Famous 19th Century American Writers

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century American Writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Helen Keller and H. P. Lovecraft.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century American Writers

 1 Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe
39
Famous As: Inventor of the 'Detective Fiction' Genre
Birthdate: January 19, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 7, 1849

American writer Edgar Allan Poe is regarded as the architect of modern short story, the inventor of the detective-fiction genre and a major contributor towards science fiction genre. The influential writer is recognised for his tales of mystery and macabre. His notable works include The Raven (poem), The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher (short stories).

 2 Mark Twain

Mark Twain
18
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 30, 1835
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Florida, Missouri, United States
Died: April 21, 1910

Mark Twain, “the father of American literature,” was one of the world’s greatest 19-th century humorists and authors. His novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were drawn from his childhood experiences in Missouri. In his later life, he sunk into bankruptcy and also recovered.

 3 Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass
9
Famous As: Abolitionist, Social Reformer
Birthdate: 1818 AD
Birthplace: Talbot County, Maryland, United States
Died: February 20, 1895

Social reformer and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass was a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. Born into slavery, he had a difficult early life. Eventually, he managed to escape and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the cause of abolition. He was a great orator and writer.

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 4 Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson
19
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 10, 1830
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Amherst, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 15, 1886
Victorian-era poet Emily Dickinson apparently wrote around 1800 poems, mostly revolving around themes such as death and immortality. However, she was a recluse, dressed up in white, and mostly interacted with people through correspondence. Her poems were mostly without titles and had short lines, slant rhyme, and unconventional punctuation.

 5 Robert Frost

Robert Frost
13
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 26, 1874
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: January 29, 1963

Robert Frost was an American poet. An influential poet, Frost was honored with four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, the only poet to receive four such awards. One of America's public literary figures, Robert Frost received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960. His works influenced other poets like Robert Francis, James Wright, Edward Thomas, Richard Wilbur, and Seamus Heaney.

 6 Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
6
Famous As: Naturalist, Philosopher & Author Of 'Walden'
Birthdate: July 12, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Concord, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 6, 1862

Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, essayist, poet, and naturalist. He is credited with popularizing transcendentalism and simple living. His philosophy of civil disobedience, which was detailed in his essay of the same name, later influenced world-renowned personalities like Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

 7 Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 29, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Germantown, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: March 6, 1888
Novelist and short story writer Louisa May Alcott is best remembered as the author of the 1868 novel Little Women and its sequels, Little Men and Jo's Boys. She initially wrote using the pseudonym “A. M. Barnard.” She never married and remained a life-long feminist and abolitionist.
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 8 Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 31, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: West Hills, New York, United States
Died: March 26, 1892

Walt Whitman was an American poet, journalist, and essayist. Also a humanist, Whitman played a crucial role in the shift between transcendentalism and realism. Often referred to as the father of free verse, Whitman is one of the most influential American poets of all time. Several decades after his death, Walt Whitman's poetry remains influential.

 9 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson
4
Famous As: Famous For his Essay 'Nature' and Speech Entitled 'The American Scholar'
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 27, 1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who led the transcendentalist movement that developed in the eastern United States in the 1820s and 1830s. He is credited with popularizing individualism through his numerous lectures and essays. Emerson influenced many thinkers and writers that followed him; he mentored Henry David Thoreau, who went on to become a leading transcendentalist.

 10 Jack London

Jack London
11
Famous As: Novelist & Journalist
Birthdate: January 12, 1876
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: November 22, 1916

Jack London was an American novelist, social activist, and journalist. A pioneer of American magazines and commercial fiction, London was one of the first authors from the US to become an international celebrity. His life and work inspired several films, such as the 1943 movie Jack London and 1980 film Klondike Fever. He was also portrayed in several TV series.

 11 Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne
6
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 4, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Salem, Massachusetts, United States
Died: May 19, 1864

Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American writer, known for dark romanticism and moral-themed novels and short stories. A descendant of judge John Hathorne of the Salem witch trials infamy, the writer was a friend of late American president Franklin Pierce. His well-known books include Twice-Told Tales, The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. Nathaniel was married to painter Sophia Peabody.

