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American Passages: A Literary Survey

Social Realism – Timeline

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


– Henry Adams, “The New York Gold Conspiracies” (1870)
– Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt, “The Palace-Burner” (1874)
– Henry James, “Daisy Miller” (1878)
Battle of Little Bighorn (“Custer’s Last Stand”) (1876)
Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone (1876)
Reconstruction ends as federal occupying troops leave the South (1877)
Edison patents the phonograph (1878)


– Henry Adams, Democracy (1880), Esther (1884), History of the United States of America during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1889)
– Henry James, Portrait of a Lady (1881), “The Art of Fiction” (1884)
American Red Cross founded (1881)
Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

[2572] James Abbot McNeil Whistler, ARRANGEMENT IN FLESH COLOUR AND BLACK: PORTRAIT OF THEODORE DURET (1883) courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wolfe Fund, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, 1919. (13.20) Photograph (c) 1984 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


– Henry James, “The Real Thing” (1893), The Turn of the Screw (1898)
– Booker T. Washington, “Atlanta Exposition Address” (1895)
– Abraham Cahan, Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto (1896), “A Sweat-Shop Romance” (1898)
– Edith Wharton, “Souls Belated” (1899)
Massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota (1890)
National American Woman Suffrage Association founded (1890)
U.S. Supreme Court upholds the legality of segregation and the institutions of Jim Crow in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

[6970] Anonymous, CHINESE MEN WORKING ON THE NORTH PACIFIC COAST RAILROAD (1898) courtesy of the California Historical Society, FN-25345.


– Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900), “Old Rogaum and His Theresa” (1901)
– Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery (1901)
– W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), “The Talented Tenth” (1903)
– Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle” (1903), “The Jolly Corner” (1909)
– Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
Orville and Wilbur Wright achieve first powered flight, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (1903)
International Workers of the World union founded (1905)
First radio broadcast from Plymouth, Massachusetts (1906)
Ford Model T goes into production (1908)


– Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912)
– Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1913), The Education of Henry Adams (1918)
– Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky (1917)
– Anzia Yezierska, “The Fat of the Land” (1919)
World War I (1914-18)
United States enters World War I (1917)
Russian Revolution (1917)


– Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)
– Anzia Yezierska, Hungry Hearts (1920), “The Lost ‘Beautifulness’ ” (1920)
– Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy (1925)
Wall Street Crash begins Great Depression (1929)

[8084] Jerome Myers, IN LOWER NEW YORK (1926) courtesy of Portland Art Museum, bequest of Winslow B. Ayers.