Preserving American Freedom is divided into seven chronological sections, featuring documents dating from 1655 to 1978. Each section begins with a contextual essay, written by a prominent historian in the field, that is intended to help readers gain a better understanding of the period in which documents were written.
Each document has its own page where the title, date, and author(s)/organization(s) responsible for each document is clearly displayed. On the page, images of the original document are presented alongside an easy-to-read transcription. These transcriptions, furthermore, are annotated to provide easy access to definitions, biographies of people and organizations, and related materials. Clicking on the document image opens a document viewer, which provides access to higher-resolution images of the original document that can be explored in greater depth through zooming and panning.
Below each document, you will see a description explaining the work's history and significance. You may also see links to related historical events on the exhibit's Timeline or to other historic documents in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Digital Library.
A Note about Document Difficulty
The length of some documents may require teachers to edit the transcriptions to better fit the skill level or time restrictions of a class. At the elementary and middle school levels, some documents are more appropriate than others for the students and can be edited to fit a wide array of learning styles and assignments. Many of the documents in the first three sections have traditional 18th-century spellings, descriptive words to identify people, and references to world, national, and state geography. Through a corrective spelling lesson, students can read a sentence or more and learn about the goods William Penn traded with Native Americans in exchange for land. The advertisements in the Pennsylvania Gazette (1738) and the entries in William Still's Journal C (1855) can provide a geography lesson for students learning about the indentured servants and slaves who escaped from the South to Philadelphia. Students could map their journey and engage in creative writing lessons creating a journal or series of letters.