American History Primary Sources

From Golden Telescope Research Guides


  • Look in table of contents for "Primary Documents" or "Primary Source Documents."

American History Primary Sources: GVRL Virtual Reference Library

  • American Eras
  • Includes essays on events, publications, lifestyles and individuals important to each era in U.S. history.
  • Includes full or excerpted primary sources representing the seminal issues, themes, movements and events from a decade. Includes oral histories, songs, speeches, advertisements, TV, play and movie scripts, letters, laws, legal decisions, newspaper articles, cartoons, recipes, and more
  • After opening the source, use the pull down menu to select the 20th century decade.
  • 1900 - 1909, 1910 - 1919, 1920 - 1929, 1930 - 1939, 1940 - 1949, 1950 - 1959, 1960 - 1969, 1970 - 1979, 1980 - 1989, 1990 - 1999.
  • Topics include world events, the arts, business and the economy, education, fashion, government and politics, law and justice, lifestyles and social trends, media, medicine and health, religion, science and technology, and sports.


Select "Publication Type" "Primary Source Document"
Click the "Advanced" next to the search box.
In the Document Type box, select the Primary Source limiter.
Select "Primary Source" tab

Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources - What's the difference?


Online access to print, pictorial and audio-visual collections and other digital services from the Library of Congress. Includes categories of American History & Culture, Legislative Information, Performing Arts and Prints and Photographs, Sports and Recreation, Science, Technology and Business, and News, Journalism and Advertising.
Tip: After initial search, click "available online" on the bottom of the left navigation bar to limit to items that can be viewed on the website.
More than 20 million sources through partnerships across America. Browse by topic, by partner, or through traditional search.
Over 100 sets of primary sources grouped by topics and dozens of exhibitions. Note: Some primary source sets contain both primary and secondary sources.
Tip: Even though the Library of Congress contributes to DPLA, not all of its online resources are available on DPLA's site. Consider doing multiple searches on both websites.
Holdings include decades of searchable public radio and television.
Browse by topic or geographically by participating organizations.
Tip: "Special collections" and "curated exhibits" offer a wealth of engaging audiovisual resources.
  • Collection of Primary Documents from U.S. history.
In the Search Online section of the front page, select Online Public Access for general searches.
To search by time period, select Access to Archival Databases (AAD)
More than 12 million searchable digitized pages of newspapers published between 1789 and 1963.
Tip: Click the "recommended topics" link to explore hundreds of subject areas.
Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy
Developed in 1998 by the American Social History Project/Center for Media & Learning, City University of New York, and the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University, with initial funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, this website contains primary documents in text, image, and audio about the experiences of ordinary Americans throughout U.S. history. All of the documents have been screened by professional historians and are accompanied by annotations that address their larger historical significance and context. Browse the list of documents below (sorted by time period, beginning with the earliest)
Best of History Web Sites was created in 2001 by Tom Daccord, 15-year history teacher and co-director of EdTechTeacher, Inc. Best of History Web Sites contains links to over 1200 history-related web sites that have been reviewed for quality, accuracy, and usefulness including a link to oral history.
Collection of links to text documents dating from the 15th Century to the present with special sections devoted to the Civil War, Reconstruction & Progressive Period, First & Second World War with the interwar & postwar periods, Cold War, and Vietnam.
When using a search engine (Google, Yahoo...) use your topic keyword combined with keywords specific to the documents that you want, such as "diary," "photograph," "document," "treaty," "article,"...not "primary document"
Most collections have a Midwest or Chicago focus, but others speak to national or international topics.
Includes links to local, state and national newspaper collections
Indexed topic list with links to primary sources from early US history through the 21st Century.
Millions of resources from across Smithsonian museums.
Tip: Do a search and use the "refine search" option to filter by format or resource provider.

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