History Experience: Primary Sources for U.S. History

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Government Sources for Documents

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Library of Congress

American Memory Collections on all aspects of American life.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Pages from America’s historic newspapers from 1836–1922.

National Jukebox A vast collection of historical music and spoken word recordings.


Primary Documents in American History

National Archives

Our Documents

Teaching With Documents: Lesson Plans

Online Exhibits

America’s Historical Documents

Presidential Libraries

National Parks Service: History & Culture

Calisphere Sponsored by the University of California, the site has photographs, maps, artwork, letters, news clippings, and other documents about California.

Other Sources for Documents

Yale Law School: Avalon Project

Documents for the Study of American History Documents from 800 to the present.

HistoryCentral: American Source Documents

American Journeys Eyewitness accounts of North American exploration.

New York Times: Time Machine Browse through every page of the paper from 1851–1922. (You must subscribe to the paper.)

Harvard Library: Open Collections Program

New York Public Library Digital Gallery Many historical collections. Most of the pictures in these collections date before 1923 and are in the public domain.

Consource A huge collection of neat primary source documents on the Constitution.

Historical Journals and Diaries Online Links to online diaries and journals.

Historypin You can click on a map, or put in a specific address, and find historic photographs and people’s stories about the location.


American Rhetoric: Online Speech Bank Thousands of full text and audio and video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, and other recorded media events. The site is a bit clunky and contains ads, but you can easily access the speeches. One thing: When searching for a speaker, e.g., FDR, you look under F instead of R.

Images (Public domain photographs, paintings, and cartoons on U.S. history)

Wikipedia and its companion site Wikimedia Commons Thousands of public domain images. These sites are the easiest to use.

Library of Congress

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

American Memory

Pictorial Americana Digitized photographs on U.S. history to 1899.

U.S. History Images A large collection of public domain images.

The Newgate Calendar Mostly crimes and criminals from the 18th century. Also other works from Ex-Classics.

Liam’s Pictures From Old Books Collection images scanned from various old books that are now in the public domain. Searchable.

Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library Yale University’s online collection of digital images includes 90,000 images from rare books and manuscripts. Search by keyword.

New York Public Library Over 500,000 images scanned from books, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.

Old Book Illustrations Images scanned from old books. The site states that images are the works of artists who “have been dead for over seventy years, which makes them part of the public domain in many countries.” Searchable by keywords.

America As It Was A huge resource for vintage postcards in the U.S., organized by state.

Yestercards A very large free database of vintage greeting cards and postcards published in the U.S. Indexed. Organized by category.

World War II Poster Collection Over 300 posters issued by U.S. Federal agencies.

Photos of the Great War Many images of World War I, scanned from public domain resources.

Heritage of the Great War has several color pictures from World War I (likely all public domain).

History Place: Child Labor in America 1908– 1912 Photos by Lewis W. Hine.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Thousands of online, copyright free photographs of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.

See also Images and Pictures Links CRF’s collection of links to pictures, cartoons, and other digital image collections.



Ad*Access Images and database information for thousands of ads printed in U.S. and Canadian publications between 1911 and 1955.

Vintage Ad Browser A huge collection of vintage ads from about the 1830s to present.