Finding Primary Sources

What Are Primary Sources | Timeline of Information | Search Strategies | Primary Source Web Sites 

Primary Sources on the Web

Many Web sites contain excellent primary resources. The scope of coverage varies for time period. To find primary sources on the web, you need to use the selected list below, or use a search engine and utilize similar search terms you use searching the library catalog for library materials.

Examples of search terms:
Lowell Mills primary sources
       Scopes trial transcript

To find a list of search engines to use, please check the Web Search Engines page at

General Primary Sources- U.S.  | General Primary Sources - World | Historical Newspapers | Legal Documents | Oral History & Speeches | Public Records & Government Documents | Visual Materials | Historical Maps
Historical Music | Event Specific


American Memory
Consists of collections of primary source and archival material relating to American culture and history. Topics include: African American Civil War, Conservation Movement, Continental Congress, Farm Security Administration, Architectural History, Early Motion Pictures, Variety Stage, Woman Suffrage, the papers of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Today in History, Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present, and more.

American Memory Timeline
Primary sources for seven time periods of United States history are provided at this site covering 1783-1968. Each period is subdivided into various topics and contains an overview. Included are images, letters, lyrics, interviews, and more.

The American Presidency Project
This project contains a searchable database of tens of thousands of documents from U.S. presidents from 1789 to the present. It covers inaugural addresses, press briefings, signing statements, and debates. Also features data on topics such as popularity and number of public appearances, election results back to 1828, and an archive of audio and video clips.

American Treasures of the Library of Congress
An unprecedented permanent exhibition of the rarest, most interesting or significant items relating to America's past.

Avalon Project at the Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy
The project contains digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government from pre-18th Century to current.

A Chronology of US Historical Documents
US historical documents arranged from pre-colonial era to present. 

Digital History
Provides learning and teaching resources from online textbook, primary sources, ethnic voices to special topics and reference materials on all periods of United States History.

Documenting the American South
Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture.

Eighteenth-Century Studies
Covers archives works of the eighteenth century from the perspectives of literary and cultural studies. Novels, plays, memoirs, treatises and poems of the period are kept here (in some cases, influential texts from before 1700 or after 1800 as well), along with modern criticism.

Harvard Open Collections
The Open Collections provide online access to historical resources from Harvard's renowned libraries, archives, and museums. OCP's highly specialized “open collections” are developed through careful collaborations among Harvard's distinguished faculty, librarians, and curators. Three open collections have been launched since 2004: Women Working, 1800-1930, Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930, and Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics. Two additional collections are under development now: the Islamic Heritage Project, and Organizing Our World: Sponsored Exploration and Scientific Discovery in the Modern Age.

History Matters
A highly regarded gateway to web resources as well as a repository of unique teaching materials, first-person primary documents, and guides to analyzing historical evidence for students and teachers of American history.

Lives, the Biography Resource -
Extensive, annotated directory of links to sites that focus on the lives of individuals or groups of people, worthwhile collections of links to other biographical resources, primary biographical source material such as images, diaries, memoirs, correspondence, interviews, oral histories, etc., and good biographical dictionaries. There are special pages featuring African Americans, Women, U.S. Civil War, Holocaust Survivors and Rescuers, and Canadians. In addition there are indexes by collections, professions, eras, regions, and criticism, as well as by individual.

Making of America
Making of America (MOA) is a digital library of primary sources in American social history 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 collection currently contains approximately 8,500 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints. The project represents a major collaborative endeavor in preservation and electronic access to historical texts.

Nineteenth Century Documents Project
When completed this collection will include accurate transcriptions of many important and representative primary texts from nineteenth century American history, with special emphasis on those sources that shed light on sectional conflict and transformations in regional identity. 

Project Gutenberg
The Project contains free eBooks or etexts. There are more than 10.000 eBooks in the present collection. Most of these eBooks are older literary works that are in the public domain in the United States. All may be freely downloaded and read, and redistributed for non-commercial use.

Repositories of Primary Sources
This site contains links to over 3,400 Web sites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar.Access is by region or by an alphabetical index of state, province, or country.

U.S. Founding Documents
A collection of federalists' essays.


Selected transcriptions, facsimiles, translations from Western Europe.

In the First Person
Index to Letters, Diaries, Oral Histories, and Personal Narratives.

EyeWitness to History
History Through the Eyes of Those who Lived it. Eyewitness accounts organized by date starting with Ancient Greece.

German Propoganda Archive
Propaganda was central to Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic. The Web site includes both propaganda itself and material produced for the guidance of propagandists.

The Great Hunger Archive, An Gorta Mor
A joint project of the Ireland Studies Program at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and Kerry County Library, Ireland, to provide a comprehensive coverage or listing of archival material relating to the famine in Ireland in the 1840s.

Hanover Historical Texts Project
A working-in-progress project covers documents from ancient Greece to the 20th Century.

Internet Medieval Sourcebook
A collection of documents, maps, images, and music for Medieval studies.

Middle East Peace Process Documents
It covers Israel and Palestine, Middle East historical and peace process source documents.

Perseus Digital Library
Digital library of resources for the study of the ancient world. Originally begun with coverage of the Archaic and Classical Greek world, has now expanded to Latin text and tools, Renaissance materials, and Papyri. Contains hundreds of texts by the major ancient authors and lexica and morphological databases and catalog entries for over 2,800 vases, sculptures, coins, buildings, and sites, including over 13,000 photographs of such objects.

Slave Voyages (The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database)
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has information on almost 35,000 slaving vogages that forcibly embarked over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. It offers researchers, students and the general public a chance to rediscover the reality of one of the largest forced movements of peoples in world history.

United Nations Treaty Collection
A collection of treaties and international agreements registered or filed and recorded with and published by the Secretariat since 1946.

World History Sources
Reflects three approaches central to current world history scholarship: an emphasis on comparative issues rather than civilizations in isolation; a focus on contacts among different societies and the economic, social, and cultural consequences of those contacts; and an attentiveness to “global” forces that transcend individual societies or even societies in mutual contact—forces such as technology diffusion, migration, disease transmission, extension and realignments of trade routes, or missionary outreach.


Chronicling America (1880-1922)
This site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922 from the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. It also allows you 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 as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

Historical Los Angeles Times (1881-1985)
(Library subscription database, login required from off campus)
The Los Angeles Times offers completely searchable full text and full image coverage from 1881-1985. It gives quick and accurate Web access to articles, editorials, classified ads, comics, cartoons, photos, maps, and graphics. The collection provides access to every page from every available issue.

Historical New York Times (1851-2005)
(Library subscription database, login required from off campus)
The New York Times offers completely searchable full text and full image coverage from 1851-2005. It gives quick and accurate Web access to articles, editorials, classified ads, comics, cartoons, photos, maps, and graphics. The collection provides access to every page from every available issue.

ICON: International Coliation on Newspapers
This page provides links to past, present, and prospective digitization projects of historic newspapers. Only those newspapers without the dollar icon are for free access.

ICON Database of International Newspapers
The ICON Database of International Newspapers is a freely accessible electronic resource intended to provide reliable information on newspapers published outside of the United States. It includes bibliographic descriptions of titles as well as specific information on institutions’ holdings of the same. The database serves as a central locus for information on international newspaper collections available in North American libraries and in selected libraries outside North America, providing a tool for resource discovery, access, and collection management.

U.S. Historical Newspapers (a collection of historical newspapers from ICON Web)
The ICON provides a comprehensive list of U.S. newspapers available on the internet. Only those newspapers without the dollar icon are for free access.


Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789
The Continental Congress Broadside Collection (253 titles) and the Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection (21 titles) contain 274 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Most broadsides are one page in length; others range from 1 to 28 pages. A number of these items contain manuscript annotations not recorded elsewhere that offer insight into the delicate process of creating consensus. In many cases, multiple copies bearing manuscript annotations are available to compare and contrast.

FedWorld/FLITE U.S. Supreme Court Decisions
Full text of Supreme Court Decisions issued between 1937 and 1975.

Foreign Governments: Constitutions, Laws and Treaties

Founders' Constitution
A collection of thoughts, opinions, and arguments of the Founders

Landmark Supreme Court Cases
It covers landmark Supreme Court cases including a full range of resources and activities to support the teaching and learning of landmark Supreme Court cases.

From the Library Web's Database page, select LexisNexis. Full text opinions of all Supreme Court cases since 1790 and all state cases. In addition, all dispositions of cases that were appealed to the Supreme Court are included. (CSULA electronic database, login required).

Westlaw Campus
From the Library Web's Database page, select Westlaw Campus. Full text opinions of all Supreme Court cases since 1790 and all state cases. In addition, it provides access to West's vast collection of statutes, case law materials, public records, and other legal resources, along with current news articles and business information. (CSULA electronic database, login required).


American Rhetoric: Online Speech Bank
THE ONLINE SPEECH BANK is an index to and growing database of 5000+ full text, audio and video (streaming) versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and more.

Douglass--Archives of American Public Address
Douglass is an electronic archive of American oratory and related documents. It is intended to serve general scholarship and courses in American rhetorical history at Northwestern University.

Historical Voices
A fully searchable database of spoken word collections spanning the 20th century.

History Channel: Speeches
A collection of speeches is drawn from the most famous broadcasts and recordings of the twentieth century.

Link Library (of personal experience pages)
An archive of primary source materials. Includes first-hand information as well as oral history resources and art projects based on people's experiences. 

Oral History Online! -
These are the topics and some of the interviewees: Suffragists (Alice Paul), Disabled Persons Independence Movement (Hale Zukas); Health Care, Science, and Technology (Barbara Honeyman Heath Roll); University History Series (Arleigh Williams); University of California Black Alumni Series (Lionel Wilson); and the Earl Warren Oral History Project (Edmund G. Brown, Sr.). The searchable transcriptions are from the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

Talking History
A collection of audio documentaries, speeches, debates, oral histories, conference sessions, commentaries, archival audio sources, and other aural history resources as is available anywhere.


NARA 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.

Core Documents of U.S Democracy
A core group of current and historical Government publications define our democratic society.

National Archives and Records Administration
Find holdings by federal government organization, media, location, and topics.

United States Historical Census Data
The data presented here describe the people and the economy of the US for each state and county from 1790 to 1960.

U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1873
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.

VISUAL MATERIALS (Cartoons, images, movies, posters, photographs, and more)

Ad Access Database (advertisements)
The Ad*Access project consists of five main subject categories: Beauty and Hygiene, Radio, Television, Transportation, and World War II from 1911 to 1957.

America from the Great Depression to World War II
55,000 black and white (more coming) and 1600 color photographs from the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information collection have been digitized. Includes scenes of rural and small-town life, migrant labor, the effects of the Great Depression, and mobilization for World War II.  Part of the American Memory series from Library of Congress.

America's First Look into the Camera
Subtitled Daguerreotype Portraits and Views, 1839 - 1864, this site is a searchable and browsable collection of more than 650 photographs taken between 1839 and 1864. The majority are portraits taken by the Mathew Brady studio. There are also photographic views of buildings and monuments in the Washington-Baltimore area and street scenes in Philadelphia. Part of American Memory from the Library of Congress. 

America in Caricature 1765-1865
The caricatures depict times of turbulence in American history and range in date from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812 and to the presidential elections of 1860 and 1864.

American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920
This searchable or browsable "collection of approximately 2800 lantern slides represents an historical view of American buildings and landscapes built during the period 1850-1920." It includes the work of Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of New York's Central Park. It also contains "views of cities, specific buildings, parks, estates and gardens, including a complete history of Boston's Park System." There are images of plans, maps, and models. From the Library of Congress' American Memory Project.

American Posters of World War I
American Posters of World War One from the collection of Roger N. Mohovich

Baldy Editorial Cartoon Database: 1946-82, 1997
A digital database with approximately 2,500 cartoons from the collection.

By the People, For the People
Subtitled Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943, this searchable site contains over 900 posters from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Search by keyword or browse by subject or creator. Full descriptive information is provided. Created in silk-screen, lithograph, and woodcut mediums, they were "designed to publicize health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia."  From the Library of Congress' American Memory Project.

By Popular Demand (Presidential portraits)
A set of 156 portraits of presidents and first ladies

Emergence of Advertising in America
The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850 - 1920 (EAA) presents over 9,000 images, with database information, relating to the early history of advertising in the United States. The materials, drawn from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, provide a significant and informative perspective on the early evolution of this most ubiquitous feature of modern American business and culture.

Images of American Political History
A collection of over 500 public domain images of American Political History

Internet Movie Database
most comprehensive movie database on or off the Internet. It covers over 250,000 movies,  video, TV movies and TV shows, 500,000 actors, and 50,000 directors. Information includes filmographies for all professions in the industry; plot summaries; character names; movie ratings; running times; trivia; quotes etc. You can find a list of historical movies by using Browse--Facts & Trivia--Titles by year

New York Public Library Digital Library
A collection of over 337,000 images from primary sources and printed rarities including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs, illustrated books, and printed ephemera.
A collection of searchable political cartoons.

