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Primary Sources on Nineteenth Century America


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Digital Manuscript Collections

19th Century Microfilm, A-Z

The library has an extensive collection of microfilm. If you'd like to know about our micro-format collections dealing with 19th century American browse the list below, or contact

  • A People at War: from the Civil War Manuscript Holdings of the Library of Congress [microfilm]. Letters, diaries and personal papers published for the first time, the written record of the silent majority of the Civil War--the civilians, professionals, camp followers, and ordinary soldiers: participants and observers, male and female, black and white. Guide available.
  • Africans in the New World, 1493-1834 [microfilm]. Serves as an introduction to the history of Africans in the Americas, from the first direct shipment of slaves across the Atlantic in 1518, to the last known shipment to Cuba in 1864. It presents a variety of perspectives, including those of slave merchants, plantation owners, merchants, ship's captain's, slaves and abolitionists. The project encompasses the African experience in both North and South America, from Argentina and Brazil, to Canada and the USA. The Caribbean is also very well represented. Digital guide.
  • American Immigrant Autobiographies [microfilm].The initial part of this series features over 50 unpublished autobiographical manuscripts from the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Spanning the period from the late 19th century to the 1960s and representing the major ethnic groups of Eastern and Southern Europe, these autobiographical writings provide details on immigrant attitudes on such topics as politics, ethnic solidarity, cultural adaptation, and the roles of the sexes. Print Guide 4106.
  • American Negro Historical Society collection, 1790-1905 [microfilm]. Founded in 1897, the American Negro Historical Society collected and preserved relevant materials from a myriad of organizations and individuals. The collection includes letters, minutes, reports, papers, newspaper clippings, financial records, and portraits of prominent black leaders; along with miscellaneous printed materials. Guide available.
  • American Women's Diaries, [microfilm]. New England Diaries of eight middle- and upper-class women, from 1789 to 1915. These candid works offer firsthand accounts of the lives, contributions, and innermost thoughts of women from the colonial period through the turn of the 20th century. Researchers gain new perspectives on a myriad of topics including daily life and the struggle to survive, religion, childbirth and child rearing, education, social issues, war and peace, and personal strengths of women from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds. Guide available.
  • American women's diaries, Southern [microfilm]. Diaries of 37 women in the American South.  These candid works offer firsthand accounts of the lives, contributions, and innermost thoughts of women from the colonial period through the turn of the 20th century. Researchers gain new perspectives on a myriad of topics including daily life and the struggle to survive, religion, childbirth and child rearing, education, social issues, war and peace, and personal strengths of women from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds. Guide available.
  • Annuals / Journals of Black Baptist (National) Conventions in America [microfilm]. This collection includes the annual reports of several African-American Baptist conventions, dating from 1842-1974.
  • Anti-slavery Collection: 18th - 19th Centuries, Society of Friends [microfilm]. Originally from the Library of the Society of Friends, this collection contains anti-slavery tracts, pamphlets, and journals pertaining to the abolition movement for ending the African slave trade. Printed guide 1283.
  • Anti-slavery Propaganda in the Oberlin College Library, 1795-1880  [microfilm]. Printed guide 1363.
  • Barred and Disallowed Case Files of the Southern Claims Commission, 1871-1880 [microfiche].
  • Black Abolitionist papers, 1830-1865 [microfilm]. The collection, gathered from over 100 libraries, contains writings, speeches, correspondence, other manuscripts and printed materials of African-Americans involved in the anti-slavery movement. Topics covered are: Northern/Southern separatism within the church; black colonization and emigration; black political action; church support of black educational institutions; and black intellectual and social life. Printed guide 3136.
  • Black Academy of Arts and Letters [microfilm]. Microfilmed collection of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters (BALL), which recognized artistic achievements by African Americans. This collection reproduces their complete records. The BAAL was founded in Boston in 1969. In its brief history, the BAAL held three annual meetings in 1970, 1971, and 1972. At these events, the academy enrolled such honorees as W.E.B. DuBois, Lena Horne, and Paul Robeson. Microfilmed from collections in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. Print guide 4524.
  • Boyd B. Stutler Collection of John Brown Papers [microfilm]. John Brown (1800 – 1859) was an American abolitionist, the first white abolitionist to advocate and to practice guerrilla warfare as a means to the abolition of slavery. His attempt to start a slave rebellion in 1859 electrified the nation. Brown's subsequent capture by federal forces commanded by Robert E. Lee, his trial for treason to the state of Virginia, and his execution by hanging were an important part of the origins of the American Civil War. Digital Guide.
  • Center for Research Libraries (CRL) Black Studies [online index]. Provides an overview of CRL print and microform collections in black studies. Collections include American Colonization Society records,1792-1965; American Missionary Association archives; George Washington Carver papers, 1860-1975 ; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People papers; Selection of titles from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. United Church Board for Homeland Ministries Race Relations Department archives,1943-1970; United Negro College Fund archives; records of the U.S. Committee on Fair Employment Practices.
