James Fenimoore Cooper

By Madeline Ustanik


Cooper was born in Burlington, New Jersey on September 15, 1789. He was one of thirteen children and came from a wealthy family. His father was involved in politics as being a judge and congressman, and settled land in Pennsylvania and New York. In New York, he founded Cooperstown which would become James's boyhood home. His experiences of life on a frontier village and interactions with Native Americans would be influential in some of his literary pieces. Later he attended Yale 1803 to 1805, a stay cut short, since he had been invited to leave after a series of pranks and violent confrontations. In 1806 he joined the navy and became a sailor and served until 1811. Later he married Augusta De Lancy, then moved to New York City to pursue his career as an author. In 1820 he published his first work Precaution. While in New York, he founded the Bread and Cheese club, a circle of notable painters, many from the Hudson River School of Art, and continued to write novels. His literary career spanned over thirty years, and he had over fifty publications. Eventually he died September 14th, 1851.

Common Themes in His Works

The main themes in his work included American society, American history, the frontier, and the sea. Several of his novels were about interactions between people of European descent and Native American. A common theme between these interactions was that the Native Americans would always be doomed to fade once the European settlers arrived. Also there were some themes about the sea, probably influenced by some of Cooper's own personal experiences at sea. Lastly themes of American society and American history were present since many of this works were depicted in a historical setting and some of his non-fiction pieces helped depict America in his present time(early to mid 1800s).

Famous Works


J. F. Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans