Before a state became state, it was a territory with an appointed territorial governor along a territorial legislature and other governmental offices. And where there is government, there is paperwork: listings of officials, petitions to the government, correspondence of the territorial governor, letters back and forth among governmental officials, slavery issues, Native American affairs, etc. For years, these records were ignored and just housed in various agencies – Department of State, Library of Congress, the-then Department of War, etc. Until the publication of the Calendar of Papers in Washington Archives of the United States (to 1873) by David W. Parker. The preface to this work laments the difficulty of finding territorial documents in the numerous archives they could be stored in.(3-4) To remedy this historical oversight, a four-decades long project was undertaken to gather and reproduce the most important documents pertaining to the territories of the United States from 1789 to 1848. The first volume was published during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency; the last during Gerald Ford’s. The 28-volume work is called the Territorial Papers of the United States and covers the Old Northwest, the Southeast, and mid-West. (Update 3-29-17. The entire set is now available online): volume 1: General; volume 2: The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1803; volume 3: The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1803, continued; volume 4: The Territory South of the River Ohio, 1790-1796; volume 5: The Territory of the Mississippi, 1798-1817; volume 6: The Territory of the Mississippi, 1809-1817, continued; volume 7: The Territory of Indiana, 1800-1810; volume 8: The Territory of Indiana, 1810-1816, continued; volume 9: The Territory of Orleans, 1803-1812 ; volume 10: The Territory of Michigan, 1805-1820; volume 11: The Territory of Michigan, 1820-1829, continued; volume 12: the Territory of Michigan, 1829-1837, continued; volume 13: The Territory of Louisiana-Missouri, 1803-1806; volume 14: The Territory of Louisiana-Missouri, 1806-1814, continued; volume 15: The Territory of Louisiana-Missouri, 1815-1821, continued; volume 16: The Territory of Illinois, 1809-1814; volume 17: The Territory of Illinois, 1814-1818, continued; volume 18: The Territory of Alabama, 1817-1819; volume 19: The Territory of Arkansas, 1819-1825; volume 20: The Territory of Arkansas, 1825-1829, continued; volume 22: The Territory of Florida, 1821-1824; volume 23: The Territory of Florida, 1824-1828, continued; volume 24: The Territory of Florida, 1828-1834, continued; volume 25: The Territory of Florida, 1834-1839, continued; volume 26: The Territory of Florida, 1839-1845, continued; volume 27: The Territory of Wisconsin, Executive Journal, 1836-1848; Papers, 1836-1839; and volume 28: The Territory of Wisconsin, 1839-1848, continued. Each volume concludes with its own index.
Online Primary Sources for American History: The Territorial Papers of the United States