Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #28

Washington Irving (1783 – 1859)

Washington Irving in 1820

In 1809, the fictitious account A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker actually penned by Washington Irving became the first book ever declared a “best seller”. This masterpiece of mythmaking also gave New York its first nickname, “Gotham”, and was the first to associate the city with the name “Knickerbocker”. And it launched Irving’s career. After a long stint of publishing successfully in Europe, Irving returned to New York and contributed frequently to The Knickerbocker, a magazine whose name had come from his earlier work. He also purchased the cottage of Sunnyside in Tarrytown, where he wrote his most famous work, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Today, there are several towns in the U.S. named Irving or Irvington in his honor, the Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village takes its name from a satirical newspaper he founded, and the town of Knickerbocker, Texas, traces its roots to the author’s nephew. Having lived at a time when all great literature was believed to come from Europe, Irving is widely regarded as the first great American author and, therefore, the first great New York author as well.


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