 12 Herman Melville

Herman Melville
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 1, 1819
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: September 28, 1891

Herman Melville was an American short story writer, novelist, and poet. One of his best-known works, Moby-Dick is widely regarded as one of the great American novels, although it did not garner much attention during his lifetime. Livyatan melvillei, a species of an extinct sperm whale, which was discovered in 2010, was named in his honor.  

 13 O. Henry

O. Henry
6
Famous As: Short Story Writer
Birthdate: September 11, 1862
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Greensboro, North Carolina
Died: June 5, 1910
William Sydney Porter, better known by his pseudonym, O. Henry, is remembered as one of the world’s greatest short story writers. One of his most notable works is The Gift of the Magi. His signature style included plot twists in the end. He was once jailed for embezzlement. 

 14 Henry James

Henry James
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 15, 1843
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: February 28, 1916

Henry James was an author, regarded as one of the greatest novelists ever to write in the English language. One of his novellas titled The Turn of the Screw has been the most analyzed ghost story in the history of English language literature. While his works have been adapted into films, he has been the subject of several other stories.

 15 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
5
Famous As: First American poet to translate Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy
Birthdate: February 27, 1807
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Portland, Maine, United States
Died: March 24, 1882

 16 L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chittenango, New York, United States
Died: May 6, 1919

L. Frank Baum was an author remembered for writing children's books including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which inspired the 1902 Broadway musical and the 1939 live-action film of the same name. His works anticipated the invention of gadgets like TV that would be invented later. In 2013, Baum was made an inductee of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.

 17 E. E. Cummings

E. E. Cummings
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 14, 1894
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: September 3, 1962

 18 Helen Keller

Helen Keller
6
Famous As: Author, First Deafblind Person to Earn a B.A. Degree
Birthdate: June 27, 1880
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tuscumbia, Alabama, United States
Died: June 1, 1968

A prolific author, having written 12 published books and several articles, Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, made Keller famous and was adapted for film and stage. She was also an activist and campaigned for women's suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other such causes.

 19 Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce
5
Famous As: Journalist & Writer, soldier
Birthdate: June 24, 1842
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Meigs County, Ohio, United States
Died: December 1, 1914

 20 Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 7, 1867
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pepin County, Wisconsin, United States
Died: February 10, 1957
Laura Ingalls Wilder authored the iconic Little House children’s book series, including the novel Little House on the Prairie, based on her family’s life in Wisconsin, which was later adapted for many stage and screen versions. She is also known for her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, and many posthumously published books.

 21 Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg
3
Famous As: Writer & Editor
Birthdate: January 6, 1878
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Galesburg, Illinois, United States
Died: July 22, 1967

Carl Sandburg had begun working since age 11 and been employed in various odd jobs, such as a truck driver, a harvester, and a brickyard hand, before being part of the Illinois Infantry. The two-time Pulitzer-winning poet and biographer late also won a Grammy for his recording of Lincoln Portrait.

 22 Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair
4
Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: September 20, 1878
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland
Died: November 25, 1968
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and political activist Upton Sinclair is best remembered for his novels such as The Jungle and The Brass Check, which mirrored the exploitative and unjust nature of various sectors. He was also an occult and telepathy enthusiast. He was actively involved with the Socialist and Democratic parties.

 23 Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston
5
Famous As: Folklorist, Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 7, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Notasulga
Died: January 28, 1960

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. As an African American woman, she often depicted racial issues in the films she made. Her works also reflected her struggles as a black woman. In her early career, she conducted anthropological and ethnographic research and focused more on writing and film-making in her later years.

 24 Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: November 24, 1849
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cheetham, Manchester, England
Died: October 29, 1924

 25 Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 14, 1811
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
Died: July 1, 1896

 26 John Reed

John Reed
4
Famous As: Journalist, Poet
Birthdate: October 22, 1887
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, United States
Died: October 17, 1920

 27 Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder
3
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: April 17, 1897
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, United States
Died: December 7, 1975

 28 Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein
10
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 3, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Allegheny, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: July 27, 1946

Gertrude Stein was an American playwright, novelist, poet, and art collector. She is remembered for publishing works about lesbian sexuality, which was considered a taboo at that time. Over the years, Gertrude Stein has been the subject of several works of art. In the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris, Stein was portrayed by Kathy Bates.

