America's Sketchbook recaptures the drama of nineteenth-century American cultural life, placing at its center a genre - the literary sketch - more available and formally accessible than the novel, less governable by the critical establishment, and shot through with the tensions and types of local and national culture-making. In the first Golden Age of magazines (1820-1860), the brief, open form of the sketch seized the attention of a new mass audience, readers of magazines as well as of books, and authors as diverse as Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Fanny Fern, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Caroline M. Kirkland, Harriet E. Wilson, Herman Melville, and Sarah Bagley. It became a vigorous force in the democratization of American literature. In her comprehensive study of American sketch writing, Kristic Hamilton gives new insight into the powers of mass-market intimacy more personal and home-like than home - and into leisure, which as a component of middle-class identity is quite as imperative in its achievement as disciplined morality. Here, also, is a more complex story of the aesthetic, as a class-inflected realm, in which factory women and rural and urban middle-class authors debate the shape of literature and life.