1817 Henry David Thoreau (christened David Henry) is born on July 12 in Concord, Massachusetts, to John and Cynthia (Dunbar) Thoreau.
1821 At four or five, Henry sees Walden Pond for the first time. "One of the most ancient scenes stamped on the tablets of my memory, the oriental Asiatic valley of my world ..."
1823 After attending a private preschool and then public school, Thoreau attends the newly founded Concord Academy and prepares for college.
1832 In Boston, William Lloyd Garrison founds the New England Anti-Slavery Society.
  Ralph Waldo Emerson resigns his Unitarian ministry.
1833 Despite "barely getting in" to Harvard College, Thoreau maintains above-average grades, continues classical literature, and studies French, Italian, and German, as well as math, geology, zoology, botany, and natural and intellectual philosophy.
1837 Thoreau reads Emerson's Nature, Goethe, and modern German philosophy. Emerson addresses his "American Scholar" to Thoreau's graduating class.
  Thoreau receives his degree from Harvard College, graduating 19th in a class of 44.
  He meets Emerson, who becomes his mentor and friend: "'What are you doing now?' he asked. 'Do you keep a journal?' So I make my first entry today." Thoreau's lifelong Journal will reach seven thousand pages.
  Thoreau accepts a teaching position at Concord's public school but, unwilling to administer routine corporal punishments, he resigns after two weeks.
  Thoreau's mother and sisters are among the founding members of the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society.
1838 Thoreau reopens the defunct Concord Academy, joined by his older brother John, Jr. Their private school, featuring nature walks and reasoned discussion instead of rote learning and corporal punishment, is a success.
1839 Thoreau works in his father's home-based pencil factory; gives first lecture to Concord Lyceum; deepens his friendship with Emerson.
  Henry and his brother John take a boating trip on the Concord and Merrimack rivers -- the source of Thoreau's first book - and both court 17-year-old Ellen Sewall. "There is no remedy for love but to love more."
1841 First John and then Henry propose marriage to Ellen Sewall; both are rejected. Henry publishes poetry and essays in The Dial, the new Transcendentalist quarterly.
  Brook Farm is established west of Boston "to combine the thinker and the worker in the same individual." The utopian community, which Thoreau visits once but never joins, will last until 1847.
1842 The Thoreau brothers close their school due to John's poor health; Henry moves into Emerson's home as protégé and resident handyman.
1843 The sudden death of brother John from lockjaw is a traumatic experience for Henry, who succumbs to a psychosomatic or "sympathetic" lockjaw even though he is not infected.
  Later in the year, Thoreau meets a new Concord arrival -- Nathaniel Hawthorne, who finds him "a genuine observer, which I suspect is almost as rare a character as even an original poet."
  For ten months, Thoreau lives at Staten Island, N.Y., as a tutor to William Emerson's children.
1844 Thoreau assists in his father's pencil factory, where he makes profitable improvements in the manufacturing processes. In April, he and a friend accidentally start a fire in Walden Woods that consumes 300 acres. Some townsmen will never forgive this carelessness.
1845 Thoreau builds and moves into a one-room house at Walden Pond.
  He begins to write journal entries destined for some literary work based on his life at Walden.
1846 President James K. Polk sends U.S. troops to the Rio Grande and declares war on Mexico.
  While living at Walden, Thoreau drafts A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers as a memorial to his brother. He takes his first trip to the Maine woods.
  He conceives the first version of Walden as lecture material "addressed to my townsmen."
  June: Thoreau spends one night in jail for refusing to support slavery by paying the poll tax: "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then?"
  August: The Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society holds its annual fair and rally in a grove at Walden Pond. Notable speakers (using Thoreau's front step as the platform) include Emerson and Hayden.
1847 Autumn: After two years, two months, and two days, Thoreau abandons the house at the pond, accepting an offer to live with the Emerson household while Ralph Waldo lectures in Europe. Here, Thoreau will bond with the Emerson children and experience an intense platonic affection for Lidian (Mrs. Emerson).
1848 Emerson returns from Europe; advises Thoreau to risk underwriting the publication of his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, himself. The friendship cools on both sides.
  Thoreau's first essay on Maine, "Ktaadn," is published in Sartain's Union Magazine. He begins an intermittent career as a professional lecturer, enjoying a small wave of celebrity. He studies surveying, and begins revising Walden, a process that will occupy years.
1849 The publication of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is a commercial failure: "I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself."
  "Resistance to Civil Government" (later known as Civil Disobedience) is published by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody in the first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers.
1850 Thoreau works frequently as a surveyor; visits Canada (Québec), reads natural history of Alexander von Humboldt. He is elected to the Boston Society of Natural History.
  The bulk of Thoreau's writing -- more systematic, more detailed observations -- is now done in the Journal, which Thoreau shapes into a distinctive vehicle for multiple purposes, composing long entries from notes gathered during walks. This way he can preserve a new spontaneity and immediacy of style.
1851 January: Thoreau tours steam-powered textile mills at Clinton, Massachusetts.
1852 Thoreau begins using his Journal to revise Walden extensively. He develops Walden with less insistence on outward social reform and on displaying his alternative life style as a counterexample, and more as a personal journey involving uncertainty and discovery.
1853 Thoreau takes a second trip to the Maine woods. He publishes the first parts of A Yankee in Canada, as well as prepublication excerpts from Walden, in Putnam's Monthly.
1854 Thoreau reacts to the Burns affair with Slavery in Massachusetts.
  Publication of Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods. Thoreau notes only two words about it in his Journal, yet is seen walking through the town "in a tremble of great expectation, looking like the undoubted King of all American lions" (Emerson).
1855 First Cape Cod essays published in Putnam's Monthly; Thoreau takes a second trip to Cape Cod.
  Publication of Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.
1856 Brief excursions by Thoreau to various parts of New England and to New Jersey; in Brooklyn, Thoreau meets Whitman and reads Leaves of Grass, second edition: "We ought to rejoice greatly in him."
1857 Thoreau makes a third trip to Cape Cod and a third trip to the Maine woods; his second Maine woods essay is published; he meets militant abolitionist John Brown in Concord.
1859 Death of Henry's father; Henry takes over pencil factory; lectures frequently.
  John Brown leads a disastrous antislavery raid on Harpers Ferry. Captured and tried, he is sentenced to death.
  Thoreau stirs controversy with a spirited defense of John Brown: "I do not wish to kill or be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable." Publishes essays on Brown, who is executed in December.
1860 Thoreau reads his lecture The Succession of Forest Trees, and aggravates a severe cold while counting tree rings in Walden Woods, the onset of his fatal illness.
  Thoreau's research notes on American Indians reach eleven volumes; declining health forces him to suspend plans for a book.
1861 Abraham Lincoln is elected President, sparking the Confederate secession.
  As his tuberculosis deepens into consumption, Thoreau visits Minnesota in search of drier climate.
1862 April: Thoreau declares he can never recover while the Civil War (since April 1861) lasts, because he is "sick for his country."
  May 6: "For joy I could embrace the earth. I shall delight to be buried in it." Death of Thoreau at the family home.
  May 9: Thoreau is laid to rest in the New Burying Ground, his casket covered with wildflowers. "The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a son it has lost." (Emerson) .
  September: Lincoln proclaims emancipation of slaves in the free states. "We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky ... we were watching by the dim light of the stars for the dawn of a new day," declares Frederick Douglass. "We were longing for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries."

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