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Knickerbocker's A History of New York


Knickerbocker's A History of New York


In 1809, Washington Irving published his first book, A History of New York, supposedly written by a “famed Dutch historian” named Diedrich Knickerbocker.

Irving put together an interesting scheme to bring attention to his book: he began to place ads in The Evening Post that appeared to be from an innkeeper trying to locate the fictional Knickerbocker, who had left a manuscript behind.

It seems the professor had gone missing.

The public was unaware that Washington Irving had invented the man entirely and placed the ads himself to gather publicity for his “history book.”

A History of New York is an account of New York's fifty years under Dutch rule in the 1600s that plays fast and loose with the facts, to uproarious effect.

Irving's good-humored spoofing had staying power, and his satire provided the city with its first self-portrait.

A History of New York propelled Irving to the heights of literary stardom and even made a little history of its own: New Yorkers are called Knickerbockers to this day.

WASHINGTON IRVING (1783–1859) was an American writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "Rip Van Winkle" (1819) and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". He achieved international fame with the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., serialized from 1819–20. He continued to publish regularly throughout his life, and eight months before his death (at age 76, in Tarrytown, New York), completed a five-volume biography of George Washington. As the United States' first internationally best-selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.


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