Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events

Pre-1650 1650 1700 1750 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840
  1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920
Literature, Music, and Movies
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s
1830-1839 Political and Social History Literature
  • Mexico blocks further U.S. colonists 
  • U. S. population: 12,866,020
  • 28 May. President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act authorizing the move of of several tribes to Western lands. 
  • The Republicans nominate Henry Clay for president. 
  • 15 September. The Choctaws sign a treaty exchanging 8 million acres of land east of the Mississippi for land in Oklahoma. 
  • Godey's Lady's Book (1830-98) 
  • Birth of Emily Dickinson (d. 1886)
  • 1831
  • Former president John Quincy Adams takes a seat in the House of Representatives.
  • Nat Turner leads slave uprising in which 70 whites are killed; 100 blacks are killed in a search for Turner. Thomas Gray records the Confessions of Nat Turner in early November.
  • Black Hawk of the Sauk and Fox tribes agrees to move west of Mississippi.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont spend nine months touring America. The book that de Tocqueville writes after this trip, Democracy in America, will be published in 1835.
  • Rebecca Harding Davis born.
  • Poe publishes "Israfel" in Poems by Edgar A. Poe 
  • James Kirke Paulding's The Lion of the West features a character, Nimrod Wildfire, based on Davy Crockett (1786-1836).
  • William Lloyd GarrisonThe Liberator (abolitionist paper, 1831-65). In its first issue, William Lloyd Garrison writes, "On this subject [slavery] I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation. No! No!  Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.  I am in earnest--I will not equivocate--I will not excuse--I will not retreat a single inch--AND I WILL BE HEARD." (Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.)
  • Spirit of the Times (1831-58), which publishes stories and sketches of the Southwestern humorists.
  • The New-England Magazine (1831-1835)
  • 1832
  • Democrat Andrew Jackson is re-elected president over his opponents, gathering 216 electoral votes to National Republican candidate Henry Clay's 49. Also running are Anti-Masonic candidate William Wirt (7) and Independent John Floyd (11). 
  • Seminole chiefs cede Florida to the U.S. and agree to move west of the Mississippi 
  • The Oregon Trail becomes a main route for settlers 
  • New England Anti-Slavery Society is founded 
  • 6 April-2 August. Black Hawk War (Columbia Encyclopedia entry)
  • Louisa May Alcott born on her father's 33rd birthday. 
  • Hawthorne, "Roger Malvin's Burial"
  • 1833
  • Americans in Texas territory vote to separate Texas from Mexico. 
  • Britain prohibits slavery in her colonies. 
  • Oberlin College opens, the first co-educational college and the first to admit blacks.
  • 25 September. Following the instructions of President Jackson, Treasury Secretary Roger B. Taney announces that the government will shift its deposits from the Second Bank of the United States to state banks, a move that as Jackson intended weakens the Bank of the United States. 
  • William Apess, "An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man" 
  • Knickerbocker Magazine (1833-65) founded by Charles Fenno Hoffman (1806-1884)
  • Child, Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans
  • Black Hawk  Black Hawk or Makataimeshekiakiak, selections from Autobiography (Surrender Speech of 1832 also available online; iImage courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.)
  • 1834
  • The Senate opposes Jackson over his removal of funds to topple the Bank of the United States 
  • Cyrus McCormick patents the horse-drawn grain reaper 
  • Anti-Catholic protestors burn the Ursuline convent in Somerville, Massachusetts.
  • Southern Literary Messenger (1834-64)
  • National debt is paid off. To increase the amount of available money needed for a growing economy, the state banks begin to issue bank notes not backed by gold and silver. Inflation results from this practice. 
  • Mob in Charleston, S.C. burns abolitionist literature, and abolitionist writers are expelled from Southern states.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville publishes Democracy in America in France.
  • Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) born in Florida, Missouri. (d. 1910)
  • Harriet Jacobs goes into hiding to escape Dr. Norcom (Dr. Flint in Incidents); she will remain in hiding until her 1842 escape to New York. 
  • Poe appointed editor of the Southern Literary Messenger 
  • William Gilmore Simms, The Yemassee (story of Indian warfare in Georgia)
  • Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, Georgia Scenes 
  • Crockett almanacs (1835-56)
  • James Gordon Bennett begins publishing the New York Herald, which boosts its circulation with sensational coverage of the murder of Helen Jewett.
  • 1836
  • Beginning on February 23, Santa Anna leads 3,000 men in a siege of the Alamo, killing all 187 Texans inside on March 6; on March 27, his troops under Col. José Nicolás de la Portilla kill 300-400 soldiers defending Goliad. (To see the Alamo today, visit the Alamo cam)
  • 21 April. Texans capture Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto and kill some 650 Mexican soldiers. 
  • 11 July. The problems arising from growing inflation, land speculation, and worthless currency lead President Jackson to issue the Specie Circular, which requires that public lands be paid for in gold or silver instead of paper money.
  • 1 September. Settlers led by Dr. Marcus Whitman reach Walla Walla in present-day Washington.
  • Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that any slave brought within its borders by a master is free.
  • Graham's Magazine 
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature 
  • Transcendental Club (1836-c.1844) 
  • Bret Harte born 
  • Elizabeth Peabody edits Bronson Alcott's Record of a School and Conversations with Children on the Gospels.(1826-58)
  • 1837
  • March. As one of his last acts as president, Andrew Jackson recognizes the Lone Star Republic of Texas; the U.S. now consists of 13 slave and 13 free states, with statehood pending for one slave territory and three free territories.
  • 4 March. Democrat Martin Van Buren is inaugurated president, with Richard M. Johnson as vice president. Van Buren won in part because he ran against a badly divided Whig party whose three candidates--William Henry Harrison, Hugh L. White, and Henry Clay--split the vote.
  • 10 May. Following several months of increasing inflation and shrinking credit, the Panic of 1837 begins, causing widespread bank failures and unemployment. 
  • Education reform by Horace Mann, Calvin Stowe, Mary Lyon, and others.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "An Oration" (revised in 1841 as "The American Scholar") 
  • Birth of William Dean Howells in Ohio. (d. 1920)
  • Birth of Edward Eggleston. 
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tales (including "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" 
  • United States Magazine and Democratic Review (1837-49) 
  • Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (1837-40)
  • 1838
  • Removal of 15,000-17,000 Cherokee Indians from Georgia on the "Trail of Tears" results in an estimated 4,000-8,000 deaths. (Interactive lesson online from the National Park Service includes background history, images, and maps.)  
  • Republic of Texas withdraws its offer of annexation with the U. S. 
  • Underground Railroad organized.
  • William Ellery Channing, Self Culture (promotes "doctrine of self-improvement" as an alternative to strict Calvinism) 
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, "An Address . . . " (revised in 1841 as "The Divinity School Address") 

  • Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America (first American edition)
  • CinqueSpanish slave ship Amistad, carrying 53 slaves, is taken over in a mutiny by their leader, Cinque; before the Supreme Court, John Quincy Adams argues their right to be freed  ( Amistad documents at the National Records site)
  • Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine; edits the magazine until 1840. 
  • Poe, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque 
  • Caroline Kirkland, A New Home--Who'll Follow?
  • Related 
      Timeline of the West at provides information on individuals, maps, quizzes, and other resources.
    Comments to D. Campbell.