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In 1998, the Irving City Council adopted author Washington Irving as the city's namesake. Local historians believe that in 1902, Irving co-founders Otis Brown and J.O. Schulze named the city after Netta Barcus Brown's (Otis Brown’s wife) favorite author. Schulze, a graduate engineer from the University of Iowa and member of the Washington Irving Literary Society, was very partial to the name Irving.
Recognized as the first American Man of Letters, Washington Irving was born April 3, 1783, in New York City. Before he was 26, Irving published the satirical A History of New York under the pseudonym of Diedrich Knickerbocker. The name Knickerbocker came to be used for descendants of the original Dutch settlers of New York and eventually for any New Yorker.
Drawing from his knowledge of the Dutch-settled area along the Hudson River, Irving later wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, which contained his famous stories, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle."
Washington Irving served in U.S. Embassy posts in England and Spain, and became America's first Spanish-speaking ambassador. While traveling in London, Irving was inspired to capture and write about the images of an "Olde English" Christmas celebration in his book, Bracebridge Hall.
During his travels to Spain, he began to write more imaginative and semi-scholarly works on Columbus, the Alhambra, and the Moors. Upon his return to the United States, Irving traveled the American frontier and ventured down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and through Osage Country. Books detailing these adventures were well received by American readers.
Retiring to his home in Sunnyside along the shores of the Hudson River in 1846, Washington Irving continued to write essays, stories and history books. Over the years, Irving had become a mentor to legendary American authors Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allen Poe. Irving died in Tarrytown, New York on November 28, 1859. His Sunnyside home was made a public shrine in 1947.
Washington Irving's early works set a monumental example for humorous and romantic writing, later becoming an important part of American literature. Irving had a unique way of combining folklore with romanticism in his literary works, and will forever be known as a prominent figure both in the city of Irving and around the world.