Washington Irving was the first American to gain national acclaim as a professional writer. He wrote many short stories, including Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from The Sketch Book, and Knickerbocker”s History of New York. Irving was born in New York City on April 3, 1783, and he later became greatly admired and imitated in the 19th century, particularly as a stylist. Although his reputation declined in the 20th century because of the sentimentality and excessive gentility of much of his work, he remains important as a pioneer in American humor and the development of the short story. He died on Nov. 28, 1859 at the age of 76.