere north of Missouri's southern border. 
  • Congress makes trade in foreign slaves an act of piracy 
  • Daniel Boone dies at age 85.
  • Spring. In Palmyra in western New York state, Joseph Smith has the first in a series of religious visions that ten years later, on April 6, 1830, lead to the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). After removing first to Kirtland, Ohio, and Commerce (later Nauvoo) Illinois, Smith was shot to death by a mob in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844.
  • U. S. population: 9,638,453
  • 20 November. The whaling ship Essex is rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the Pacific ocean. The survivors are found 94 days later, after a gruelling ordeal that includes near starvation and cannibalism. As a sailor aboard the Acushnet in 1840, Herman Melville hears the story and reads Owen Chase's narrative of the disaster, an account that will later influence Moby-Dick.
  • In the Edinburgh Review (volume 33, January 1820) Sydney Smith writes, "In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book? Or goes to an American play? Or looks at an American picture or statue?"
  • Washington Irving, The Sketch Book (1819-20)
  • 1821
  • Missouri enters union as 24th state, thus balancing the union at 12 slave and 12 free states 
  • Opening of Santa Fe trail.
  • Republic of Liberia in West Africa is established as a refuge for freed American slaves. 
  • The Waterford Academy for Young Ladies, later the Emma Willard School, opens in Waterford, N.Y, the first college-level school for women in the Unites States. 
  • James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy
  • SequoyahAfter a hunting accident in 1809, Sequoyah (1730?-1843) develops a written alphabet for the Cherokee language.  It is approved by the Cherokee chiefs in this year.(Image of Sequoyah courtesy of the Smithsonian's Portrait Gallery.)
  • 1822
  • Denmark Vesey, a free African American,  is convicted and hanged along with 35 others in Charleston, S.C. when his plans to lead a slave uprising are revealed. 
  • President James Monroe asks Congress to recognize several newly independent republics in Latin America, among them Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. 
  • 1823
  • 2 December. President Monroe presents Monroe Doctrine stating that U.S. will not tolerate European interference in Western Hemisphere.
  • James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers 
  • Clement Clarke Moore, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" is published in the Troy [N.Y.] Sentinel.(For an article discussing the controversy over whether Moore really wrote this poem, go to
  • 1824
  • John Quincy Adams is elected president (1824-28) in a contested election that ends in the House of Representatives on 9 February 1825.  Speaker of the House Henry Clay uses his influence to elect Adams, an action bitterly resented by candidate Andrew Jackson, whose 99 electoral votes make him a logical choice.  Adams names Clay his Secretary of State. 
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs is established.
  • Great Salt Lake explored by scout Jim Bridger.
  • Washington Irving, "Tales of a Traveller" 
  • Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok (romance glorifying the "noble savage")
  • James Seaver, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (captivity narrative)
  • 1825
  • Creek chief William McIntosh signs treaty ceding Creek lands to the U.S. and agrees to vacate by 1826; other Creeks repudiate the treaty and kill him. 
  • Completion of the Erie Canal linking the Great Lakes with New York City; first load of grain shipped in 1836
  • John Trumbull, William Dunlap, and Asher B. Durand discover Thomas Cole's Lake with Dead Trees in a show window; Cole and Durand become associated with the Hudson River School of painters. 
  • Fanny Wright, a Scottish reformer, publishes a Plan for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery  and establishes the Nashoba Community in Tennessee (1825-28) as a cooperative in which slaves could earn their freedom. 
  • 1826
  • First American railroad completed in Quincy, Massachusetts 
  • Death of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4.
  • 12 September. Former Freemason William Morgan of Batavia, N.Y, who had exposed Masonic secrets in Illustrations of Masonry, disappears from the Canandiagua, N.Y. jail under mysterious circumstances and is never seen again. A general belief that the Freemasons had killed him for revealing their secrets leads to the formation of the Anti-Masonic party, the first third party in American politics. (For a description from the Freemasons' point of view, visit
  • Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans 
  • Graham's Magazine (1826-58)
  • 26 May. Elias Boudinot, "An Address to the Whites" 
  • 1827
  • Creek Indians sign a second treaty ceding lands in western Georgia 
  • Fort Leavenworth, Kansas established to protect Santa Fe Trail.
  • Cooper, The Prairie 
  • Edgar Allan Poe, Tamerlane and Other Poems 
  • Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
  • 1828
  • Noah Webster publishes American Dictionary of the English Language.
  • John James Audubon publishes the first volume of Birds in America
  • Andrew Jackson is elected president, winning 178 electoral votes to incumbent John Quincy Adams's 83. 
  • 21 February. Elias Boudinot and Sequoyah begin publishing the Cherokee Phoenix, the first American newspaper published in a Native American language. 
  • Hawthorne, Fanshawe (suppressed by the author)
  • Creek Indians receive orders to relocate across the Mississippi River 
  • First steam-powered locomotive in America. 
  • Mexico resists the efforts of Andrew Jackson to purchase Texas.
  • Poe, Al Araaf, Tamerlane, and Other Poems
  • Related 

    About this site