American Literature

Timeline of important literature and historical events

1000-01-01 00:00:00

Leiff Ericsson lands in Vinland, the modern Newfoundland

1492-08-13 01:44:20

Voyage to the New World

Christopher Columbus, financed by Spain, makes the first of four voyages to the New World.

1565-08-13 01:44:20

Spanish Mission to Florida

The first Spanish missions to what is now Florida begin soon after the Jesuit Foundation of St. Augustine.

1584-08-13 01:44:20

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh sends a reconnaissance fleet to what is now North Carolina. In the following year, he authorises a colonising expedition to Roanoke Island, naming the new territory Virginia for the 'Virgin Queen', Elizabeth I. Unable to sustain themselves, the colonists return to England after 10 months

1607-08-13 01:44:20


Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement, is established in Virginia by the London Company.

1614-08-13 01:44:20

Dutch Trading Post

A Dutch trading post (New Amsterdam) is set up on the lower end of Manhattan Island.

1618-08-13 01:44:20


Smallpox wipes out 90% of Native Americans in Massachusetts bay. Imported disease became a major cause of the devastation of the indigenous population.

1619-08-13 01:44:20

African Servants

Twenty African indentured servants are brought to Jamestown.

1620-08-13 01:44:20

Plymouth Colony

The Plymouth colony is established in Massachusetts by a group of separatists from the Church of England. The rules of the community are agreed by the 'Mayflower Compact' and signed by the 41 men who travelled on the ship of that name.

1624-01-01 00:00:00

John Smith, 'The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles',

1630-08-13 01:44:20

John Winthrop, 'A Model of Christian Charity',

John Winthrop's sermon published in 1638, describes the Puritan vision of the 'City Upon the Hill'. The Massachusetts Bay Company is founded.

1682-09-10 01:18:47

Mary Rowlandson

Mary Rowlandson's narrative of her three-month captivity by Algonquim Indians during King Philip's War (1675-1678) becomes one of America's first best sellers.

1692-09-10 01:18:47

Witchcraft Trials

Witchcraft trials held in Salem, Massachusetts.

1704-11-21 08:40:13

The Boston News Letter

The Boston News-Letter is founded as the first American newspaper.

1733-11-21 08:40:13

Benjamin Franklin, 'Poor Richard's Almanac'

Benjamin Franklin begins publishing 'Poor Richard's Almanac'

1741-11-21 08:40:13

Jonathan Edward

Jonathan Edward's sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of an angry God' is a key work in the period of intense religious fervour known as the 'First Great Awakening'.

1770-11-21 08:40:13

The Boston Massacre

The Boston massacre, in which five men were shot by british soldiers. One is an escaped slave called Crispus Attucks.

1773-06-06 18:57:17

The Boston Tea Party

A group of colonists, disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded three ships in the Boston Harbour and threw more than 300 crates overboard as a protest against the British tea tax

1775-06-06 18:57:17

The Revolutionary Wars

The Revolutionary Wars are fought between the British and the thirteen colonies of the eastern seaboard of North America

1776-03-14 15:53:20

Thomas Paine, 'Common Sense'

Thomas Paine published 'Common Sense'. The Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence on 4th of July and names the new country the United States two months later.

1776-03-14 15:53:20

J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, 'Letters from an American Farmer.'

1783-01-01 00:00:00

American Independence

American independence is formally recognised by the British in the Treaty of Paris. Slavery is abolished in Massachusetts with several other Northern states following over the next few years

1787-09-28 22:58:39

Federalist Papers

Publication of the first of the 'Federalist Papers': a series of essays by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay

1789-07-19 00:22:47

George Washington Elected

The U.S. Constitution is ratified and goes into effect. George Washington is elected the country's first President. A first national day of Thanksgiving is proclaimed on 3rd October

1789-07-19 00:22:47

Olaudah Equiano

Publication in England of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself

1790-08-13 01:44:20

The Naturalization Act

The Naturalization Act passed, ruling that only 'free white persons' are allowed to become citizens. The first census records a population of four million, of which 700,000 are slaves.

1791-08-13 01:44:20

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, are ratified.

1794-11-21 08:40:13

Eli Whitney- Cotton Gin

Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin, an invention which, over the next sixty years contributes to the massive expansion of the cotton industry and plantation slavery in the South.

1794-11-21 08:40:13

Susanna Haswell Rowson, 'Charlotte Temple'

Susanna Haswell Rowson's 'Charlotte Temple' (first published in London and then in Philadaelphia) becomes the first American novel to be a best-seller.

1800-02-08 11:32:45


A census records a population of 5.3 million.

1803-02-08 11:32:45

Louisiana Purchase

The geographical area of the U.S. nearly doubles in size following the Louisiana purchase from France.

1804-02-27 05:26:30

Expedition to the West

President Thomas Jefferson sponsors Meriwether Lewis' and William Clarke's expedition to explore the west and find a route to the Pacific Ocean.

1804-02-27 05:26:30

Noah Webster, 'Compendious Dictionary of the English Language'.

1808-02-27 05:26:30

Atlantic Slave Trade

The Atlantic slave trade is abolished

1811-09-19 18:04:54

Educational Reforms

Horace Mann begins educational reforms in Massachusetts

1812-02-27 05:26:30

War with Britain

War with Britain over the effects of restrictions on US trade and westward expansion.

1812-02-27 05:26:30

Francis Scott Key

After witnessing a bombardment by the British Navy, Francis Scott Key writes 'The Defence of Fort McHenry' which, under the title 'The Star Spangled Banner', is officially adopted as the US National Anthem in 1931.

1815-02-27 05:26:30

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson sells his personal library to the government; it forms the basis of the library of Congress.

1818-02-27 05:26:30

Benjamin Franklin Autobiography

Publication of the first part of 'The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin'

1825-02-27 05:26:30

Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole establishes the Hudson Valley school of landscape painting.

1825-02-27 05:26:30

Completion of the Erie Canal

Completion of the Erie Canal connecting the Great Lakes to New York City.

1826-07-19 23:35:46

Completion of Railroad

Completion of the first (three-mile) railroad in Quincy, Massachusetts.

1827-07-19 23:35:46

John James Audubon, 'Birds of America'

John James Audubon publishes the first volume of 'The Birds of America'.

1829-08-13 01:33:55

First Steam Locomotive

First steam locomotive runs in U.S. (Baltimore- Ohio, Aug. 9).

1830-07-19 23:35:46

Indian Removal Act

President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act is passed, allowing the displacement of five tribes - the Cherokee, Seminole, Creeks, Chickisaw and Chocksaw - from desirable US territories to 'Indian Teriitory' in Oklahoma.

1831-07-19 23:35:46

Abolitionist Newspaper - William Garrison

William Garrison founds the abolitionist newspaper 'The Liberator'.

1831-07-19 23:35:46

Nat Turner's Slave Revolt

In Virginia Nat Turner's slave revolt results in the death 50 whites.

1834-09-25 05:47:41

William Dunlap

William Dunlap, 'Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States'.

1836-07-19 23:35:46

Samuel Colt's Revolver

Samuel Colt patents the revolver named after him.

1837-09-25 05:47:41

Samuel F. B. Morse- Telegraph

Samuel F. B. Morse patents his idea for a telegraph, sending the message 'What hath God wrought?' from Washington to Baltimore.

American Literature

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