Library of Congress Primary Source Sets

LOClogoIf you’re a US or World history teacher and are looking for great primary sources, you only have to go as far as the Library of Congress Teacher page. The LOC has so much great stuff, it’s sometimes hard to get out of there.

But I especially love the work the LOC staff has done to create what they call Primary Source Sets. Primary Source Sets are collections of goodies that focus on a particular theme or topic. I’ve added information below for 25 of my favorite sets but be sure to check out the entire list. You also can search the sets by specific state standards.

For each set, you get a downloadable Teacher’s Guide with historical context, instructional suggestions and links to more online resources.  This is exactly the sort of stuff that the newly approved Kansas state standards are asking us to use with our kids. You also get a ton of primary sources and analysis worksheets. It’s a very cool place to find stuff that can engage our students in content and historical thinking.

My favs in alphabetical order:

Abraham Lincoln, 1865Abraham Lincoln
Speeches, correspondence, campaign materials and a map documenting the free and slave states in 1856 chronicle Lincoln’s rise to national prominence.

Group of Indian boys from Dakota territoryAssimilation through Education
Photos, early film footage, federal government reports, cartoons, and maps tell the complex tale of the efforts to assimilate Native Americans through education

Spanish-American baseball guideBaseball: Across a Divided Society
Song sheets, video clips, images, trading cards, and photographs tell the story of how baseball emerged as the American national pastime. Featured primary source items show Americans from different backgrounds and social experiences embracing the sport

Drawing of Muddy JimChildren’s Lives at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Images, film, and books shed light on the ways in which children worked, learned, and played around the year 1900. Especially suitable for early grades

Portrait of a musician U.S. CavalryCivil War Music
Sound files, sheet music, photographs, letters and maps help students better understand the American Civil War through study of the popular song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”

The Foundation of American Government - HintermeisterConstitution
Newspaper articles, notes, and original documents trace the process of drafting and adopting the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Speeches and song lyrics show how later generations used and interpreted the original ideals of the United States

Migrant Agricultural Worker's FamilyDust Bowl Migrations
Photographs, recorded music, and song lyrics document the daily ordeals of rural migrant families from the Great Plains during a decade marked by both the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression

Alice PaulFound Poetry
Using primary source texts on a variety of subjects, students select words to retell the historical content in poetic form

Huexotzinco Codex, 1531Hispanic Exploration in America
Songs, maps, drawings, paintings, written documents and presentations outline the role of Hispanic explorers in the discovery, exploration, and development of America

U.S. Inspectors Examining Eyes of ImmigrantsImmigration Challenges for New Americans
Photographs, maps detailing immigration patterns, official documents, song sheets and streaming audio recount the immigrant experience in America, their reasons for leaving their homelands, and the reactions of established Americans

Photo of a 'Breaker Boy', coal minerThe Industrial Revolution in the United States
Maps, songs, photos, and political cartoons tell the story of the United States’ transition to an industrial nation

Dayton Homecoming, 1909The Inventive Wright Brothers
Wilbur and Orville Wright went from repairing bicycles to inventing the airplane. Photographs, newspapers articles, personal letters and telegrams, and official army documents record their experiences and their experiments

The Englishmen's arrival in VirginiaJamestown
Maps, images, and text tell the story of the first English settlement in North America, and how it came to be regarded in later years

Japanese-Amercian campJapanese American Internment During World War II
Official documents, newspapers, and images offer perspectives on the Japanese American experience of forced relocation to internment camps during World War II

Airshow with a Jim Crow TrailerJim Crow in America
After the Civil War, most Southern states limited the economic and physical freedom of former slaves by enacting laws that came to be called Jim Crow laws. This primary source set presents popular views on, and the causes and effects of these laws

Old sailing shipMaps From The World Digital Library
Explore maps from different cultures and eras to discover diverse perspectives on the world’s geography. All the items in this set are from the World Digital Library, a project that makes available significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world

Booker T. WashingtonThe NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom
The story of America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, told through letters, photographs, maps, and more

Photo of a 'Relief Client'The New Deal
Photographs, posters, oral histories, and music recount how Federal programs sought to end the Great Depression

Cartoon of a man from an Anti-Confederacy cartoonPolitical Cartoons in U.S. History
Political cartoons paired with other historical documents let students explore the ways in which cartoonists try to persuade their audience.

The First Thanksgiving, 1621Thanksgiving
Study photographs, paintings, letters, and official proclamations to discover historical perspectives on American Thanksgiving holiday traditions beginning with the pilgrims who came to North America on the Mayflower

Gunner Nice of the “Devil-Dogs”Veterans’ Stories: The Veterans History Project
The personal stories of American war veterans and civilian workers who supported them, as recorded in interviews, diaries, letters, photographs, and drawings

Daniel Burress, Marines, VietnamVeterans’ Stories: Struggles for Participation
Women and people of color have often had to overcome obstacles in order to participate fully in the U.S. armed forces. Veterans tell their stories through interviews, memoirs, and photographs

President WashingtonWashington, Jefferson, and Lincoln: Three Great Presidents
Images and documents that introduce three important U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Especially suitable for early grades

American progressWestward Expansion: Encounters at a Cultural Crossroads
The expansion of the U.S. westward and the encounters that resulted are documented in photographs, sheet music, maps, letters, oral history, and more

Suffrage Parade, New York CityWomen’s Suffrage
Sound files, sheet music, photographs, letters and maps help students better understand women’s suffrage

About Glenn Wiebe

I work as a social studies specialist at ESSDACK, an educational service center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Before coming to ESSDACK, I taught middle school US History and higher ed social science classes.

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