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HIS 2070: Vermont History: Primary sources

Resources to support Castleton students and faculty doing research on Vermont history topics

Online access to archives and digital collections

Featured repositories/directories


Library of Congress Digital Collections

Internet Modern History Sourcebook and other Internet History Project Sourcebooks
"A (huge) collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly for educational use"
Includes sections on:
Colonial North America | American Independence |
US Civil War | US Immigration | 19th Century U.S | US Power | US Society and more

Internet Archive
Aims to offer "permanent access for researchers, historians, historical collections that exist in digital format"

Additional digital collections

A collection of important civil war primary resources from College and Research Library News

American Folklife Center from the Library of Congress

Army Heritage Collections Online, from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC)

Civil Rights History Project, an archive of oral histories and more from the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian

Digital Archives from (an online reference guide to African American history)

Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South

eHistory: Center for Virtual History from the University of Georgia. Includes these projects: Pox Americana, IndianNation, CSI Dixie, Born Unfree, Common Tongues, Invasion of America

Online access to US military records, "including the stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served."

Founders Online, from the National Archives and Records Administration and the University of Virginia Press. Digital collection of primary source documents from the most prominent figures in early American history.

History Matters: Many Pasts
Over 1000 documents, annotated

Immigration History Research Center
From the University of Minnesota

Labor Archives
From the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU. " Archival, print, photograph, film, and oral history collections describe the history of the labor movement and how it related to the broader struggle for economic, social, and political change."

Making of America
Includes, for example, these digitized Civil War documents 

Mike Wallace Interview, from the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Digitized audio and film from the nationally televised interview program, 1957-1960

New York Heritage Digital Collections

NINES: Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online.
"A scholarly organization devoted to forging links between the material archive of the nineteenth century and the digital research environment of the twenty-first." Aggregating over 990,000 peer‑reviewed digital objects from over 115 federated sites.

Our Americas Archive Partnership
Documents on the history of the Americas from a hemispheric perspective

Slavery and Abolition in the United States: Select Publications of the 1800s

U. S. National Archives

The Valley of the Shadow (Civil War documents)

Virginia Center for Digital History
Links to several American History digital collections

Women in the Civil War (links to several collections)

Sets of links to digitized material

American Colonists' Library "Primary Source Documents Pertaining to Early American History"

U.S. History: Primary Source Collections Online from Sam Huston State University Library

Digitized African American History Sources 

State Digital Resources: "Memory Projects, Online Encyclopedias, Historical & Cultural Materials Collections" from all the U.S. states

U.S. and Foreign Policy from the Council on Foreign Relations
Links to many documents

What are primary sources?

Helpful resources for learning about primary sources,
what they are and how to find them:

Research Using Primary Sources
from the University of Maryland Libraries

or Primary Sources at Yale:  What are Primary Sources
(describes different kinds of primary sources)

These guides and tutorials are targeted at students from those universities, so some of the resources described will not be available to you.  However, there is a lot of useful information in each about primary sources in general.

Documents in library holdings

Search libraries' catalogs for specific kinds of primary source materials. Try keywords such as

  • personal narrative 
  • correspondence
  • letters
  • diary
  • interview
  • oral
  • eyewitness
  • document/documentary
This is an example of a keyword search that includes terms that are likely to be used to describe primary sources in an online catalog:

(personal narrative* or corresponden* or diar* or interview* or oral or eyewitness or letter* or document*)
and "civil war" and Vermont

(The * substitutes for whatever letters that might come next, so that the search includes any words that start with what's typed but might end differently.  For example, diar* catches diary and diaries and diarist.  Different catalogs use different symbols for this.)

Print indexes to periodical literature

Early American Imprints, 1639-1800
Shelved under the stairs

Poole's Index to Periodical Literature 1802-1907
REF 050.011 P785

Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature 1890-2010
REF 050.011 R227

New York Times Index 1851-
REF 070.172 N42

Essay and General Literature Index 1900-
REF 800.011 Es73

Historical Abstracts 1955-1984
REF 900.016 H629

America, History and Life 1964-1982
REF 970.011 Am35

What is a primary source?

A primary source is...

the evidence of history, first-hand accounts of an event or period of time created by participants or observers.

Examples are...

diaries, letters, news reports, interviews, recordings, photographs, etc.


Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

From the Library of Congress. Includes a newspaper title directory and over one million pages published between 1789 and 1922.

