Featured Primary Sources

Development of the West

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.

“Chicago in Flames,” Harper’s Weekly, October 28, 1871 (Gilder Lehrman Collectio

An eyewitness account of the Great Chicago Fire, 1871

Creator: John R. Chapin Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
Horace Greeley, ca. 1861 (GLC05596.10)

Horace Greeley: “Go West,” 1871

Creator: Horace Greeley Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
George A. Custer, ca. 1865 (GLC04007.02)

Indian Wars: The Battle of Washita, 1868

Creator: George Custer Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Samuel Russell to his mother and sisters, June 10, 1862 (Gilder Lehrman Collecti

On the emigrant trail, 1862

Creator: Samuel Russell Curriculum Subjects: Geography Grade Levels:
Transcript of “O. W. Meier Relates Experience He Had in the Blizzard of 1888”

Recalling the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard of 1888, ca. 1930s

Creator: O. W. Meier Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels:
“High Bluff, Black Buttes,” from The Great West Illustrated by Andrew J. Russell

The Great West Illustrated, 1869

Creator: Andrew J. Russell Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Grade Levels:
William T. Sherman, ca. 1864 (GLC05111.02.1435)

William T. Sherman on the western railroads, 1878

Creator: William T. Sherman Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+

Primary Sources from Other Sub-Eras

"The Protectors of Our Industries," by Bernhard Gillam, February 7, 1883  (LOC)

Anti-corporate cartoons, ca. 1900

Creator: Curriculum Subjects: Art, Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Henry W. Smith, “Texas Expects Every Man to Do His Duty,” February [28], 1836 (G

Politics and the Texas Revolution, 1836

Creator: Henry W. Smith Curriculum Subjects: Government and Civics Grade Levels:
Workingmen’s Party of California, “Chinatown declared a nuisance!” 1880

San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1880

Creator: Workingmen's Party of California Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
“[A Farewell Ode to Emigrants on Their Journey to America],” Hamar, Norway, 1853

Verses on Norwegian emigration to America, 1853

Creator: Thorvald A. Hansen Curriculum Subjects: Foreign Languages, Literature, World History Grade Levels:
America the Beautiful, signed by author Katharine Lee Bates, ca. 1925. (GLC)

“America the Beautiful,” 1893

Creator: Katharine Lee Bates Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: