Key Collections of Primary Sources for U.S. History in Electronic Format


Includes listings of some outstanding public collections as well as resources licensed for Columbia affiliates only.

While a useful tool, these collections are still but a small portion of the archival and manuscript material available for the study of U.S. history. Assistance in locating more of the latter can be obtained from a number of printed guides as well as electronic databases.

Resources marked with this symbol are restricted to Columbia affiliates.


  • Accessible Archives
    Provides access to several full-text collections produced by the electronic publisher Accessible Archives, including a collection African American Newspapers of the first half of the 19th century, Godey's Lady's Book, The Pennsylvania Gazette from 1725 to 1800, the Civil War reportage of one Northern and two Southern newspapers, and a collection of articles from various Delaware Valley newspapers in the early and mid-19th century.
  • African-American Newspapers: the 19th Century
    Full text of all or part of seven African American or abolitionist newspapers: Freedom's Journal, The Coloured American, The North Star, The National Era, Provincial Freeman, Frederick Douglass Paper, and The Christian Recorder. Coverage currently greatest for the early 19th century. (Part of the Accessible Archives collection.
  • The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy
    Searchable and browsable collection of major selected U.S. and international documents of the 18th to 21st centuries.
  • The American Civil War: Letters and Diaries
    Published letters, memoirs, and diaries, and previously unpublished materials.
  • American Memory Project
    American Memory is a rich collection of primary source materials relating to U.S. history and culture compiled by the Library of Congress National Digital Library Program. Highlights include 25,000 photographs of turn-of-the-century America from the Detroit Publishing Company Collection, more than 1,100 Civil War photographs, early motion pictures, George Washington's letterbooks, and many other political and literary works. Some collections have searchable electronic text, others have page images only.
  • American Periodicals Series
    Page images of large collection of American periodicals, currently covering the period 1740-1805, but eventually projected to cover 1740-1900. Searchable by title information, and to a limited extent, by words anywhere in the text.
  • The Civil War: A Newspaper Perspective
    Full text of the Civil War reportage of three newspapers, The Charleston Mercury, The New York Herald, and The Richmond Enquirer. Part of the Accessible Archives collection.
  • Declassified Documents Reference System - U.S.
    Full text of declassified U.S. government documents, requested by researchers at U.S. Presidential libraries. Amounts to more than 70,000 formerly documents issued by various agencies of the government from the late 1940s to 1980.
  • Documenting the American South
    A searchable collection of sources on Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century, currently containing 971 books and manuscripts.
  • Early English Books Online
    Page images of virtually all of the books published in English or in Great Britain and its colonies prior to 1700. Items may be searched using the information contained in the English Short-Title Catalog. Includes many works relating to colonial America.
  • Emory Women Writers Resource Project
    Collection of edited and unedited texts of women writers of the 17th through 19th centuries, including a number of American authors.
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)
    A comprehensive digital edition of The Eighteenth Century microfilm set, which has aimed to include every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas, between 1701 and 1800.
  • Ethnic Newswatch
    Searchable full text of approximately 250 American ethnic and minority newspapers, with coverage from approximately 1960 to the present.
  • Evans Digital Edition
    A full-text digitization of the microform set Early American Imprints, Series I (1639-1800), which was itself based on the American Bibliography of Charles Evans (14 vols., 1903-34, 1955-59). Upon completion, Evans Digital Edition will include more than 36,000 works.
  • Frontline Diplomacy: U.S. Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection
    CD-ROM in DHC
        Transcripts of 893 oral histories of American diplomats.
  • The Gerritsen Collection: Women's History Online, 1543-1945
    Collection of full-text primary resources relating to the history of women. Though international in scope, it focuses primarily on the US, British Isles, and Western Europe.
  • Harpweek
    Page images and searchable full text of Harper's Weekly, the popular illustrated American magazine, for the period 1856-1912 for the period of the Civil War. Detailed searchable subject index.
  • The Indian Question
    CD-ROM in DHC
        Searchable full text of treaties, and early studies relating to the Indians of North America.
  • JSTOR
    A collection of 120 American scholarly journals from their earliest issue up to about five years ago. Primarily useful as a secondary source, but because of the coverage it provides of scholarly writing as early as the late 19th century, it can also serve as interesting primary source shedding light on the cultural and intellectual outlook of earlier eras.
  • Landmark Documents in American History
    CD-ROM LAN
        A full-text database which contains more than 1200 speeches, Supreme Court decisions, legislation, treaties, essays, and letters, augmented with portraits, illustrations, photographs, video clips, and over 200 biographies. Every document has an introduction which explains its background and significance.
  • Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789
    CD-ROM in DHC
        Searchable text of letters of delegates to congressional delegates in the period of the American Revolution, Articles of Confederation, and Constitutional Convention.
  • LEXIS-NEXIS
    Very large database of full-text newspaper, wire-service and some magazines dating back as early as the 1980s, along with a database of legal material, including federal and state court decisions dating back in many cases to the 18th century.
  • LION: Literature Online (Chadwyck Healey)
    Gateway to several comprehensive English literature collections, including African American Poetry, American Drama, American Poetry, and Early American Fiction, searchable both separately and as a group.
  • Making of America (Cornell University)
    Searchable full-text of thousands of pages of text from U.S. books and periodicals of the late 19th and early 20th-century, with a greater emphasis on periodical literature.
  • Making of America (University of Michigan)
    Searchable full-text of thousands of pages of text from U.S. books and periodicals of the late 19th and early 20th-century.
  • The Nation Digital Archive
    Searchable backfile and page images of a leading American left-liberal journal, 1865-1999.
  • North American Women's Letters and Diaries, Colonial-1950
    The immediate experiences of women, as revealed in more than 9,000 pages of diaries and letters.
  • Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
    CD-ROM in DHC
        Searchable transcript of Nuremberg proceedings.
  • Past Masters (Intelex)
    Online texts in Philosophy. Includes extensive searchable collections of the works of American philosophers John Dewey and Charles Peirce, and some texts of relevance to the history of American political thought, including the Federalist Papers are found in PM's "Political Philosophy" collection.
  • Pennsylvania Gazette
    Full text of one of the most important American colonial newspapers, 1725-1801. Part of the Accessible Archives collection.
  • Presidential Papers
    CD-ROM in DHC
        Searchable full-text of The Papers and Speeches of the Presidents, covering Washington through Taft, and The Public Papers of the Presidents for all Presidents from Hoover through the early Clinton years except Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Searchable collections of the papers of individual Presidents are sometimes available online at the website of Presidential Libraries, too.)
  • Primary Sources in African American History
    Provides access to the full-text of selected primary sources (including autobiographies, speeches, legislation, Supreme Court decisions) and secondary sources (articles from reference books and scholarly journals). Includes prints and photographs.
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers
    This collection currently contains backfiles of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that are scheduled to be complete by May of 2002. Currently, for best searching results, once connected to the main Proquest screen, select "Collections" and then select the Times or Journal file.
  • University of Virginia's Electronic Text Center
    One of the best and most authoritative collections of publicly available, searchable electronic texts, with holdings in various languages, with particularly rich holdings for American publications.
  • Women Writers Online
    A full-text collection of writings by English and American women writing from the 16th through early 19th centuries.
  • Wright American Fiction, 1851-1875
    A collection of 19th century American fiction, as listed in Lyle Wright's bibliography American Fiction, 1851-1875.