Featured Primary Sources

The First Age of Reform

Nothing can enrich and enliven our understanding of the nation’s past, or dispel apathy about it, more powerfully than primary sources. The primary sources below open up a variety of viewpoints and have been chosen by master teachers specifically for use in the classroom. Affiliate School members can print a packet that includes an image of the document, photograph, or other resource, a transcript where applicable, text to place the document in historical context, and document-based questions. In addition, you may want to search the Gilder Lehrman Collection itself for other resources to enrich your lessons.

“A mirror for the intemperate” broadside, Boston, ca. 1830 (Gilder Lehrman C

A Mirror for the Intemperate, ca. 1830

Creator: Henry Bowen Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
[Abstinence pledge card], September 23, 1842 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)

Abstinence pledge card, 1842

Creator: Mathew Theobald Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Horace Greeley to Elizabeth Oakes Smith, March 1, 1851 (Gilder Lehrman Colle

Horace Greeley on a woman’s reform newspaper, 1851

Creator: Horace Greeley Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Letters of Lydia Maria Child, 1882

Lydia Maria Child on women’s rights, 1843

Creator: Lydia Maria Child Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:

Temperance movement cartoon: The Drunkard’s Progress, 1826

Creator: John W. Barber Curriculum Subjects: Art Grade Levels:

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

Detail from a Map of the Missouri Compromise

A Founding Father on the Missouri Compromise, 1819

Creator: Rufus King Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833, detail. (GLC)

American Colonization Society membership certificate, 1833

Creator: American Colonization Society Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Frederick Douglass, National Portrait Gallery

Buying Frederick Douglass’s freedom, 1846

Creator: Hugh Auld, Walter Lowrie, and J. Meredith Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
Illustration from Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe sends Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1852

Creator: Harriet Beecher Stowe Curriculum Subjects: Literature Grade Levels:
Abraham Lincoln, speech fragment concerning the abolition of slavery, ca. July 1

Lincoln on abolition in England and the United States, 1858

Creator: Abraham Lincoln Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
The Lowell Offering, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Lowell Mill Girls and the factory system, 1840

Creator: Orestes Brownson and "A Factory Girl" Curriculum Subjects: Economics Grade Levels:
Anne Brown Adams to Alexander Ross,circa 1880s (GLC03007.53)

The struggle for married women’s rights, circa 1880s

Creator: Anne Brown Adams Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels: