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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library

U.S. History Spring Research Paper: Primary Sources

Primary Sources

Sources created by those who lived it

Any document, image, or artifact created at the time of the topic being researched is a primary source. Examples include: eyewitness accounts, autobiographies and memoirs, diaries, letters, speeches, reports, newspapers, household and day-to-day objects, clothing, works of art, architecture, and photographs.

Please note: primary source documents are a reflection of the time and culture in which they were created and may contain language or images that are considered offensive today.

Find Primary Sources in RhinoCat Library Catalog

To find primary source material in books/ebooks and reference books/ebooks, follow these tips:

To find primary sources by or about a person relevant to your topic in our catalog

  • Do an Author search using the name of a person relevant to your topic to find books, letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies written by that person.
  • Do an Author search using the name of the United States President in office at the time to find Public Papers, as well as books, letters, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies.
  • Do a Keyword search of your person's name to identify writings, interviews, speeches in anthologies and collections.
  • Keywords you can combine with your topic or person's name include speeches, diaries, interviews, and correspondence. For example:
    • Progressive era speeches  
    • Theodore Roosevelt correspondence

To find primary sources on your topic in our catalog

  • Paste the following exact word string into the RhinoCat basic keyword search box below:
    su,wrdl: personal narratives or su,wrdl: sources or su,wrdl: diaries and kw,phr: xxxxx
    • Substitute your broad topic or topic phrase for xxxxx

Search RhinoCat 


If you have any questions,
see Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti
OR email us at
We're here to help!

Original Primary Source Magazines in the Library


The Library has the following original journals shelved at the end of the Reference collection

Thank you for handling these fragile bound volumes with care! Want a copy of an article or advertisement? Please take a picture using your smartphone.

Statistics and Polls

The Gallup Poll : public opinion, 1935-1971. Ref HN90 .P8 G35   3 vols

Historical statistics of the United States: from earliest times to the present [colonial times to 1970]. eBook on the U.S. Census website.

Presidential elections, 1789-2004. Ref JK524 .P6783 2005 

Public opinion, 1935-1946 / edited by Hadley Cantril. eBook on the website, Internet Archive.

This is who we were Decades series. Taft Subscription Database: Salem History. "Each volume combines census and other government data with personal narrative, advertisements, clippings, and so forth to provide a portrait of a decade" (Library Journal). Volumes cover decades from 1880 - 2000; the volume for the 1930s is titled A companion to the 1940 census

Vital statistics on the presidency : Washington to Clinton. Ref JK518 .R34 1996.

Find Primary Sources on the Internet

The Black Past: Remembered & Reclaimed The "Google" of African American history includes an online encyclopedia, primary sources, and much more.

Digital History An extensive documents collection is part of this award-winning American history website from the College of Education at the University of Houston.

Digital Public Library of America: Primary Source Sets A vast collection of free content from American libraries, archives, and museums.  

Discovering American Women's History Online Digital collections of primary source materials browseable by subject, place, time period, and source type.

Finding Primary Sources is the launch page to the vast collection of American history primary source content available online at the Library of Congress.

History Central: Primary Source Documents in American History 

LIFE Magazine Archive Published from late Nov 1936 to 1972, LIFE was "the photographic magazine that chronicled the 20th century."

The New York Times TimesMachine Over 150 years of New York Times journalism, as it originally appeared. From Volume 1, Number 1 (1851) to 2002. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit of digital subscribers so be sure to sign up here to access the library's digital NYT account.

Presidential Libraries and Museums offer digital document archives and museums full of important Presidential artifacts from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama.

Social History for Every Classroom a database of primary documents, classroom activities, and other teaching materials in U.S. history. Keyword search or browse by theme (Civil Rights and Citizenship, Immigration and Migration, Labor activism, etc) or by historical era. 


Primary Source eBook Only Search

Use this search to find only ebooks containing primary sources
that can be accessed via our library catalog.

Select Primary Source Type:
There are three subject headings that indicate primary sources:
Sources, Personal Narratives, and Diaries.
Each drop down will give different results, so try them all!

Type of search?

Find Primary Sources in Online Subscription Databases

Important tips for searching for primary sources in historical news / periodical databases:

  • Always limit your search to the date range relevant to your topic.
  • Try searching terms, phrases, etc. that were commonly used at the time in relation to your topic.
  • Look for document-type limiters that may improve your results, such as article, commentary, editorial, front page / cover story, letter to the editor, etc.

History Databases Containing Primary Sources



PLEASE NOTE: Do not copy and paste complete citations from electronic sources. NoodleTools cannot generate footnotes from copied and pasted citations.


For a new citation, click on +New Source.

To cite a primary source, first choose the NoodleTools option that best describes where you found it:

  • Database = a document found in a Taft Subscription Database such as the New York Times, 1851-2014 or Annals of American History.

    • You must provide the permanent URL for your source. Look for terms such as permalink, persistent link, durable link, "Get link", or Cite.

  • Website = a document on a website found through a search engine such as Google or the list of websites on this course guide.

Next, determine what kind of primary source you are citing:

  • Look at the list of options in NoodleTools. Is it a newspaper article, a speech, a letter, or another item listed? If so, choose that item type.

  • If you are not sure, you can use Anthology / Collection which enables you to cite a source found within another source.

You can also email Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti and we'll help you figure it out.