Make an account (through Castleton) for full access to the New York Times online.




After you do an initial search,

you can specify a date or date range

Or go directly to this search page.

New York Times Historical
Full-text of the New York Times 1851-three years previous. PDF page images. Searchable by date, keyword, article type.

The New York Times is also available on microfilm dating back to 1851 in the Castleton library.

Instructions for viewing a particular date, and page 1 for that date, are available:

Early American Imprints

Early American Imprints, 1639-1800

Over 47,000 documents from 17th and 18th century America, representing
a vast range of publications covering a 160-year period.  Includes: advertisements, almanacs, bibles, broadsides, catalogs, charters and by-laws, contracts, cookbooks, elegies, eulogies, laws, maps, narratives, novels, operas, pamphlets, plays, poems, primers, sermons, songs, speeches, textbooks, tracts, travelogues, treaties and more.

How to use it: Includes a 13 volume paper index to what is included in each year. A 14th volume is an author and title index. Find the number of an item of interest.  Find the microfiche with the corresponding number.  Ask for help with the microfiche reader/printer.

Located under the stairs in the library.



Union catalogs

Search union catalogs of archival material

ArchiveGrid from OCLC

Search multiple archives at once

National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections from the Library of Congress

National Archives Catalog from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration


Find text, audio and video of speeches at

Follow the link to Site Search on the left to search for a topic.

Collections of speeches in ebooks

Search strategies

Example Boolean search

Notice the parentheses around the or phrase and the truncation

child* and (television or TV or television viewing) and violen*

Canadian primary sources

See a guide to primary sources in Canadian history from Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia.

Other guides

A CU database

After you click on a topic or do search, click on

Help locating primary sources

Finding Historical Primary Sources
from UC Berkeley's library

American History Primary Source
from University of Washington's library

Digitized Primary American History Sources
from the University of Northern Iowa

Search Google for books and primary source documents

Try searching Google with the term "digitized" in addition to your search terms.

GoogleBooks permits searching the full content of some books. Books in the public domain (not copyright protected) are available full-text online, including many primary source documents.

Google Book Search

Also see the Wikipedia entry on your topic.  Look at the External links at the bottom for links to primary sources.

Worldcat is a very large union catalog that includes the holdings of most U.S. academic libraries. For primary sources, in “Advanced Search,” you can limit “Format” to “archival material.”

Try the basic search box below
or try an advanced search >>

Some sources of documents

American Decades Primary Sources

"Cross-disciplinary source spanning the 20th century. Each volume in the set 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."

Congress Investigates:  A Critical and Documentary History
REF 328.7307452 C76

America's Founding Charters: Primary Documents of Colonial and Revolutionary Era Governance
REF 342.7300903 Am35

The American Republic: Primary Sources
REF 973 Am356

Documents of American History
REF 973 C735d9

America's Struggle with Empire: A Documentary History
REF 973 K155a

Milestone Documents in American History
REF 973 M598 (4 volumes) and online

100 Key Documents in American Democracy
REF 973 On2

Dictionary of American History, Volume 9, Archival Maps and Primary Sources
REF 973.03 D561

Encyclopedia of American Historical Documents
REF 973.03 En1935

Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History, Volume 6, Primary Source Documents
Call Number: REF 973.0496073 En193 and online

Annals of America
(22 volumes of U.S. documentary history)

REF 973.08 An72

The American Nation: Primary Sources
REF 973.7 Am35

Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, Volume 5, Documents

Avalon Project at the Yale Law School-American History: A Documentary Record. 1492-1973

Core Documents of U.S. Democracy

Founders Early Access, from the University of Virginia Press is an effort to make early American documents available to the public before these documents have been edited and published. Documents included come from the six continuing Founding Fathers projects: the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, the Adams family, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. 

Primary Documents in American History from the Library of Congress

Historical societies

Some historical societies' catalogs, finding aids and digitized documents are online.

Here are links to some local and state historical societies:

Vermont Historical Society (Barre, VT) offers its catalog online.

Rutland Historical Society

Castleton Historical Society

New Hampshire Historical Society

New York Historical Society

Sources of audiovisual primary sources

AdViews: A Digital Archive of Vintage Television Commercials
A digital archive of thousands of vintage television commercials dating from the 1950s to the 1980s from Duke University Libraries.