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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library

US History: Progressive Era Group Project: 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 and images 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 Online Databases

Important notes for searching for primary sources in 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 at other limiters on the advanced search page that might improve your results, such as article, commentary, editorial, front page / cover story, letter to the editor, etc.

These databases also contain primary source material:

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!

Find Primary Sources in Reference Books / eBooks

American Eras: Industrial Development of the United States, 1878–1899 (American eras primary source series). Ref E169.1 .A47198 2013  v.1 (also an online ebook)

American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change. Ref JV6465 .E53 2013 4 vols (also an online ebook)

Anti-immigration in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Ref  JV6450 .A67 2011  2 vols.

Conflicts in American History: A Documentary Encyclopedia. Ref E174 .C655 2010  8 vols  (also an online ebook; to search the ebook edition, search the Table of Contents using the word Volume and then click on Volume V.)

  • Vol.5The Gilded Age, the Progressive Era and World War I, 1877-1920

Congress Investigates: A Critical and Documentary History. Ref KF4942 .C66 2011 2 vols (also an online ebook)

Defining Documents in American History: the 1900's (1900-1909). Ref E756 .A19 2016  (also an online ebook)

Defining Documents in American History: the 1910's (1910-1919). Ref E761 .A19 2016   (also an online ebook)    

Defining Documents in American History: The Emergence of Modern America (1874-1917). Ref  E661 .E447 2014 (also an online ebook) 

Defining Documents in American History: Immigration and Immigrant Communities (1650-2016). Ref  JV6450 .I46 2017  (also an online ebook) 

Defining Documents in American History: Secrets, Leaks, and Scandals. Ref JF1525.S4 S43 2018  2 vols (also an online ebook)

Development of the Industrial U.S. Reference Library. 2006  4 vols (an online ebook)

Gilded Age and Progressive Era Reference Library. 2007 . 4 vols (an online ebook)

Immigration (American Experience series) / Dennis Wepman. (an online ebook)

The Industrial Revolution: Key Themes and Documents. Ref HC105 .O452 2015 (also an online ebook)

Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed. Ref JK2249 .G767 2008 2 vols (also an online ebook)

Reforming America: A Thematic Encyclopedia and Document Collection of the Progressive Era. Ref E661 .R664 2017 2 vols (also an online ebook)

Technical innovation in American History: an Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Ref T21 .T37 2019. 3 vols (also an online ebook)

U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library. 2006  4 vols . (also an online ebook)

Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection. Ref HQ1410 .W6468 2017  4 vols (also an online ebook)​

Find Primary Sources on the Internet

Digital History (comprehensive U.S. history website from the Univ. of Houston's College of Education; see Documents button above the overview article.)

Digital Public Library of America Primary Source Sets (Primary source collections exploring topics in history, literature, and culture developed by educators)

The Gilded Age and the Progressive Era: A Digital Primary Source Guide (A topical guide to primary source material from U.S. History Scene, a multimedia history education website composed of historians and educators at over fifty universities dedicated to providing students and teachers with easy access to premier digital resources.)

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Documents Library (the archive also includes documents preceding the IWW founding in 1905)

Library of Congress 

Library of Congress U.S. History Primary Source Timeline

Middle Tennessee State University "Teaching with Primary Sources" Resources

Teaching American History Core Document Collections by Era (TAHorg, a project of the Ashbrook Center, Ashland University, is dedicated to supporting students and teachers of U.S. history)

TO SEARCH GOOGLECombine your topic search term(s) with the phrase documents OR "primary sources" 

Google Web Search

Tips for Citing Primary Sources in NoodleTools

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


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

  • Database = You can export citations from many of our databases. If you find a document in a Taft Subscription Database that doesn't have the export feature, you will need to create an original citation.
    • You must provide the permanent URL for your source. Look for any of the following on the page: permalink, persistent link, stable link, durable link, "Get link",Cite, or Citable Link.
  • Website = a document found on the Websites page of the course guide, found through a web directory like SweetSearch or a search engine such as Google. 
  • Print or In Hand = a document found in a book in the library. For example: in a reference book or a secondary source. NOTE: You may be able to cite this source with the ISBN number.

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 see (or email) Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti and we'll help you figure it out.