Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 - November 28, 1859) was an American author of the early 19th century. He is perhaps best known for his short stories, his most famous being The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle (both appearing in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon), but he was a prolific writer of essays, biographies, and other forms as well. He and James Fenimore Cooper were the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving is said to have mentored authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Irving was born in Manhattan. A lawyer, he was a member of the American diplomatic staff in Britain and in Spain. He spoke fluent Spanish, which served him well in his writings on that country, and he could read several other languages, including German and Dutch. He was a prolific essayist who wrote widely respected biographies of George Washington, Muhammad, and others, and he wrote a number of books on 15th century Spain dealing with subjects such as Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra.
Irving traveled on the Western frontier in the 1830s and recorded his glimpses of western tribes in A Tour on the Prairies (1835). He was noted for speaking against the mishandling of relations with the Native American tribes by Europeans and Americans:
It has been the lot of the unfortunate aborigines of America, in the early periods of colonization, to be doubly wronged by the white men. They have been dispossessed of their hereditary possessions by mercenary and frequently wanton warfare, and their characters have been traduced by bigoted and interested writers.
He lived in his famous home of Sunnyside, which is still standing just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York. The original house and the surrounding property were once owned by 18th century colonist Wolfert Acker, about whom Irving wrote his sketch "Wolfert's Roost" (the name of the house).
It is believed that the city of Irving, Texas was named after him, as are Washington Street and Irving Street in Birmingham, Alabama. His book Bracebridge Hall was the inspiration for the naming of the town of Bracebridge, Ontario. In addition, A library in Los Angeles is named in his honor.