They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of World War II
A collection of more than 12,000 pieces of artwork by combat artists during World War II.

World War II in Color
A collection of photos and images of World War II in color.

HISTORICAL MAPS features several hundred historical maps from all areas of the world, including helpful jurisdictional maps for every U.S. state.

American Memory Maps Collection
An American map collection 1500-2004

Historical Atlas of the 20th Century

University of Texas Historical Maps


Historic American Sheet Music 1850-1920
The Historic American Sheet Music collection presents 3,042 pieces of sheet music drawn from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University, which holds an important, representative, and comprehensive collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century American sheet music. This selection presents a significant perspective on American history and culture through a variety of music types including bel canto, minstrel songs, protest songs, sentimental songs, patriotic and political songs, plantation songs, spirituals, dance music, songs from vaudeville and musicals, "Tin pan alley" songs, and songs from World War I.

Historic American Sheet Music Project
Digitized images of over 3000 pieces of American sheet music from 1850 to 1920 are presented, along with their full-color cover art and advertisements, in this searchable index. Search for specific criteria such as subject or date, or browse by cover. From The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University.


American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology
A narrative collection of over 2,300 former slaves from across the American South.

Black History: Primary Source Links
A collection of links to primary sources for the study of African American history.

Campaign Literature Archive - A Century of Los Angeles Election
The UCLA Online Campaign Literature Archive presents a subset of the materials in the complete Campaign Literature Collection hosted in the UCLA Library. It contains copies of all archived websites plus scanned images of selected print materials. Currently, this includes all elections from 1908 to 1939, and some materials from 1940 and 2000.

Civil War Women--Primary Sources This site contains diaries, letters, documents, photographs of women during Civil War.

Ellis Island Database Search
A searchable database for Ellis Island passengers arrival records.

Eyewitness to Labor History
An online exhibit of labor history

Gulf War: An Oral History
From tariq aziz to norman schwarzkopf, from colin powell to margaret thatcher, twenty top decision makers, military commanders, Iiraqis and analysts examine the war.
It also contains firsthand accounts of soldiers and pilots in the battlefield who were captured by the Iraqis and interrogated.

Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive
Over 10,000 images, including photographic prints, negatives, drawings, and watercolor paintings, can be searched and browsed.

Kappler's Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties
A list of laws and treaties pertaining to Indian Affairs.

Labor History Web Links on Librarians' Internet Index
A selected list of United States labor history by librarians

Labor History Web Links
Developed for Labor and Working Class History Association by Rosemary Feurer, Northern Illinois University

Labor Archives in the United States and Canada (Directory)
This directory updates the work carried out almost ten years ago by the staff at the Wagner Labor Archives in New York City. A survey then conducted identified "archivists, librarians, and labor union staff who are collecting paper; audio-visual materials, and artifacts that document the history of the trade union movement in the United States." This directory includes repositories with partial holdings relating to labor and workers, as well as repositories whose whole holdings pertain to labor.

New Deal Network
The Web site contains over 900 articles, speeches, letters and other texts, organized by subject, date and author. It also hosts over 5000 Great Depression era images from the National Archives, the FDR Library and many other sources.

Private Art
A collection of WWII Letters to and from the home front

The Valley of the Shadow
The Valley Project details life in two American communities, one Northern and one Southern, from the time of John Brown's Raid through the era of Reconstruction. In this digital archive you may explore thousands of original letters and diaries, newspapers and speeches, census and church records, left by men and women in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Giving voice to hundreds of individual people, the Valley Project tells forgotten stories of life during the era of the Civil War.

Veterans' History Project
A searchable database of 1,500 veteran history collections.

War Stories
Journalists discuss what they have seen and heard while covering conflicts.

Women and Social Movement in the United States, 1600-2000
Organized around 52 document projects with over 1,250 primary documents, the Women and Social Movements website offers new ways for students, teachers, and scholars to study American History.

Women History on Librarians' Internet Index;search=women%20history%20;searchtype=keywords
A selected list of women history by librarians

Women Working 1800-1930 (Harvard University Library)
The Open Collections Program focuses on women's role in the United States economy and provides access to digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University's library and museum collections. The collection features approximately 500,000 digitized pages and images including: 7,500 pages of manuscripts, 3,500 books and pamphlets, and 1,200 photographs

World War I Trenches on the Web
This site contains information on the people, places, and events that comprised one of the worst calamities of modern history.