  • Chalmers collection: Philadelphia George Chalmers (1742-1825) [microfilm]. Papers of British historian, civil servant and author, George Chalmers. He was a lawyer in Baltimore until the American Revolutionary War. After he returned to England, his positions included chief clerk at the Office for Trade in London and colonial agent for the Bahamas. He wrote biographies, poetry and pamphlets on the American colonies and collected a large library of books and manuscripts. The collection consists of documents relating to the American colonies, writings and correspondence. Documents include materials on Canada, the Carolinas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Florida, and Indians in North America. Guide available.
  • Charlotte Eugenia (Hawkins) Brown, 1883-1961 : papers 1900-1961 [microfilm]. Papers of North Carolina educator Charlotte Hawkins Brown. Print guide 3703.
  • Cherokee Nation papers [microfilm]. Reproduction of the Cherokee Nation papers held by the University of Oklahoma Libraries' Western History Collections. The papers contain the official documents and records of the former Cherokee Nation, as well as the personal papers of the families of James Madison Bell, Stand Watie, John Rollin Ridge, and Elias C. Boudinot. The papers date from 1830-1907. Guide available.
  • Church Missionary Society Archive [microfilm]. Collection held at the CMS (Church Missionary Society) Headquarters in London and the University of Birmingham Library. Print guide 3309.
  • Confederate imprints, 1861-1865 [microfilm, 4286]. This is a 144 reel microfilm set published by Research Publications which attempted to microfilm all of the 6894 entries listed in the following two bibliographies: Crandall, Marjorie Lyle. Confederate Imprints: a Check List Based Principally on the Collection of the Boston Athenaeum. Boston: Boston Athenaeum, 1955. 2 vols. Harwell, Richard. More Confederate Imprints. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1957.
  • Confederate military manuscripts [microfilm]. This collection includes manuscripts mostly from Virginia and Louisiana. Guide available.
  • County Histories of the Old Northwest, Series III, Indiana [microfilm]. Mostly 19th century records from local governments in Indiana. The Fort Wayne Public Library, the Indiana State Library and others served as the basis for this collection. Thirteen cities and regions are covered in 262 titles.
  • Intercepted Japanese messages: Operation MAGIC [microfilm]. Operation Magic was the cryptonym given to United States efforts to break Japanese military and diplomatic codes during World War II. The United States Army Signals Intelligence Section (SIS) and the Navy Communication Special Unit worked in tandem to monitor, intercept, decode, and translate Japanese messages. Intelligence information gathered from the messages was sent to military command at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The ability to decipher and read Japanese communications was one of the key components of the Allied victory in the Pacific. Guide available.
  • John Brown, Junior, papers [microfilm]. Papers of abolitionist John Brown. Printed guide 1297.
  • Letters received by the Attorney General, 1809-1870. Southern Law and Order [microfilm]. Online guide.
  • Letters received by the Attorney General, 1871-1884 [microfilm]. Southern law and order Papers from the antebellum era reveal the administration of justice and political preferment. Postwar material documents the administration of the southern states under Radical Reconstruction, when civil rights acts and other initiatives were enforced by the federal courts in conjunction with the War Department. Reporting from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia, the federal lawmen of Southern Law and Order give voice to the beliefs and passions of the 19th century South. Guide available.
  • Letters Received by the Secretary of the Nacy from Commanding Officers of Squadrons, 1841-1886: African Squadron, 1843-1861. [Record group 45] [microfilm]. Records regarding the enforcement of banning the slave trade.
  • Mother Bethel AME Church, 1760-1972 [microfilm]. Papers from the holdings of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Historical Museum. Online Guide. 
  • New England Women and their Families in the 18th and 19th centuries [microfilm]. The collection includes manuscripts on the New England family and women's history and covers material from a variety of social classes and station. It contains personal papers, letter, and diaries which provides information on everyday life in 18th and 19th century New England, especially the considerable influence New England women had on American society and how the changes affected individual families. Guide available.
  • Office of Indian Trade, Creek Factory Records, 1795-1821 [microfilm]. Government-operated posts for trade with the Indians, known as factories, began operation, 1795, under the immediate supervision of the Secretary of War. Office of Indian Trade established in the War Department by an act of April 21, 1806, to administer the factories. The Office of Indian Trade was abolished and the factories closed, authorized by an act of May 6, 1822. Last Supervisor of Indian Trade became the first head of the Office of Indian Affairs, March 11, 1824.
  • Papers of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton [microfilm]. The papers of Sir Thomas Fowell-Buxton, abolitionist and reformer, are crucial to the study of the abolition of slavery. In 1822, Buxton succeeded William Wilberforce as leader of Great Britain's anti-slavery movement. He was concerned with the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, and with the suppression of slave trade on the high seas. He joined Wilberforce and others in founding the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1823. This collection provides valuable material for the examination of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, the colonization and "Christianization" of Africa and the Empire, and the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary history of the abolitionist movement. Print guide 3139.
