James Fenimore Cooper, acclaimed as one of the first American novelists, was born in Burlington, N.J., on September 15, 1789. When he was one year old, his family moved to Cooperstown, N.Y., which was founded by his father. Cooper attended various grammar schools in Burlington, Cooperstown, and Albany, and entered Yale University in 1803 at the age of 13. In 1806, Cooper was expelled from Yale for pushing a rag with gunpowder under a classmate's door, causing it to explode. He then spent some time as a merchant seaman and served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy from 1808-1811. In 1811, Cooper married Susan De Lancey, and lived the life of a country gentleman until one day in 1820. Cooper and his wife were reading a book together. When Cooper told Susan that he could write a better book than the one they were reading, she challenged him to do so. Thus began his career as an author, with Precaution (first published anonymously). Cooper is known for writing more than 50 works under his own name, Jane Morgan, and Anonymous. His works included fiction, nonfiction, history, and travel sketches. He gained insight for his travel works while the Cooper family lived in Europe from 1826 to 1833. Cooper is best known for the novel The Last of The Mohicans, which has been made into several motion picture adaptations, the most recent starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye. The Last of the Mohicans is part of The Leatherstocking Tales, which includes the other novels, The Pioneers, The Deerslayer, and The Pathfinder. Hawkeye, whose given name is Nathaniel Bumpo, is a recurring character in the series which accurately chronicles early American pioneering life and events during the French and Indian War. In 1851, Cooper developed a liver condition, dying on September 14th of that year, just one day before his 62nd birthday.
Wayne Franklin is Professor of English at the University of Connecticut.