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American Passages: A Literary Survey

Gothic Undercurrents – Timeline

This timeline places literary publications (in black) in their historical contexts (in red).


– Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (1798)


United States purchases Louisiana Territory from France (1803)
Foreign slave trade outlawed (1808)


– Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle” (1819)
Second war against England (1812-14)


– Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820)
Second Great Awakening, a Christian revivalist movement, spreads across the country (1820s-30s)
Monroe Doctrine warns European powers against future colonization in the Americas (1823)
First U.S. railroad (1827)
Andrew Jackson is president; the “Jacksonian impulse” urges westward expansion among whites (1829-37)


– Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown” (1835)
– Edgar Allan Poe, “Ligeia” (1838)
Economic depression results in joblessness for one-third of labor force (1837)


– Henry Ward Beecher, “The Strange Woman” (1843)
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (1844)
Samuel Morse invents telegraph (1844)
United States annexes Texas (1845)
Mexican War; Southwest is ceded to the United States (1846-48)
California Gold Rush (1848-49)


– Herman Melville, “Hawthorne and His Mosses” (1850), Moby-Dick (1851)
Fugitive Slave Act requires free states to return escaped slaves to slaveholders (1850)
Dred Scott decision denies citizenship to African Americans (1857)

[2232] Rockwell Kent, Whale beneath the Sea (1930),
courtesy of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum.


– Emily Dickinson, 258 [There’s a certain Slant of light] (1861), 315 [He fumbles at your Soul], 465 [I heard a Fly buzz–when I died–] (1862), 1129 [Tell all the Truth but tell it slant–] (1868)
Civil War (1861-65)
First transcontinental railroad (1869)

[2603] Harper’s Weekly, The Africans of the Slave Bark “Wildfire”–The Slave Deck of the Bark “Wildfire,” Brought in to Key West on April, 30, 1860–African Men Crowded onto the Lower Deck; African Women Crowded on an Upper Deck (1860),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-41678].

[7249] Anonymous, Carter’s Little Liver Pills (c.1860),
courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Samuel Rosenberg Collection [LC-USZ62-75898].


Thomas Edison invents electric lightbulb (1879)


– Ambrose Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890)
– Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)
Wounded Knee ends Native American armed resistance to U.S. government (1890)