In 1991, Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman embarked on a mission to create one of the most important repositories of historical American documents in the country. Today, the Gilder Lehrman Collection contains more than seventy-five thousand items documenting the political, social, and economic history of the United States. These materials range from iconic historical treasures, such as the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Emancipation Proclamation, to personal letters that tell the stories of citizen-soldiers and their families. Chronologically, the Collection ranges from 1493 to the end of the twentieth century. The main strengths lie in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in the study of slavery and abolition. We have significant holdings across the twentieth century, especially in World War II and civil rights history, and we are actively acquiring additional materials from this period.  

With a wide range of primary sources, the Gilder Lehrman Collection is a valuable resource for educators, students, and scholars. It has been the basis for joint exhibitions and educational projects with Mount Vernon, Monticello, the Huntington Library, the National Constitution Center, the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park and Museum, the New-York Historical Society, the Morgan Library & Museum, the American Library Association, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Of his first encounter with the Gilder Lehrman Collection several years ago, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Brion Davis wrote: “In the forty-odd years I had devoted to historical research . . . I had never encountered such a breathtaking single collection.”

 

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American History, 1493-1945

A subscription-based database that provides immediate access to images of more than 50,000 documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection and is available at schools, libraries, and colleges around the world