 29 Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs
4
Famous As: Creator of Tarzan
Birthdate: September 1, 1875
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: March 19, 1950

 30 Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key
9
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: August 1, 1779
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Frederick County, Maryland, United States
Died: January 11, 1843

 31 Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill
5
Famous As: Writer of personal-success literature
Birthdate: October 26, 1883
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pound, Virginia
Died: November 8, 1970

 32 Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Alice Roosevelt Longworth
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 12, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: February 20, 1980
Author and socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the eldest child of American president Theodore Roosevelt, and his only child with his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee. Though Alice was married to Republican leader Nicholas Longworth III, she had a child through an affair with Senator William Edgar Borah. 

 33 H. L. Mencken

H. L. Mencken
4
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: September 12, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: January 29, 1956

H. L. Mencken was an American journalist, cultural critic, essayist, satirist, and scholar of American English. His reporting on the Scopes Trial earned him national recognition. The trial came to be known as the Scopes Monkey Trial as Mencken had nicknamed it Monkey Trial in accordance with his satirical reporting of the trial.

 34 Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 24, 1862
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New York City
Died: August 11, 1937

 35 Ellen G White

Ellen G White
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 26, 1827
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gorham, Maine, United States
Died: July 16, 1915

 36 Pearl Buck

Pearl Buck
4
Famous As: American writer
Birthdate: June 26, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hillsboro
Died: March 6, 1973

 37 Sinclair Lewis

Sinclair Lewis
4
Famous As: Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Birthdate: February 7, 1885
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Sauk Centre
Died: January 10, 1951

 38 Douglas Fairbanks

Douglas Fairbanks
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 23, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States
Died: December 12, 1939

 39 Henry Morton Stanley

Henry Morton Stanley
5
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: January 28, 1841
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Denbigh, Wales
Died: May 10, 1904

Henry Morton Stanley was a Welsh-American explorer, journalist, colonial administrator, soldier, politician, and author. He is remembered for his exploration of central Africa and his search for the source of the River Nile. Stanley received an honorary title of knighthood in 1899. His life and career inspired the 1939 movie Stanley and Livingstone, where Stanley was played by Spencer Tracy.

 40 Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder Lane
4
Famous As: Journalists
Birthdate: December 5, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: De Smet, South Dakota, USA
Died: October 30, 1968

 41 Willa Cather

Willa Cather
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 7, 1873
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Winchester
Died: April 24, 1947

 42 Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter
3
Famous As: Journalist, Essayist, Writer, Novelist
Birthdate: May 15, 1890
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Indian Creek, Texas, U.S.
Died: September 18, 1980

 43 George S. Kaufman

George S. Kaufman
4
Famous As: Theatre director, Screenwriter, Journalist, Playwright, Bridge player, Writer
Birthdate: November 16, 1889
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pittsburgh
Died: June 2, 1961

 44 Henry Darger

Henry Darger
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 12, 1892
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died: April 13, 1973

 45 Jack Frost

Jack Frost
4
Famous As: Composer
Birthdate: November 25, 1893
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Died: October 21, 1959

 46 Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale
3
Famous As: Poet, Writer
Birthdate: August 8, 1884
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: St. Louis
Died: January 29, 1933

 47 Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 8, 1850
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: St. Louis
Died: August 22, 1904

 48 Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Charlotte Perkins Gilman
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 3, 1860
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut
Died: August 17, 1935

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American novelist, humanist, poet, and short-story writer. Best remembered as a utopian feminist, Gilman served as an inspiration for several generations of feminists. A National Women's Hall of Fame inductee, Charlotte Perkins Gilman is also remembered for her semi-autobiographical work, The Yellow Wallpaper.

 49 E. B. White

E. B. White
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, United States
Died: October 1, 1985

 50 Zane Grey

Zane Grey
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 31, 1872
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Zanesville, Ohio, USA
Died: October 23, 1939