The following websites provide collections of related primary sources which students can utilize in their research paper in History 1493. Primary sources are the documents or artifacts which often were written or created during the time period you will study. Other documents were produced later by historical participants, perhaps as interviews, oral histories, or memoirs. Primary sources might include letters, diaries, speeches, newspaper articles, government reports, speeches, census materials, laws, court records, corporate reports and minutes, maps, photographs, or pottery, for example. This website gathers related materials that will help you complete research on a specific topic. Please note that some of the links below work better when you use Mozilla Firefox as your browser.
*Need help finding more sources? Find Additional Library Sources.*
What was it like to work for the Union Pacific and build the Transcontinental Railroad? This collection includes the letters of a track foreman who worked on the line as it extended west from Omaha, Nebraska. (Look in Series 1 to find the letters.) They will help you study the day-to-day life of a railroad worker, the problems he faced, and his role in America’s first major business corporation.
Before organizing national Parks like Yosemite and helping found the Sierra Club, John Muir hiked the back trails of the United States and journaled about what he saw. This collection of his journals will allow you to travel along with him. Most of them document trips through future national parks in the American West like the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park. He wrote very romantically about the beauty of nature, but his views on race and ethnicity were much less flowery. Use this collection to understand his reasons for preserving nature, and to see what these places looked like in the late 1800s. Pick one and read it closely to better know a place, or read small bits of several of them to study his personal opinions.
You could also visit the websites of these national parks to see how they interpret the words and legacy of John Muir. Does reading his journals make you understand him any differently? How does the National Park Service interpret Muir to the public?
This collection includes Arapahoe versions of important Christian texts like the Book of Common Prayer, the 10 Commandments, Apostle’s Creed, etc. (Series 1). It also contains letters about Shoshone customs and problems associated with the Missionary School system (Series 2). This collection is good for studying how Native American tribes in the western United States adapted to white Americans’ systems of religion and education.
How did immigration laws look in the 1800s? How did those laws change over time? How did the immigrant experience differ based on what county you came from? This collection will let you answer these questions. It includes documents that show how people entered the country, and how they lived once here. It also shows how Americans already here reacted to the newcomers, which wasn’t always with open arms. This collection will help you learn more about the origins of American immigration policies and understand how immigration shapes American culture.
At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States acquired a large overseas empire. U.S. imperialists worked to dominate the Pacific Ocean basin and the western hemisphere. Under President Theodore Roosevelt, the United States acquired control over land on the Isthmus of Panama to construct a canal that linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This archive contains nearly 200 documents related to the U.S. acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone.
In the early 1900s medical scientists made great advancements in the treatment of Yellow Fever. This had much to do with expanding the county’s territory beyond North America and into tropical climates. This collection contains sickness and death toll reports from the Army, examples of older treatment methods, as well as the newer treatment methods created by William Gorgas. This collection will help you study how foreign policy choices can bring change to medical science.
This collection includes guidebooks for baseball fans that date to the early 1900s. Each year Spalding published a new guide, which covered new rules, team previews, and included many editorials from prominent sports writers of the day. Use this collection to study the early years of sports writing, and to understand what issues were most important to sports writers, and how those issues changed over time. (To access the materials, click on the “Collection Items” tab)
On March 25, 1911, just before the end of the work day, fire swept through the Triangle Factory in New York City. While the owners and managers escaped, the fire left 146 workers dead. This website includes oral histories, trial transcripts, newspaper excerpts, and photographs about the fire, the subsequent investigations, and the criminal trial. It also includes materials on sweatshops and labor strikes before 1911.
Eugenics was a social philosophy that gained popularity in the United States and other industrial nations at the end of the nineteenth century. Eugenics involved attempts to apply theories of evolution and genetics to human society. Many prominent Americans supported the eugenics movement which aimed to improve humanity by increasing the number of children produced by people who, by arbitrary definitions, were superior, and reducing the number produced by supposedly inferior people. Its proponents assumed there were genetic sources for traits such as sexual promiscuity and criminality. Eugenics was integrated in American laws that called for compulsory sterilizations and banned interracial marriages, among other issues.
The online exhibit, To Bear Fruit for Our Race, tells the story of African American physicians in Houston from the era of Jim Crow to the twenty-first century. The resources section of the website includes more than 20 oral history transcripts and documents, such as government reports, correspondence, and newspaper and magazine articles, outlining the challenges that these physicians faced.
How did Americans at home view the war? This collection includes music and other bits of popular culture about countries and people fighting on both sides. Many of them are in color and some of the songs include the sheet music. Use this collection to learn more about wartime popular culture in the 1910s.
