Primary Sources

Teachers, need a primary source to create a lesson in the classroom? 

Students, need a source for research project? 

You can find the primary sources that used in the unit plans here where they are searchable by keyword, title, and topic.  

Besides an image of the source, on its page, you may also find ways to purchase copies for the classroom, a transcription, and its proper citation for inclusion in a bibliography.

Our digitized collection, however, is much bigger than this selection.  Be sure to search the Collection section of our website too.

And if you  need help reading old handwriting, there are many sources on line, such as this one from

A letter from Pierce Butler to his daughter, Fanny, on January 7, 1861. In it, he expresses his doubts that a civil war will occur and declares that his "sympathies are entirely with the South." 

This is a four-color print containing an image of Francis Scott Key,The Star Spangled Banner lyrics and music, and an image of Fort McHenry in the background.

Caption on image: "A View of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, by the British fleet, taken from the Observatory under the Command of Admirals Cochrane, & Cockburn, on the morning of the 13th of September 1814, which lasted 24 hours, & thrown from 1500, to 1800 shells in the Night attempted to land by forcing a passage up the ferry branch but were refused with great loss"

First issue of "Let Freedom Ring," publication of the Pennsylvania Civil Rights Congress.

Mailer of assorted materials from the American Women Against Communism organization.

This cartoon illustrates Columbia (the female personification of America), William Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Uncle Sam. In the cartoon, Columbia reprimands Roosevelt by saying to Uncle Sam, "He's not only been abusing Billie, but the little Wilson girl says she never heard such language." This shows the political fighting that occured during the Presidential election of 1912.

This cartoon illustrates Teddy Roosevelt as a bee keeper. The sign he holds reads "Indorsement of Administration in G.O.P. Platform" and the bee hive reads, "G.O.P National Convention." The cartoon suggests that Roosevelt can easily deal with his political party without any issues.

This image depicts each of the southern states riding various animals off a cliff. This is supposed to signify how the southern states' decision to secede from the Union was comparable to driving themselves off a cliff.

Castle Garden was America's first official immigrant center with over 11 million immigrants passing through between 1820-1892. This cartoon depicts the vices which could 'trap' immigrants as they entered the United States.

This cartoon illustrates the fear that immigrants will bring death and disease with them to American shores. Death is shown on board the ship carrying a scythe and the caption reads, "The Kind of Assisted Emigrant We Can Not Afford to Admit."

The preamble to the Constitution of the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor, which outlines the background and goals of the group, was published in 1888.

Terernce Powderly wrote Thirty Years of Labor in 1880 to document the causes that led to the formation of the Knights of Labor and its work as well to discuss its ideals.