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Primary Sources in U.S. History


This guide is to help you find primary sources from U.S. History (including the Pre-Revolutionary period). It is not meant to be comprehensive, but merely a starter for research on the topic. The guide focuses particularly on our paid subscription databases, but will lead you also to sources on the Web, and to physical collections of archives in other libraries. 

What is a primary source

"In the context of academic research or writing...source material contemporary with the period or thing studied; original document, source or text rather than one of criticism, discussion, or summary." [Source: "primary, adj. and n.". OED Online. June 2019. Oxford University Press. (accessed August 29,2019).]

Examples of primary source material are:

  • Letters 
  • Newspaper or other journal articles
  • Blog Commentaries
  • Diaries/Journals
  • Oral Histories or interviews
  • Documents, such as mission statements of an organization
  • Government Documents
  • Design Sketches, Drawings
  • Political/Activist Pamphlets
  • Advertisements
  • Company/Organization web sites
  • Photos, videos
  • Sound recordings (Interviews)
  • Maps  


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