Women suffrage supporters began working in the mid-nineteenth century to secure the vote. They made speeches, lobbied legislatures, and engaged in civil disobedience. In 1920, their efforts culminated in the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Also see https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/woman-suffrage/
Lots of important documents written by FDR throughout his life, but most of them are from when he was president (1933-1945). He wrote speeches about social security and other recovery programs. He also wrote letters to foreign leaders like Winston Churchill, King George V, Josef Stalin, and Gandhi. He discussed major issues such as Japanese internment and military operations in Europe and the Pacific. This collection is good for studying how FDR responded to the Great Depression or the outbreak/fighting of World War Two, or how FDR dealt with the USSR toward the end of the war.
In 1933, the newly elected president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, initiated a series of reforms to remedy the worst effects to the Great Depression, reinvigorate the U.S. economy, and restore Americans’ faith in their political and economic systems. This website pulls together a wide array of sources on the Depression, FDR, and the New Deal, including transcripts from the Fireside Chats and FDR speeches, letters and documents from FDR’s allies in the U.S. Senate, and a host of other materials on key legislation.
President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act into law on May 18, 1933, creating the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The law tasked the agencies with sweeping powers to transform a seven-state region’s geography, economy, and society. The dams and other improvements, however, came with environmental and human costs. Tens of thousands faced displacement from their homes. This archive contains a rich collection of photographs but be sure to look at the many documents as well.
What are the consequences of blending medical science with advertising slogans? This collection includes advertisements for Listerine – a medicine owned by the Lambert Pharmaceutical Company that they claimed could cure many ailments. Use this collection to study different marketing strategies like celebrity endorsements and targeted advertising aimed at different groups of people.
The Bracero Program was a bi-national agreement between the US and Mexican governments intended to fulfill agricultural labor shortages during World War II. A handful of institutions – the Smithsonian, the University of Texas-El Paso, Brown University – put together a massive project that collects oral histories from former bracero workers, US farmers, and others involved with the program. You will find MP3 recordings, along with PDF transcriptions for interviews.
Includes declassified Combat Action Reports for many of the ships destroyed during the attack, including the USS Arizona and Oklahoma. Ship reports are arranged alphabetically. Other documents include narratives made by various commanding officers. This collection would be good for studying how individual people experienced the attack differently, depending on where a person was stationed or how badly their vessel was damaged.
Includes official reports from the US Navy, several Action Reports from vessels involved in the battle such as the USS Enterprise, Hammann, Hornet, and Yorktown. Also includes interrogation reports of Japanese POWs. This collection would be good for understanding how the battle unfolded, as well as how the US treated POWs during WW2.
Includes oral interviews with several Navajo WW2 vets, talking about their experiences; documentaries about the Navajo Code Talkers; educational materials on cryptography. This collection will help you understand the unique role of Navajo citizens during the Second World War.
The Navajo Code Talkers” were nearly 500 Native Americans who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Their primary duty was to transmit tactical messages. By using the Navajo language, they were able to thwart enemy efforts to break U.S. codes. This website includes a variety of documents and images.
This collection includes the letters and diaries of one soldier, Leroy M. Sullivan, written to his friend back home. They cover his time in basic training, traveling to England, and the North Africa campaigns. They end when he was killed in battle in 1943. Use this collection to study the experience of a soldier fighting in World War Two.
U.S. participation in World War II involved mobilization of the entire nation. Through various agencies, the federal government touched almost all aspects of civilian life. These documents deal with four aspects of life on the homefront: rationing and price controls; civil defense; wartime research and development; and women working in war industries.
During WWII President Roosevelt signed an executive order that allowed authorities to take families from their homes and businesses, and re-locate them to distant camps, where they worked and lived throughout the war. How were people treated in the camps? How did the government explain the reason for putting people in camps in the first place? In this collection is a bunch of letters that dislocated students sent to their teacher back home. Use this collection to study the daily lives of young people in the camps.
(click on the “Online Items Available” link to get to the letters)
The Clara Breed Collection at the Japanese American National Museum includes letters and postcards sent from Japanese American children in the camps to Ms. Breed, a children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library. Ms. Breed distributed pre-addressed and stamped postcards to the children at the train station on the day of their departure and asked them to write to her about their experiences.
The American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming has compiled materials related to Japanese American incarceration at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming from 1943-1945, including documents produced by the internees such as newspapers and the minutes of community meetings.
With the success testing of an atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project in 1945, President Harry Truman faced one of the most difficult decisions of his young presidency. This collection focuses on the decision to drop the bomb and includes more than 600 pages of letters, committee meetings, and White House memoranda.
Includes advertisements, playbills, photos, etc., of professional and laboring women. Also includes articles about the immorality of new clothing and dancing styles that appeared in the 20th century. This collection is good for a paper about how women’s role in society changed in the modern era.
What was it like to be black in the South before 1950? This collection includes audio recordings of six people who lived and worked in small Georgia towns during the Jim Crow era. You can listen to the audio recordings in iTunes and take notes, or you can read a typed transcript. This collection will help you study how people experienced Jim Crow differently based on their job or family background, and how legal segregation shaped day-to-day living.
Includes letters written by President Dwight Eisenhower to several state governors, where they discuss the issue of racial segregation. The letters cover the buildup to the Brown decision as well as its aftermath. Some of them come from a special file on “Negro Matters,” and others come from Eisenhower’s diary. This collection is good for studying how the president handled racial politics in the 1950s – a decade not remembered for major advancements in civil rights.
What was it like to be on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement? This collection includes recordings of the people that were there – who rode Greyhound busses across state lines to test federal integration laws. Listening to their interviews will help you understand the risks and rewards they experienced while being part of the movement.
How did white citizens in Mississippi resist federal mandates on civil rights? How did they resist grassroots efforts of black Mississippians? This collection will help you study how they organized against civil rights initiatives. It includes several publications of The Citizen, a white supremacy newsletter devoted to current issues. Use this collection to learn more about white resistance strategies.
This collection includes sources from important labor organizations like the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, population statistics from major American cites that show major increases to the number of black citizens, and magazine articles that show different tactics of white resistance. This collection is good for studying how African Americans pushed for civil rights outside of the South, and before the 1960s.
This collection includes oral interviews of Latino protestors belonging to the Young Lords Movement, who protested for housing equality. It also includes writings from the movement’s leader, and newspapers clippings that cover key events. Use this collection to study how the Civil Rights Movement extended beyond black-white relations to include brown-white relations as well.
In the 1960s, native Hawaiians organized to protest the rapid development of tourism on the islands. This collection documents the Save Our Surf Movement. It includes protest petitions, newsletters, and posters. Use this collection to study how a recreational sport like surfing became a political issue. What were they protesting against, and how did they use surfing to promote their message? (to access the material, use the “browse” link, and then follow the “document type” link)
In October 1962, the United States military learned that the Soviet Union was constructing a missile base in Cuba, just 90 miles from the coast of Florida. This discovery led to perhaps the most dangerous encounter between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Library gives you access to strategic maps, correspondence with the Soviets, and minutes from meetings of the National Security Council.
Includes summary reports made by US officials in Vietnam. This collection would be good for studying how military leaders executed major operations like Masher (1966) Rolling Thunder (1965-1968), Linebacker (1972), or how they responded to the disastrous Tet Offensive (1968).
Another collection includes declassified documents from the Vietnam Command File, and it is a very detailed look at the early stages of the war – January to June 1966. Within it you will find information on troop strength numbers, logistical reports, and construction/maintenance of bases.
Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center and Archive contains a large collection of oral histories of veterans as well as other documents related to U.S. participation in the conflict. To read interview transcripts, click on “Browse Interviews” and then simply select a letter of the alphabet.
During the 1964-1965 academic year, students at the University of California led unprecedented protests to demand that the administration lift a ban on on-campus political activities and recognize the students’ rights to free speech and academic freedom. The Free Speech Movement generated a legacy of student activism and education reform that resonated across the nation and across the decades. In addition to documents and images from 1964-1965, this website includes oral histories of many participants.
In the 1960s and 1970s many feminists criticized how popular culture in America shaped gender roles in society. What was their objective? This collection documents a protest movement against the Miss America pageant by the Women’s Liberation Movement. It includes letters to pageant organizers, protest fliers, and internal memos that show how the protest was planned. Use this collection to study how people in the Women’s Liberation Movement engaged the public and mobilized people to act. Additionally, this link will take you to more documents that explain their ideas.
This collection documents a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based movement for sexual equality. It contains materials from a grassroots organization called the Gay People’s Union, such as monthly publications, protest posters, and audio recordings. It also contains the writings of Eldon Murray, who devised much of the GPU’s political platform. Use this collection to study the origins of LGBT politics in the Midwest
In 1970 a Vietnam War protest turned deadly when Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed students on the campus of Kent State University. The event became a catalyst for more youth protests across the country, and even became a pop culture symbol. This collection includes oral interviews and newspaper clippings relating to the shootings. Use this collection to study youth politics during the Vietnam War. What is the larger significance of the event? (Use the “Oral History Project” link to get to eyewitness accounts)
Modern political campaigns require a lot more than just a person to vote for. They require a large staff, financial donations, media exposure, and carefully planned strategies. This collection covers the political lifespan of one elected official, (Senator Trent Lott, Republican, Mississippi) from his first campaign ads in the 1970s through the 2000s. It also includes coverage of presidential debates, press interviews, and private functions. You can use this collection to study how campaigning methods have changed in the last forty years, or to learn more about major political conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum commemorates the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center in New York City, in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as well as six people who perished in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Primary sources at the Memorial and Museum website include speeches, subsequent laws and the legislative debates, executive orders, and other government documents as well as materials of personal and collective memorialization.