Washington Irving Timeline

Washington Irving’s place in history

This timeline documents major events and influences on Washington Irving’s life and work. Washington Irving's SunnysideIt begins by outlining the events and publications in Irving’s life, then looks at American literature, visual arts, music, architecture, and the history of New York, the United States, and the world between 1780 and 1860.

Irving Timeline





Washington Irving (1783-1859) 1783: Born in New York City on April 3. 1802 – 03:  Travels up Hudson River to Canada.

1804 – 06: Travels in Europe.

1806:  Returns to New York on March 24.

1809: Diedrich Knickerbocker’s A History of New-York is published and fiancee Matilda Hoffman dies.

1819 – 1820: The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent published, which includes Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

1822 – 32: Resides in Paris, Madrid, and Dresden.

1822:  Bracebridge Hall published.

1828: Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus published.

.1832: The Alhambra published, which made Irving an icon in Spain. Irving returns to New York City and tours American West on horseback.

1835: A Tour on the Prairies published in The Crayon Miscellany. It was Irving’s successful attempt to reconnect with America after a 17-year trip abroad.  Irving purchases Sunnyside.
1836: Irving settles at Sunnyside.


1842 – 46: Minister to Spain

1855 – 1859: Published 5 volume biography The Life of George Washington.

1859: Dies at Sunnyside.

American Literature 1789 – 91: Poet William Blake (1757 – 1827) published Songs of Experience.


1817: Poet, critic, and journalist William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878) published his most famous poem Thanatopsis. 1831: Poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) published Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. 1845-46: Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browing (1806 – 1861) published Sonnets from The Portuguese.

1852: Author Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

1855:  Author Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass.


1826: Author James Fenimore Cooper published The Last of the Mohicans. 1836:  Philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) published Nature: Addresses & Lectures.
Visual Arts 1795:  Gilbert Stuart painted George Washington. 1815: Appearance in paintings of the concern about the destruction of the natural environment by the rapid growth of population and industry.

1827 – 68:  John Wesley Jarvis painted about twenty paintings based on Irving’s tales.


1820s:  Hudson River School is established.  Landscape artists depict scenes among the Hudson River valley.

1838: Thomas Cole painted Schroon Mountain. Adirondacks.

1860:  Frederick Church painted Twilight in the Wilderness.

Music 1791:  Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies (b. 1756).

1794: “Tammany, or The Indian Chief” is performed in New York.  This is one the America’s earliest operas by James Hewitt (1770 – 1827).


1804: Viennese waltz composer Johann Strauss is born (d. 1849).

1812:  German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) produces Symphonies No.7 and 8.

1830:  An early American popular song, “Jim Crow” is sung by Thomas Rice.

1841: German composer Robert  Schumann (1810 – 1856)  presents his Symphony No. 1 “The Spring” in Leipzig.


1850: Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle is transformed into an American opera in New York by George F. Bristow.

1850: Under the management of P.T. Barnum, Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale” tours America.

Architecture 1783:  Dutch-style structures still dominates New York State. 1820s: Greek Revival Style begins – first popular  “Romantic” style (to c. 1860s). 1835: Washington Irving purchases Sunnyside in Tarrytown,  New York, a two -room Dutch farm house.

1840s: Romantic styles continue to grow in popularity including Gothic Revival and Italianate styles (to c. 1880).


1840s: Washington Irving collaborates with artist George Harvey to transform Sunnyside into Romantic cottage by adding different architectural and landscape design elements, as well as the most advanced technology of the period.
New York State History 1788: New York City first capital of America.

1789: First U.S. Congress meets and George Washington is inaugurated as President in New York City.

1799:  First phase of emancipation for slaves in New York State.

1807:  Robert Fulton demonstrates the effectiveness of his steam engine boat “The Clermont” between New York City and Albany.

1825:  Erie Canal opens which links New York to the west via the Hudson River.

1827: Final phase of emancipation for slaves in New York State.

1832: First horse-drawn trolley appears in New York.

1838: Washington Irving declines Tammany Hall’s nomination for Mayor of New York.

1848: July 19,  First women’s right convention held in Seneca Falls, NY.

1851:  Hudson River Railroad opens.

American History 1783: American Revolution ends with Treaty of Versailles.

1787: U.S. Constitution formed by Congress in Philadelphia.

1790: Philadelphia becomes Federal capital of America.

1792: Two political parties formed – Republican and Federalist.

1802:  Washington, D.C. becomes Federal capital of America.

1818: “Savannah” first steamship to cross Atlantic Ocean in 26 days.

1812: U.S. declares war on Britain.

1821: American population 9.6 million.

1829: First American patent on typewriter.

1839: U.S. Senate debates slavery.  Henry Clay, who hopes to run for president as a Whig condemns abolitionists as instigators of a civil war.

1849: Amelia Bloomer begins American Women’s dress reform by wearing short pants eventually to be called “bloomers.”

1857: E.G. Otis installs first elevator.

1859: John Brown leads raid on federal armory at Harpers Ferry, V.A. to arm slaves to fight for freedom.  December 2, 1859, Brown is hanged–the day after Washington Irving’s burial.

1860: Abraham Lincoln elected President.

International History 1789: French Revolution begins.

1792: Denmark first nation to abolish slave trade.

1807:  Appearance of first gas lighting in streets of London.

1818: Border between Canada and U.S. agreed upon.

1831: Great cholera pandemic beginning in India spreads from Russia into Europe including Scotland.

1839: First Opium War begins between China and Britain.

1846: Great Potato Famine in Ireland.

The Washington Irving timeline was reprinted with the kind permission of Historic Hudson Valley, a not-for-profit education organization that interprets and promotes historic landmarks of national significance in the Hudson Valley.

The image of Sunnyside is by Beyond My Ken, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.