Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1850

The Scarlet Letter is published

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story of adultery and betrayal in colonial America, The Scarlet Letter, is published.

Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. Although the infamous Salem witch trials had taken place more than 100 years earlier, the events still hung over the town and made a lasting impression on the young Hawthorne. Witchcraft figured in several of his works, including Young Goodman Brown (1835) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851), in which a house is cursed by a wizard condemned by the witch trials.

After attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he began his career as a writer. He self-published his first book, Fanshawe (1828), but tried to destroy all copies shortly after publication. He later wrote several books of short stories, including Twice Told Tales (1837). In 1841, he tried his hand at communal living at the agricultural cooperative Brook Farm but came away highly disillusioned by the experience, which he fictionalized in his novel The Blithedale Romance (1852).

Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody in 1842, having at last earned enough money from his writing to start a family. The two lived in a house called the Old Manse, in Concord, Massachusetts, and socialized with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Branson Alcott, father of writer Louisa May Alcott.

Plagued by financial difficulties as his family grew, he took a job in 1845 at Salem’s custom house, where he worked for three years. After leaving the job, he spent several months writing The Scarlet Letter, which made him famous.

In 1853, Hawthorne’s old college friend, President Franklin Pierce, appointed him American consul to England, and the family moved to England, where they lived for three years. Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, in 1864.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Terry Anderson kidnapped

In Beirut, Lebanon, Islamic militants kidnap American journalist Terry Anderson and take him to the southern suburbs of the war-torn city, where other Western hostages are being held in scattered dungeons under ruined buildings. Before his abduction, Anderson covered the Lebanese ...read more

First liquid-fueled rocket

The first man to give hope to dreams of space travel is American Robert H. Goddard, who successfully launches the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts, on March 16, 1926. The rocket traveled for 2.5 seconds at a speed of about 60 mph, reaching an altitude ...read more

TDIH-My-Lai

My Lai massacre takes place in Vietnam

On this day in 1968, a platoon of American soldiers brutally kills more than 500 unarmed civilians at My Lai, one of a cluster of small villages located near the northern coast of South Vietnam. In March 1968, a platoon of soldiers from Charlie Company received word that Viet ...read more

U.S. Military Academy established

The United States Military Academy–the first military school in the United States–is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply ...read more

Judge Roy Bean dies

Roy Bean, the self-proclaimed “law west of the Pecos,” dies in Langtry, Texas. A saloonkeeper and adventurer, Bean’s claim to fame rested on the often humorous and sometimes-bizarre rulings he meted out as a justice of the peace in western Texas during the late 19th century. By ...read more

A virtuous woman turns murderous

Francisco “Chico” Forster is shot to death on downtown Los Angeles street by his jilted lover, eighteen-year old Lastania Abarta. The forty-year old Forster was the son of wealthy Los Angeles land developer and considered one of the city’s most eligible bachelors despite his ...read more

Reagan orders troops into Honduras

As part of his continuing effort to put pressure on the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, President Ronald Reagan orders over 3,000 U.S. troops to Honduras, claiming that Nicaraguan soldiers had crossed its borders. As with so many of the other actions taken against ...read more

Fighting on Iwo Jima ends

On this day, the west Pacific volcanic island of Iwo Jima is declared secured by the U.S. military after months of fiercely fighting its Japanese defenders. The Americans began applying pressure to the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima in February 1944, when B-24 and B-25 bombers ...read more