Archive for Online Primary Sources

Abraham Lincoln – Additional Primary Sources

We have quite rightly highlighted primary/secondary sources on whom some consider the finest of our presidents. (He ranks #1 in the C-SPAN Historians Survey of Presidents 2017, a position he has held in the previous iterations of this poll.) We have come across other collections at Brown University that we would like to recommend: “Brown’s Lincoln Broadsides collection comprises an assortment of printed materials intended for broad public distribution in a variety of formats. Within this digital collection you will find, for example: handbills (a single sheet of text intended for wide public distribution), leaftlets (a handbill folded to create multiple leaves), small pamphlets (unbound booklets, typically stapled or sewn), souvenir cards, circulars, broadsheets, brochures.”;

Lincoln Envelopes –  “This collection contains embellished envelopes created during the period surrounding Lincoln’s presidency and the time immediately after his assassination. Many of the envelopes depict Lincoln himself….”;

Lincoln Graphics “…include most of the known photographic images of Lincoln, along with engravings and popular prints by, among other firms, Currier & Ives and Kurz & Allen.”;

Lincoln Manuscripts –  “The Hay Library’s famed collection of manuscripts authored or signed by Lincoln, now comprises nearly 1,100 pieces.”; and

Lincoln Sheet Music “… comprises sheet music from the McLellan Lincoln Collection at the Hay Library written between 1859 and 1923. Music about Lincoln ranges from popular song to compositions for orchestral performance.”


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Online Primary Sources for American History: African American Newspapers

Dozens of papers from many states are online; the earliest issues date from 1850. Another great guide is here, courtesy of Marist College.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and U.S. Presidents

To read hundreds of mentions of Dr King by presidents going back to July 5, 1962, please come here. You will find messages, proclamations, press conferences, statements, remarks, and YouTube videos.

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Christmas With Samuel Pepys

He can be called by many names and guises: one of the great diarists whose eyewitness accounts of the Great Plague and the London Fire of 1666 are still gripping today; the father of the modern British navy; avid collector of books and manuscripts, among his other accomplishments. Dip into his diary to see how he celebrated/observed Christmas.

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Christmas With Lewis and Clark

From the journals (these are excerpts, so just go to the linked date for the full entry) kept on the expedition:

December 25, 1803

“Christmas 25th Decr: : I was wakened by a Christmas discharge 〈of〉 found that Some of the party had got Drunk 〈2 fought,〉  the men frolicked and hunted all day, Snow this morning, Ice run all day, Several Turkey Killed Shields returned with a cheese & 4 lb butter, Three Indians Come to day to take Christmas with us….” (Journal of William Clark)

December 25, 1804

“I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoons from the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 Cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some men went out to hunt & the Others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P, M, when the frolick ended &c. ” (Journal of William Clark)

Tuesday 25th Decr. 1804.    cloudy.    we fired the Swivels at day break & each man fired one round.    our officers Gave the party a drink of Taffee.    we had the Best to eat that could be had, & continued firing dancing & frolicking dureing the whole day.” (Journal of John Ordway)

“Tuesday 25th.    The morning was ushered in by two discharges of a swivel, and a round of small arms by the whole corps. Captain Clarke then presented to each man a glass of brandy, and we hoisted the American flag in the garrison, and its first waving in fort Mandan was celebrated with another glass.— The men then cleared out one of the rooms and commenced dancing.” (Journal of Patrick Gass)

“Tuesday 25th Decr. 1804.  we ushred in the morning with a discharge of the Swivvel, and one round of Small arms of all the party.    then another from the Swivel.    then Capt. Clark presented a glass of brandy to each man of the party.    we hoisted the american flag and each man had another Glass of brandy” (Journal of Joseph Whitehouse)

December 25, 1805

“Our Diner to day Consisted of pore Elk boiled, Spilt [spoiled] fish & Some roots, a bad Christmass diner   worm Day” (Journal of William Clark)

“they divided out the last of their tobacco among the men that used and the rest they gave each a Silk hankerchief, as a Christmast gift, to keep us in remembrence of it as we have no ardent Spirits, but are all in good health which we esteem more than all the ardent Spirits in the world.” (Journal of  John Ordway)

” Our living is not very good; meat is in plenty, but of an ordinary quality, as the elk are poor in this part of the country. We have no kind of provisions but meat, and we are without salt to season that.” (John of Patrick Gass)

“We saluted our officers, by each of our party firing off his gun at day break in honor to the day (Christmass[)]” (Journal of Joseph Whitehouse)

As can be seen from the above, Lewis and Clark were not the only diarists on this expedition; you can read biographies of the other writers here.

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Today in History: The Russian Revolution Begins

The Russian Revolution celebrates its centennial today. Here are some online primary sources that can help you:

Eyewitness accounts: visitors to Soviet Russia, 1917-1928 from the larger the Russian Revolution and Britain, 1917-1928 (from the University of Warwick);

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1918. Russia; FRUS, 1919. Russia; Subsequent volumes of FRUS (US Department of State). Consult this informative article on the lack of American material on events in Russia during this time: No Little Historic Value: The Records of Department of State Posts in Revolutionary Russia (Prologue, 40(#1, Spring 2008).

Lenin’s Collected Works (including letters; English translation. Available through Marxist Internet Archives.)

The October Revolution (from the Marxist Internet Archives. Includes timeline, primary sources, biographies, and a glossary

Russian Revolution, 1917-1922 (Thousands of newspaper articles from Chronicling America)

Photograohs can also be used as primary sources as long as they, too, are subject to the strict review of historical vetting. Blood Stained Russia (1918) by Donald C Thompson, despite its lurid title, supplied numerous dated photographs grouped around certain themes. Read his Donald Thompson in Russia (1918), a series of letters home to his wife, Dot. Just reading his introduction to this work can leave you breathless, even if some of it is an exaggeration.


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Today in History – The Beginning of the Protestant Reformation

Whether Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral or simply delivered them to his archbishop is a matter of conjecture, but what is indisputable is that his public condemnation of numerous, Papal transgressions, spawned a movement of rebellion whose legacies still reverberate to this day. While not the first wave of protests (hence “protestant”) against the Catholic Church (look at the Waldensian movement and a little later the Hussite movement), this particular iteration proved long-lasting, thanks in no small part to the burgeoning role of the printing press that had been introduced in the West in 1451.

This post will not present a recapitulation of this era. Please come here to read about the best books on the Reformation. (Roland Bainton’s work still stands the test of time, and Parker’s work on Calvin removes much of the heated and opinionated rhetoric associated with this towering intellect.) For an online examination of those turbulent times, please read this entry from Spartacus Educational – Protestant Reformation. Another site worth visiting, and containing audio/video files as well, is this one from Deutsche Welle.

The standard edition of the collected works of Martin Luther, short-handed as WA (Weimerer Ausgabe), took over forty years to compile, are in 121 volumes, and in German; there is an multi-volume selected edition of his works in English. Online works by Luther can be found at: Christian Classics Ethereal Library (hundreds of authors) and Project Wittenberg (along with other contemporary authors). To get an insight into this person, recommended readings include:His Table Talk (conversations with Luther) and Luther’s Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters.

John Calvin’s challenging works were published in 59 volumes as Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omni; English versions can be found in the CCEL where the commentaries alone comprise 46 volumes. A contemporary document on the man can be found in Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin; compiled from the narrative of Theodore Beza…

Other Reformation authors can be found here and here.

Post-Reformation Digital Library is an amazing site holding hundreds, if not thousands of digital copies of primary writings.

From the Reformation to the Thirty Years’ War contains valuable primary sources.
















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