John Smith wrote histories of Virginia based on his experiences as an English explorer and a president of the Jamestown Colony. These histories, published in 1608 and 1624, are among the earliest works of American literature.
Nathaniel Ward and John Winthrop wrote books on religion, a topic of central concern in colonial America.
Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650) may be the earliest collection of poetry written in and about America, although it was published in England.
The Federalist Papers (1787–88), by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, shaped the political direction of the United States.
Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, which he wrote during the 1770s and ’80s, told a quintessentially American life story.
Washington Irving published the collection of short stories and essays The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819–20. It included “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” two of the earliest American short stories.
James Fenimore Cooper wrote novels of adventure about the frontiersman Natty Bumppo. These novels, called the Leatherstocking Tales (1823–41), depict his experiences in the American wilderness in both realistic and highly romanticized ways.