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
Political and Social History Literature
  • 12 April. Foraker Act confirms Puerto Rico as an unconsolidated territory of the United States.
  • Democratic National Convention nominates William Jennings Bryan for president; its platform condemns imperialism and the Gold Standard Act. 
  • Theodore Roosevelt in Rough Rider outfitAs expected, the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia renominates William McKinley for a second term as president. Despite his protests that he does not want the office, Theodore Roosevelt attends the convention in "Rough Rider" garb and accepts the nomination for vice-president.(Photo courtesy of the American Memory Home Page)
  • 20 June. The revolt known to the West as the Boxer Rebellion breaks out in China.
  • September. In the worst natural disaster to date in U. S. history, a hurricane sweeps over Galveston, Texas, killing an estimated 6,000-7,000 of its 36,000 inhabitants.
  • Zitkala-Sa, Impressions of an Indian Childhood, The School Days of an Indian Girl, and An Indian Teacher among Indians published in the January, February, and March Atlantic Monthly.
  • Charles W. Chesnutt, The House Behind the Cedars 
  • Mark Twain, "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg" 
  • Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Age
  • 5 June. Stephen Crane dies at Badenweiler, Germany
  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie 
  • Smart Set (1900-1930)

  • 10 January. Spindletop claim in Texas brings in oil, the first in that region.
  • 4 March. McKinley is inaugurated for his second term as president.
  • 6 September. President McKinley shot by Leon Czolgoz at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, N. Y. He dies of his wounds on September 14 and Roosevelt is sworn in as president on the same day. (See early movies of the opening of the Exhibition and of McKinley's funeral at the American Memory Home Page.)
  • 16 October.  Roosevelt invites Booker T. Washington to the White House. 
  • Charles W. Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition
  • Frank Norris, The Octopus
  • 1902
  • The United Mine Workers go on strike and the owners refuse to recognize the union; as tensions mount and negotiations fail, Roosevelt calls the two sides to the White House and successfully handles the situation.
  • Newlands Reclamation Act authorizes the building of irrigation dams across the West.
  • Ida Tarbell's expose of the oil monopoly, History of the Standard Oil Company, appears in McClure's Magazine
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
  • Jack London, The Iron Heel
  • Lincoln Steffens, The Shame of the Cities
  • Henry James, The Wings of the Dove
  • Ellen Glasgow, The Battle-Ground
  • Owen Wister, The Virginian
  • October. Frank Norris dies of appendicitis.
  • Susie King Taylor, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers
  • 1903
  • Department of Commerce and Labor created by Act of Congress; George B. Cortelyou is first secretary. 
  • Commission to settle UMW dispute recommends shorter hours and a wage increase for the miners.
  • The Great Train Robbery (poster)An eleven-minute Edison film, The Great Train Robbery, is shown in theaters. (Image courtesy of the Edison Papers at Rutgers University.)
  • 3 November After the Hay-Herran Treaty with the Colombian government fails to resolve  the issue of sovereignty over the proposed Canal Zone, a bloodless uprising occurs and, on November 4, Panamanian independence is declared.   On 18 November, the Hay-Buneau-Varilla treaty gives the U. S. permanent rights to a 10-mile-wide strip of land in return for $10 million and annual payments. 
  • 17 December. Orville Wright flies 120 feet in 12 seconds in the first heavier-than-air machine. 
  • W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  • W.E. B. DuBois,"The Talented Tenth"
  • Henry James, The Ambassadors
  • Jack London, The Call of the Wild
  • Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain
  • Frank Norris, The Pit and The Responsibilities of the Novelist
  • 1904
  • The Socialist Party nominates Eugene V. Debs for president. The Republicans nominate Roosevelt, who wins handily (by 2.5 million votes) over Democrat Alton B. Parker.
  • National Child Labor Committee formed.
  • Roosevelt Corollary extends the Monroe Doctrine from the Western Hemisphere to global U. S. "spheres of influence." 
  • New York passes the first speed law for automobiles: 10 mph in cities, 20 mph in the countryside.
  • Russo-Japanese War.
  • Henry James, The Golden Bowl
  • Jack London, The Sea-Wolf
  •  Robert Herrick, The Common Lot
  • Death of Kate Chopin
  • 1905
  • 5 September. Russo-Japanese War ends with treaty signed at Portsmouth, N. H.
  • Industrial Workers of the World union organized in Chicago.
  • 11-13 July.In June, frustrated by the accommodationist tactics of Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois invites African American leaders to a conference on political action and individual rights. On 11-13 July, 29 delegates from 14 states meet at Fort Erie near Niagara Falls, Ontario. They agree to a "Declaration of Principles" emphasizing educational and political equality, and they organize what would be called the Niagara Movement. Du Bois's "Address to the Nation" at the second annual meeting in 1906 calls for its members to obtain the five demands he outlines "By voting where we may vote, by persistent, unceasing agitation, by hammering at the truth, by sacrifice and work." The Niagara Movement holds annual meetings until 1909, when most of its members join with white liberals to form the N.A.A.C.P.
  • In the April issue of the Ladies' Home Journal, Grover Cleveland writes, "Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.  The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."
  • William Dean Howells, "Editha"
  • Charles W. Chesnutt, The Colonel's Dream
  • Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
  •  Robert Herrick, The Memoirs of an American Citizen
  • 1906
  • April.  Roosevelt lambastes the press for its  lurid exposure of social evils, calling journalists such as Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, David Graham Phillips, and Ray Stannard Baker "muckrakers" after the man in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress who could see nothing but filth. 
  • Call-Chronicle-Examiner page on San Francisco Earthquake18 April. San Francisco earthquake kills an estimated 500 people, and fire destroys much of the city.
  • 30 June. To correct the conditions detailed in Sinclair's The Jungle, Congress passes the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. 
  • Roosevelt journeys to Panama to visit the Canal, begun this year. 
  • Death of Paul Laurence Dunbar (b. 1872)
  • Jack London, White Fang
  • Mark Twain, What is Man?
  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
  • Muckraking articles: Ray Stannard Baker, The Railroads on Trial; David Graham Phillips, The Treason of the Senate.
  • 1907
  • 21 March. U. S. Marines are sent to help put down a revolution in Honduras. 
  • Panic of 1907. Financier J. P. Morgan manages the crisis, importing $100 million in gold to bolster U. S. currency.
  • Immigration law excludes Japanese workers.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright completes the Robie House near Chicago (more pictures).
  • Henry James, The American Scene
  • 1907-9, New York Edition of James's work
  • Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (privately printed)
  • Edith Wharton, The Fruit of the Tree
  • John T. McCutcheon, Congressman Pumphrey, the People's Friend (popular political humor)
  • 1908
  • Choosing not to run again, Roosevelt picks William Howard Taft as his successor for the nomination for the presidency.  The Democrats again nominate William Jennings Bryan, who loses to Taft. 
  • Robert Henri, John Sloan, George Luks, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, and George Bellows form the "Ashcan School" of painters in Greenwich Village.  Protesting the National Academy's conservative tastes and exclusion of their work, these artists hold their own successful exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery on February 3, 1908; the next year they are offered their own gallery at the National Academy's exhibition.
  • George Bellows's Both Members of this Club (1909) courtesy of American Visions.
  • October. Henry Ford introduces the Model T. It sells for about  $850, gets about 25 miles to a gallon of gas, and can, says Ford, be purchased in any color the buyer wishes, as long as the buyer wants black. Colors were added the next year.  By 1926, the year before the Model A replaces the Model T, the price drops to $310. 
  • Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, The Shoulders of Atlas
  • Jack London, The Iron Heel
  • 1909
  • W. E. B. DuBois (1868-1963) founds the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
  • Bakelite, an early form of plastic, is patented.
  • W. C. Handy writes "Memphis Blues," the first blues to be written down. 
  • Gertrude Stein, Three Lives
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