Digital Resources

These websites — all free and available to the public — offer searchable, digitized primary sources for research into the history of US print culture. Each database offers different resources, however, and students should meet with me to discuss their research plans.


The Capital, digitized by the Ohio State University

A Washington, D.C., newspaper,  The Capital was published from March 12, 1871- Feb. 22, 1880.  Edited by Donn Piatt, a legendary editor at the time, the Capital is a significant resource for the study of federal politics and Reconstruction. The archive includes the newspaper poems of poet Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt.

The Charles Brockden Brown Electronic Archive, University of Central Florida

This archive, hosted by the University of Central Florida, is making available the uncollected writing of Charles Brockden Brown, one of the first professional US novelists and a major figure in understanding early nineteenth-century print culture, the rise of gothic literature, and the politics of the late-Enlightenment in the United States. This archive is particularly important because much of Brown’s writing has never been republished in scholarly editions.

The Cherokee Phoenix, digitized on GALILEO: Georgia Historic Newspapers

The Cherokee Phoenix (ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅᎯ) was published between 1828 and 1834 and within the borders of the Cherokee Nation. It contained news, astronomical and astrological reports, fiction, folk tales, and poetry. It was also published in both the English and the Cherokee languages, with articles appearing side-by-side with their translations.

City Readers, from the New York Society Library

As early as 1789, the Society Library’s librarians noted the coming and going of books between the Library its membership by hand with quill and ink in ledgers, large blank books designed for record keeping. These books, known as charging ledgers, survive today in our institutional archive and tell us who read what and when, bringing the daily lives and interests of a group of New Yorkers into focus. In tracking the movement of books, circulation records also add considerably to the history of the Library’s collections. Digital access is currently available for the first two of the Library’s surviving charging ledgers, from 1789 to 1792 and 1799 to 1805. In addition to high resolution images of every page of the books themselves, City Readers also offers full transcriptions of the manuscript ledgers. You can look through both ledgers page by page in a book viewer and study the manuscript records yourselves, or click on a page to see complete transcriptions of the borrowing transactions recorded there.

“Civil War Era NC,” from the North Carolina State University History Department

This online database gives users digital access to materials housed in the permanent collection at North Carolina State University. Users can search within three periods: prewar, during the war, and postwar. The site also contains scholarly resources.

Documenting the American South, from the University of Virginia

Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs.

Founders Online, a project of the National Archives

This database includes more than 176,000 fully searchable and annotated letters by and to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.

The Freedom’s Journal, digitized by the Wisconsin Historical Society

The Freedom’s Journal was the first African American newspaper published in the United States. It appeared between 1827 and 1829, and it contained letters to the editor, news, history, fiction, poetry, advertisements, and more.

Google Books Advanced Search, from Google

As part of a massive digitization project, Google has scanned books from university libraries around the world. These books are fully searchable by author, publisher, date, keyword, and more. For copyright reasons, searches for books published before 1922 will be most successful.

The Hathi Trust Digital Library

The Hathi Trust provides long-term preservation and access services for public domain and in copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house partner institution initiatives.

The Liberator, at the Fair Use Repository

This link provides access to issues of The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper published in Boston by William Lloyd Garrison. The indexing is incomplete, but can be useful for particular searches (i.e., for searching the newspaper’s reaction to David Walker’s Appeal.)

The Making of America, from Cornell University and the University of Michigan

The Making of America Collection is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through Reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. This site provides access to 267 monograph volumes and over 100,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints.

The Mathew Carey Papers, 1785-1859, from the American Antiquarian Society

This database collects the account books — in manuscript form — of publisher Mathew Carey. The ASS offers the following description of Carey: “He came to the United States in 1784 after involvement in Irish revolutionary activities and took up his trade as a printer, publishing the Pennsylvania Herald and the periodical, The American Museum. His book publishing ventures prospered and his firm was a leader in American printing and publishing in the period 1795 to 1835. Carey was an active proponent of the protective tariff, as well as an ardent champion of oppressed minorities in Europe, especially after his retirement from business in 1821. His business was thereafter conducted by his son, Henry C. Carey (1793-1879).” The database is searchable by name, or browseable by page. Be careful here, however. Carey published Susana Rowson’s popular novel, Charlotte Temple (1791/1794), but all records of that novel are cataloged by the name “Rowson, William,” because financial matters were conducted in the name of the author’s husband.

Melville’s Marginalia,  eds. Steven Olsen-Smith, Peter Norberg, and Dennis C. Marnon

Melville’s Marginalia Online is an electronic catalog of books owned and borrowed by US author Herman Melville, and a digital edition of marked and annotated books that survive from his library.

The 1925 Virtual Newsstand, by David Earle, University of West Florida

This is an ongoing class project led by Professor David M. Earle at the University of West Florida. The Web site allows users to browse a hypothetical newsstand from 1925, and it includes extensive information about each publication.

The North American Imprints Program, from the American Antiquarian Society

The North American Imprints Program combines and corrects older bibliographies to create a complete list of known imprints published in British North America and the early United States. These are bibliographic listings. To actually get access to copies of these texts, a good starting place will be the Early American Imprints databases (available through the NDSU library). NAIP can answer important questions, though. For instance, NAIP can answer questions about how many editions a particular book went through, over how many years.

The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, at the American Philosophical Society

All of the papers available on this website were collected and edited by a team of scholars at Yale University beginning in 1954. The papers can be browsed by date or name, or they can be searched by keyword.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture, by Stephen Railton, University of Virginia

Stephen Railton’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture is a digital, archival project that reproduces materials related to Stowe’s novel — from illustrations to minstrel show ephemera to reviews in magazines. This is a good starting place for research on Stowe, slavery, nineteenth-century performance culture, or visual culture.

Wilmington Race Riot Commission Report, by the State of North Carolina

In 2006, the state of North Carolina published a complete report of the Wilmington insurrection, which was called at the time a “race riot.” This resource is particularly useful to students working with Charles W. Chesnutt’s novel, The Marrow of Tradition, which deals extensively with this incident.

What Middletown Read, Ball State University

“What Middletown Read” compiles the records of the Muncie, Indiana, public library in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By cross-referencing the borrowing records with census data, researchers using this database are able to track a book and its borrowers (along metrics of age, gender, race, occupation, and social class). Researchers can also follow networks of books and readers: Who was reading Melville? What were Melville readers also reading?