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
  • Mann Act adopted by Congress to stop the transportation of women across state lines for "immoral purposes" and to stem the importation of European women to work in American brothels. This law becomes known as the "white slave traffic act," and in the next few years, alarm about the "white slave trade" grows rapidly.
  • In Osawatomie, Kansas, Theodore Roosevelt calls for "a square deal" in a speech that will become a rallying cry for the Progressive Movement.
  • Mexican revolution against Dictator Porfirio Diaz.
  • Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House
  • Deaths of Mark Twain (b. 1835), Rebecca Harding Davis (b. 1831), and William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) (b. 1862)
  • 1911
  • Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette helps found the National Progressive Republican League. On 16 October, the National Conference of Progressive Republicans nominates him for president. 
  • 25 March. Fire breaks out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, killing 146 workers, mostly women and girls; some jump to their deaths when inadequate equipment makes rescue impossible. (See documents and images at  the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire site at Cornell University.)
  • Initially denied statehood because it permits the recall of judges, Arizona drops the provision and is admitted as a state.
  • Finding the Standard Oil Company to be in restraint of trade, the Supreme Court orders it and  and the American Tobacco Company to be dissolved.
  • Efficiency expert Frederick Taylor publishes The Principles of Scientific Management. 
  • Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
    Theodore Dreiser, Jennie Gerhardt
    24 January. Progressive journalist and popular novelist David Graham Phillips (b. 1867) is shot and killed outside the Princeton Club in New York.
  • The Masses (New York), 1911-1918
  • 1912
  • 15 April.  The Titanic strikes an iceberg, and 1502 lives are lost because the ship did not carry enough lifeboats. 
  • 4 May. About 10,000 supporters of woman's suffrage marched up Fifth Avenue at sundown to promote the cause. (New York Times, 5 May 1912; see also "Chinese Women to Parade for Woman Suffrage," NYT, 14 April 1912.).
  • 17 May. The Socialist Party nominates Eugene V. Debs for president. 
  • 5 June. In what is now known as "Dollar Diplomacy," the U. S. sends marines to protect business interests in Cuba.
  • Split between Taft and Roosevelt, progressive members walk out of the Republican National Convention in Chicago, form the Bull Moose third party, and nominate Roosevelt.  In October, Roosevelt is shot at close range, but the folded-up speech in his coat  pocket blocks the bullet and  saves his life. 
  • At the Democratic Convention, the Democrats nominate Woodrow Wilson after William Jennings Bryan throws his support to Wilson after the 46th ballot. 
  • Wilson is elected in a landslide by 435 electoral votes.
  • Edith Wharton, The Reef
  • Willa Cather, Alexander's Bridge
  • Theodore Dreiser, The Financier
  • Sui-Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton), Mrs. Spring Fragrance
  • Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage
  • James Weldon Johson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • Mary Antin,The Promised Land

  • Founding of Poetry magazine.
  • The Sixteenth Amendment is ratified; it provides for a graduated national income tax. 
  • California Governor Hiram Johnson signs the Webb Alien Land-Holding Bill into law; it excludes the Japanese from holding land.  The Japanese government and Wilson protest. 
  • The Seventeenth Amendment, which provides for the popular election rather than the appointment of senators, is passed. 
  • Henry Ford adopts the conveyor-belt technology developed by the meat-packers. 
  • Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a StaircaseThe Armory Show in New York City introduces modern European art to the United States. (Image of Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, no. 2 courtesy of The Virtual Armory Show, a site no longer available.)
  • Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country
  • Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
  • Ellen Glasgow, Virginia
  • Robert Frost, A Boy's Will
  • Jack London, The Valley of the Moon
  • Henry James, A Small Boy and Others
  • Oscar Micheaux, The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer
  • Vanity Fair (1913-1936)
  • 1914
  • American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) is formed in New York City.
  • Archduke Francis Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo, after which the Austro-Hungarian Government declares war on Serbia. 
  • August. Germany declares war on Russia and France; Great Britain declares war on Germany as German troops invade Belgium.  Japan also declares war on Germany. 
  • Panama Canal opens for shipping
  • 20 April. Seven months into a strike at the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation, after the National Guard has been called in to break the strike, machine guns begin firing on the workers' tent city and fire breaks out, killing 20 men, women, and children. This incident, known as the Ludlow massacre, gives rise to demonstrations across the country, and by the time President Woodrow Wilson sends in federal troops to restore order, 66 people have been killed. (additional link: "There Was Blood" )
  • Clayton Anti-trust Act exempts organized labor from anti-trust restrictions, which had been used against labor by companies in the past. 
  • United States evacuates troops stationed in Vera Cruz, Mexico.
