Study Guide

American Romanticism Timeline

How It All Went Down

1765-1783: The American Revolution

The thirteen American colonies manage to free themselves from British rule. Way to go for self-reliance!

1803: The Louisiana Purchase

The U.S. government buys a chunk of territory from the French in the west, and the American frontier is expanded.

1841: Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes Essays: First Series

With this collection of essays, Emerson establishes himself as an important figure in the American Romantic age. And his first lesson: let's be self-reliant.

1850: Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes The Scarlet Letter

Thanks to this novel, the scarlet letter "A" becomes a part of the American popular imagination.

1850: Congress passes The Fugitive Slave Act

This act, which mandated that slaves who escaped to the north were to be returned to their masters in the south, provoked an uproar in Abolitionists like Henry David Thoreau.

1851: Herman Melville publishes Moby-Dick

The white whale chews off Captain Ahab's leg, and sets us off on a long adventure.

1854: David Henry Thoreau publishes Walden

Spending two years alone in the woods will really help us get in touch with our inner selves, according to Thoreau in this book.

1855: Walt Whitman publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass

Whitman would continue revising this collection of poems for over thirty years. Thank goodness we don't have to spend that long revising our English papers.

1861-1865: The American Civil War

The country's going to pieces. Will America live up to its ideal of being the "land of the free"? Or will African Americans continue to be enslaved? We know who won this one, thankfully.

1892: Walt Whitman's funeral

When Walt Whitman dies in 1892, his funeral is mobbed by thousands of people. He was a pretty popular guy by this point.