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The fictional "Diedrich Knickerbocker" from the frontispiece of A History of New-York, a wash drawing by Felix O. C. Darley

Diedrich Knickerbocker is an American literary character who originated from Washington Irving's first novel A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). He is a Dutch-American historian who is dressed in a specific type of baggy-kneed trousers which coined the eponym knickerbockers. The word knickerbocker is also used to refer to people who live in Manhattan.[1]


In 1809 Washington Irving wrote his first novel A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (1809). It was a satire of the politics of the day and history books. To promote the book he started a hoax by contacting various newspapers in New York City that "well-known Dutch historian Diedrich Knickerbocker had disappeared from his hotel." Irving informed people that if Mr. Knickerbocker remained absent he would publish a manuscript that the man had left behind. Many people at the time believed the story and when Irving finally revealed it was all made up he gained enough local fame to help his book become an instant success, practically launching his literary career. [2]

One of Irving's friends was actually named Knickerbocker: Herman Knickerbocker (1779-1855). Herman Knickerbocker, in turn, was of the upstate Knickerbocker clan, which descended from a single immigrant ancestor, Harmen Jansen van Wijhe Knickerbocker. Jansen van Wijhe invented the name upon arriving in New Amsterdam and signed a document with a variant of it in 1682.

In popular cultureEdit

In the 19th century a literary group was named after the character: Knickerbocker Group, who also had their own magazine The Knickerbocker (1833-1865). [3] In the first and second issue Knickerbocker gave a supposed interview. [4][5]

The name "knickerbocker" has become a popular nickname for people who reside in Manhattan. [6]. It also inspired the name of a type of baggy-kneed trousers for boys: knickerbockers. The New York basketball team New York Knickerbockers also derived their name from this character.[7] It also inspired a beer brand by Jacob Ruppert, the first sponsors of the TV show Tonight!;[8].

Igor Cassini, a gossip columnist, used the name "Cholly Knickerbocker" as his pseudonym.


  1. ^ "Knickerbocker". Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ Jones, Brian Jay. Washington Irving: An American Original, page 118-127. (Arcade, 2008). ISBN 978-1-55970-836-4
  3. ^ Callow, James T. Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807–1855. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1967: 104.
  4. ^ Knickerbocker, Howard. "Knickerbocker History (Some Thoughts On The Origins Of The Name)". Knickerbocker Genealogy. Archived from the original on 4 December 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ The Knickerbocker, Volume 2 Volumes 349-360 of American periodical series, 1800-1850. New York, New York: Peabody, 1833. 1833. ASIN B002YD7K36. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  6. ^ "Knickerbocker". Oxford English Dictionary.
  7. ^ knickerbocker. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. retrieved 2008-1-3
  8. ^ "Tonight!" Knickerbocker Beer Show, 1953.