  • 5 September. Allied victory at the Battle of the Marne. 
  • Theodore Dreiser, The Titan
  • Henry James, Notes of a Son and Brother
  • Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons
  • Vachel Lindsay, The Congo
  • Carl Sandburg, Chicago
  • Frank Norris Vandover and the Brute
  • Sinclair Lewis, Our Mr. Wrenn
  • Ambrose Bierce (b. 1842) disappears in Mexico and is presumed dead.
  • Death of S. Weir Mitchell (b. 1829)
  • Death of Sui-Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton)
  • Edwin Markham, Children in Bondage (problems of child labor)
  • 1915
  • 7 May. Lusitania is sunk without warning, losing 1198 out of 1924 passengers.  Although tensions run high even after Germany offers condolences, Wilson says, "There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight." The U. S. demands reparations, but Germany delays. 
  • 17 August. In a famous case, Leo Frank, who had been convicted of the murder of Mary Phagan in a climate of anti-Semitism, is lynched in Marietta, Georgia. The group responsible calls itself the Knights of Mary Phagan, which becomes a revived Ku Klux Klan.
  • Iron and Steelworkers strike for the 8-hour day.
  • T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" 
  • Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology
  • Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark
  • Margaret Deland, Around Old Chester
  • Theodore Dreiser, The "Genius"
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Bent Twig
  • Robert Frost, North of Boston
  • 1916
  • In Mexico, Pancho Villa kills  18 American mining engineers whom he has forced off a train.Two months later, he raids towns in New Mexico with a force of 1500 men, killing 17 Americans.  General John Pershing pursues Villa  across the border in a two-year unsuccessful effort to capture him. 
  • Wilson campaigns for re-election on the slogan "He kept us out of the war." He wins the election. 
  • Workman's Compensation act enacted by Congress.
  • Jeannette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. 
  • Mexican President Carranza orders U. S. Troops out of Mexico.
  • Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems
  • Sherwood Anderson, Windy McPherson's Son
  • Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger
  • William Dean Howells, The Leatherwood God
  • Grace King, The Pleasant Ways of St. Medard
  • Amy Lowell, Men, women, and Ghosts
  • Ring Lardner, You Know Me Al
  • Deaths of Henry James (b. 1843)Jack London (b. 1876), and Richard Harding Davis (b. 1864)
  • 1917
  • 5 February.  Immigration Act requiring a literacy test for immigrants and excluding Asiatic workers other than Japanese is passed over Wilson's veto.
  • 2 April.  Saying that "the world must be made safe for democracy," Wilson asks Congress to declare war on Germany. 
  • 18 May. The Selective Service Act is passed, providing for the concription of men between 20 and 30 for military service.  The first American troops arrive in France in October.
  • Spirit of 1917 posterBy the end of the war, 2,000,000 men will have landed in France; 49,000 will be killed in action, 230,000 wounded, and 57,000 will die of disease. (Image courtesy of the World War I: Trenches on the Web site.)
  • Hamlin Garland, A Son of the Middle Border
  • Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky
  • Sinclair Lewis, The Job
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay, Renascence
  • T. S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations
  • David Graham Phillips, Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise
  • Edith Wharton, Summer
  • Oscar Micheaux, The Homesteader
  • Pulitzer Prizes established.
  • 1918
  • Wilson proposes "Fourteen Points" for peace in the world. 
  • 25 June. Marine brigade of U. S. 2nd Division captures Bouresche and Belleau Wood, suffering  high casualties (9500 men). 
  • 17 July. Second Battle of the Marne. 
  • 26 September. 896,000 American troops join 135,000 French soldiers in an attack at Argonne Forest. 
  • In the fall of 1918, a deadly influenza epidemic strikes; before it ends in 1919, it kills an estimated 20 to 40 million people worldwide. (See the Timeline of the epidemic at PBS's American Experience site and the Influenza Pandemic site at Stanford.)
  • 11 November.  Germany signs the armistice treaty. 
  • Willa Cather, My Antonia
  • Edith Wharton, The Marne
  • Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams 
  • Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Edgewater People
  • Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons

  • O. Henry Award for the short story established
  • Prohibition Act becomes law; it will go into effect on January 16, 1920.
  • February 6-11. The Seattle General Strike shuts down the city and leads to arrests among socialists and others deemed subversive.
  • 26 June. Signing of the Versailles Treaty, which the Senate later refuses to ratify.
  • 31 August. Communist Party is formed in Chicago. 
  • 25 September.  President Wilson suffers a stroke and never fully recovers. 
  • John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World
  • Pulitzer Prizes:  For literature--Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons; for biography--Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams
  • Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
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