The Knickerbocker was begun in January 1833 out of a combination of nostalgia for New York's vanishing rural past and the desire to develop a genuinely "American" literature distinct from English and European antecedents. The magazine took Dietrich Knickerbocker for its patron saint, the Dutch-American historian from Washington Irving's comic history of New York. 1 The magazine's combination of humor, topical essays, poetry, fiction, criticism, reviews, and literary gossip flourished through the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, primarily under the editorship of Lewis Gaylord Clark, who adopted its characteristic purple cover and set its tone in his Editor's Table. As Frank Luther Mott claimed in his history of American magazines, "No American magazine has ever been regarded with more affection by its readers than was 'Old Knick' under [ Clark's] editorship." 2
The Knickerbocker published most of the important American authors of the period, from all regions of the United States. Regular contributors included the New York triumvirate of James Fenimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant, and Washington Irving; New England writers Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Oliver Wendell Holmes; and Robert Montgomery Bird from Philadelphia. Western writers James Hall, Caroline Stansbury Kirkland, Albert Pike, E.Z.C. Judson ("Ned Buntline"), and Francis Parkman were published regularly, along with Southerners William Gilmore Simms, J. M. Legare, Mary E. Lee, and Richard Henry Wilde. British contributors included William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton.