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Primary Sources: How to Search

United States Primary Sources

American Presidency Project

The Papers of the Presidents
The American Presidency Project is the only online resource that has consolidated, coded, and organized into a single searchable database:
• The Messages and Papers of the Presidents: Washington - Taft (1789-1913)
• The Public Papers of the Presidents:
Hoover to Obama (1929-2012: Book I)
• The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: Carter - G.W. Bush (1977-2009)
• The Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents: Obama-Trump (2009-2017) 
• Our archives also contain thousands of other documents such as party platforms, candidates' remarks, Statements of Administration Policy, documents released by the Office of the Press Secretary, and election debates:

Calisphere

Calisphere is a gateway to digital collections from California's great libraries, archives, and museums. Discover over 925,000 images, texts, and recordings—and counting.

Chronicling America: Library of Congress 

Historic American Newspapers

Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1789-1943 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. 

Digital Public Library of America

Explore millions of items from Archives, libraries and museums. DPLA connects people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. All of the materials found through DPLA—photographs, books, maps, news footage, oral histories, personal letters, museum objects, artwork, government documents.

DPLA Primary Source Sets

Primary source collections exploring topics in history, literature, and culture developed by educators — complete with teaching guides for class use.

Discovering American Women's History Online

This database provides access to digital collections of primary sources (photos, letters, diaries, artifacts, etc.) that document the history of women in the United States. These diverse collections range from Ancestral Pueblo pottery to interviews with women engineers from the 1970s.

Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

Produced by StreetLaw. Street Law, Inc. developed landmarkcases.org in 2002, with funding from the Supreme Court Historical Society to provide teachers with a full range of resources and activities to support the teaching of landmark Supreme Court cases.

Library of Congress, American Memory

American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.

Life Magazine

LIFE Magazine is the treasured photographic magazine that chronicled the 20th Century. It now lives on at LIFE.com, the largest, most amazing collection of professional photography on the internet. Users can browse, search and view photos of today’s people and events. They have free access to share, print and post images for personal use.

Making of America, (Michigan)

Making of America (MOA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history primarily from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. The book collection currently contains approximately 10,000 books with 19th century imprints. 

National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.

Those valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you

National Archives Research Catalog

National Archives Search page. You can create an advanced search from the search box.

New York Public Library Digital Collections

The New York Public Library recently enhanced access to all public domain items in Digital Collections so that everyone has the freedom to enjoy and reuse these materials in almost limitless ways.

100 Milestone Documents

 A list of 100 milestone documents, compiled by the National Archives and Records Administration, and drawn primarily from its nationwide holdings. The documents chronicle United States history from 1776 to 1965.

Smithsonian Libraries

Individually each of these libraries is among the world’s greatest repositories of knowledge for the specialized fields they support. Collectively they are among America’s greatest scientific and cultural treasures. They belong to the nation, and through their expanding on-line presence and digitization initiatives more and more people from across the country and around the world are able to access their vast resources.

Making of America, (Cornell)

Making of America (MOA) represents a major collaborative endeavor to preserve and make accessible through digital technology a significant body of primary sources related to development of the U.S. infrastructure. Funded originally by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MOA sought to involve research institutions and national consortia to develop common protocols and consensus for the selection, conversion, storage, retrieval, and use of digitized materials on a large, distributed scale.

Umbra is similar to the Digital Public Library of America in that it brings together over 400,000 objects documenting African American history and culture from repositories across the country -- from large institutions like Library of Congress to smaller organizations like Payne Theological Seminary, a historically black seminary.

Search Umbra from the search box below.

 

 

 

 

 

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

U.S. Congressional Documents & Debates: 

  • A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation consists of a linked set of published congressional records of the United States of America from the Continental Congress through the 43rd Congress, 1774-1875. It includes: The Journals of the Continental Congress (1774-89)
  • The Letters of Delegates to Congress (1774-89)
  • The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, or Farrand's Records, and the Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (1787-88), or Elliot's Debates
  • The Journals of the House of Representatives (1789-1875) and the Senate (1789-1875), including the Senate Executive Journal (1789-1875)
  • The Journal of William Maclay (1789-91), senator from Pennsylvania in the 1st Congress
  • The debates of Congress as published in the Annals of Congress (1789-1824), the Register of Debates (1824-37), Congressional Globe (1833-73), and Congressional Record (1873-75) 
  • ​The Statutes at Large (1789-1875); the American State Papers (1789-1838); and congressional bills and resolutions for selected sessions beginning with the 6th Congress (1799) in the House of Representatives and the 16th Congress (1819) in the Senate. A select number of documents and reports from the monumental U.S. Congressional Serial Set are available as well.

This online collection houses the records of the U.S. Congress up to 1875, which includes the first three volumes of the Congressional Record, published by the Government Printing Office. To access the contemporary Congressional Record go to THOMAS, the Library of Congress's legislative information Web site.

ArchiveGrid

ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

Online Archive of California

The Online Archive of California (OAC) provides free public access to detailed descriptions of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions including libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California and collections maintained by the 10 University of California (UC) campuses.