American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

Literary/Historical Timeline

 

c.1000

Viking contact at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

1441

African slave trade begins

1492

Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World; the Santa Maria runs aground on Haiti

1497

John Cabot sails from England to the Atlantic coast of North America

1542

Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo on coast of California

1614

John Smith explores the New England coastline

1620

The Mayflower drops anchor off Provincetown, Cape Cod, on 21 November

1630

The Arbella (a.k.a. Arabella) arrives at Salem, Massachusetts, on 12 June to establish a Puritan colony

1768-1769

Captain James Cook commences three scientific expeditions to the Pacific under British navy auspices

1769

San Francisco Bay reached by land in an expedition led by Caspar de Portola

1773

Boston Tea Party on 16 December, in response to the Tea Act of Parliament

1775

The siege of Boston on 17 June, as the Revolutionary War begins

1779

The American Bonhomme Richard 42, commanded by Commodore John Paul Jones, captures the British Serapis 44, commanded by Captain Richard Pearson, on 23 September

1784

Voyage of the Empress of China opens United States-China trade

1787

The departure from Boston of the Columbia and the Washington, first American vessels around Cape Horn

1792

The Columbia enters the Columbia River on second voyage to the Pacific

1801-1805

The Barbary Wars, culminating in defeat of Algiers by a U.S. naval force led by Stephen Decatur in 1805

1803-1806

Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark lead an expedition overland to the Pacific coast and back

1807-1809

President Thomas Jefferson signs the embargo on all foreign trade: enacted 22 December 1807; lifted 1 March 1809

1808

Importation of slaves becomes illegal on 1 January per 2 March 1807 Act of Congress

1811

John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company founds the first American settlement on the West Coast at Fort Astoria, now Astoria, Oregon

The explosion of the Tonquin at Vancouver Island

1812

Naval battle between the British frigate Guerriere 38, commanded by Captain Dacres, and the American frigate Constitution 44, commanded by Commodore Hull, off Nova Scotia

1812-1814

Captain David Porter commands the first U.S. Naval Expedition to the Pacific

1813

Battle of Lake Erie

1815

Battle of New Orleans

1817

Cabotage Act forbidding the carrying of goods between American ports by foreign-built or -registered vessels

1818

Establishment of the Black Ball Line, which began the transatlantic packet service, in which vessels sailed on a schedule full or not full

1820

First American missionaries to Hawai’i

Sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged sperm whale

1821

First landing on the Antarctic continent by Captain John Davis of the American sealing vessel Huron, on 7 February

1825

The Erie Canal opens on 26 October

1834

Richard Henry Dana Jr. leaves Boston as an ordinary seaman on the brig Pilgrim, bound for California

1838

The U.S. Exploring Expedition leaves Norfolk, Virginia, under the command of Charles Wilkes for a four-year scientific circumnavigation, on 14 August

1839

African slaves seize the schooner Amistad en route to a Cuban plantation, on 1 July

1841

Herman Melville leaves New Bedford, Massachusetts, on the whaleship Acushnet, on 3 January

1842

Wilkes expedition returns, and Smithsonian Institution is established with the expedition’s collection Three men hanged for mutiny on board the Somers

1845

U.S. Naval Academy founded

1846-1848

War with Mexico

1849

1853-1855

1854

1858

The California gold rush begins

Elisha Kent Kane’s two exploring expeditions to the Arctic

Commodore Matthew Perry arrives in Japan

First transatlantic cable (1,950 miles long), from Ireland to Newfoundland

1859

Discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania leads to the decline of whaling

1861

Attack on Fort Sumter on 12 April initiates the war between the North and the South

1861-1865

The Civil War

1862

Battle of the Monitor versus the Merrimack

1862-1863

Siege of Vicksburg

1864

Battle of Alabama, the most successful Confederate commerce raider of the Civil War, commanded by Captain Raphael Semmes, against the Union ship Kearsarge, commanded by Captain Winslow

1866

Second transatlantic cable

1867

The United States purchases Alaska and Hawai’i

1869

First transcontinental railroad, obviating the necessity of sailing around Cape Horn or transporting cargo and passengers across the Isthmus of Panama

Suez Canal opens (100 miles long)

1875

Frederick Pease Harlow sails to the Far East on board the Akbar

1877-1880

The American navy’s oceanographic ship Blake, with Alexander Agassiz, carries out research in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and along the Florida coast

1881-1883

Adolphus Greely, later a founder of the National Geographic Society, conducts weather and tidal observations on Grinnell Land as part of an international Arctic expedition

1895

Joshua Slocum sails from Boston to Gloucester, beginning the journey for the first solo circumnavigation of the globe, 24 April

1898

Spanish-American War

The Maine is torpedoed in Havana harbor on 15 February

1903

Department of Commerce and Labor established

The Pacific cable completed between San Francisco and Hawai’i

1909

Robert E. Peary reaches the North Pole accompanied by his black servant Matthew Henson and a party of Eskimos

1910

Eugene O’Neill first goes to sea

1912

The transatlantic steamship Titanic is sunk by an iceberg

1914

Cape Cod Canal opens (7.5 miles long)

Panama Canal opens (51 miles long)

1914-1918

World War I

1915

Revenue Cutter Service and Life-Saving Service merge to form the Coast Guard

1920

Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also called the Jones Act), reauthorizes the Cabotage Act and states that the United States must develop and maintain a merchant marine to carry the greater part of its commerce and to serve as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war

1924

The bark Wanderer, last square-rigged whaler to depart from New Bedford, wrecks on Cuttyhunk Island soon after departure

1925

Return of schooner John R. Manta, last New Bedford vessel to make a whaling voyage

1932

Saint Lawrence Waterway Treaty signed

1935

Transpacific air service established

1936

Merchant Marine Act of 1936 (a.k.a. Bland-Copeland Act): the United States had to maintain an adequate U.S. flag fleet in foreign commerce for both national defense and commercial purposes

1939

Regular transatlantic air service established

1941

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor 7 December; Japan captures Guam, Wake Island, and invades the Philippines

1942

Naval battles of Coral Sea and Midway

1944

D-Day Allied invasion of Normandy, 6 June

1958

First United Nations conference on the Law of the Sea called to define territorial seas and establish international standards for ocean resource management

1959

Opening of Saint Lawrence Seaway

1960

Second United Nations conference on the Law of the Sea

1972

Marine Mammals Act bans killing of whales and importation of all whale products

1978

Panama Canal turned over to Panama

1982

Third United Nations conference on the Law of the Sea

1985

An expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution locates the wreck of the Titanic

1989

The oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, by the Exxon-Valdez

1995

Collapse of cod, haddock, and flounder stocks forces the closing of George’s Bank, one of the world’s most fertile fishing grounds