  • Papers of Sophonisba P. Breckinridge [microfilm]. Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge (1866-1948) received a Ph.M. degree from the University of Chicago in 1897 and a Ph.D. in political science and economics in 1901. In 1904 she became the first woman to receive the J.D. degree from the University. She also worked at the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, and was instrumental in the merger of the school with the University to form the School of Social Service Administration in 1920. Her teaching, research, and publications helped to define social work as a profession and mold it into an academic discipline. Digital guide.
  • Papers, 1883-1901 (Indian Rights Association) [microfilm]. The Indian Rights Association (IRA) was an American social activist group dedicated to the well being and acculturation of Native Americans. Founded in Philadelphia in 1882, the Indian Rights Associations (IRA) was highly influential in American Indian policy through the 1930's and remained involved as an organization until 1994. The organization's initial stated objective was to "bring about the complete civilization of the Indians and their admission to citizenship." 19th and 20th Century groups such as the Indian Rights Association considered themselves the "friends of the Indian" but, by modern standards, had little understanding of the cultural patterns and needs of Native Americans. Although the IRA and related groups were well intentioned and some of their activities were beneficial, many policies they helped enact were destructive to Indian people in the long term. Guide available.
  • Population schedules of the eighth census of the United States, 1860. Georgia. [microfilm]. Census records for the state of Georgia, with details per each county.
  • Race, slavery, and free blacks: petitions to southern legislatures, 1777-1867, Race and Slavery Petitions Project[microform]. Collection of approximately 18,500 petitions to state legislatures and county courts. Series 1, Legislative Petitions, contains 2,971 petitions to state legislatures, primarily from 7 states. The microform edition includes virtually all extant legislative petitions on the subject of race, slavery and free blacks in the South,1777-1867. Print guide 4126.
  • Race, slavery, and free blacks: Series II, Petitions to southern county courts, 1775-1867 [microform].
  • Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War [microfilm]. Ante-bellum plantations had far-reaching impact on both the American South and the nation and on the political, economic, and cultural life of the South. Plantation records include journals, crop books, account books, medical records, slave lists relating to ante-bellum southern plantations from the American Revolution through the Civil War, business operations, family affairs, social and cultural life, and relations between slaves and masters. Family members kept personal diaries and corresponded extensively with friend and relatives both near and far. Digital guide.
  • Records of Southern Antebellum Plantations [ microfilm]. Large collection of plantation records from southern archives. Series A – K. Online guide.
  • Records of Southern Plantations from Emancipation to the Great Migration [microfilm]. Post-bellum plantaiton records. Online guide.
  • Records of southern plantations from emancipation to the great migration [microfilm]. Postbellum plantation records trace the process of resurrecting agricultural productivity and restoring social stability to the American South. For black Southerners, enduring goals and evolving means the freedpeople's desire for economic independence, social autonomy, and political power was initially met by steely opposition from former masters and other white Southerners. This ranged from determined attempts to reinstate the old regime to sullen acquiescence. Some former slave masters lost control of their land to upstart merchants, fell from prominence, or transferred their capital to newer industrial enterprises. Digital guide.
  • Records of the American Colonization Society [microfilm]. The purpose of the American Colonization Society, founded in 1817, was to help freed slaves emigrate from the United States to Africa, and it was instrumental in establishing the colony of Liberia. Its membership was a mix of both pro- and anti-slavery individuals who believed colonization was the best way to deal with racial problems. The Society achieved limited success in its endeavors prior to the 1860's. After the Civil War and the end of slavery, the Society's activities centered primarily on helping people who wished to emigrate to Liberia and on providing funds for their support after arrival in Africa. In the twentieth century, the Society was concerned chiefly with the support of education in Liberia. Printed Guide 3409.
  • Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Alabama, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870 [microfilm]. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of March 3, 1865. The Bureau supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine. The Bureau also assumed custody of confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, border states, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory. Printed guide 3208.
  • Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Georgia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869  [microfilm]. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, popularly referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established in 1865. Its function was to supervise affairs relating to refugees and former slaves, and to control all lands abandoned or confiscated during the Civil War. The types of activities the Bureau engaged in included establishing schools, hospitals, dispensaries, and camps for the homeless; issuing rations, clothing, and medicine; registering marriages; filing pensions; etc.
  • Records of the Assistant Commissioner for the State of Georgia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1869 [microfilm]. Printed guide 1200.
  • Records of the Cherokee Indian Agency in Tennessee, 1801-1835 [microfilm].This collection contains records of the agency, including its correspondence with officials, private individuals, and chiefs and other members of the Cherokee tribe. Subjects include economic and social conditions, trade and travel, work of missionaries, friction between whites and Cherokee and within the tribe, the treaty of July 8, 1917, and the Cherokee migration westward . It also includes the records of the Cherokee agents as the financial and procurement agent for the War Department in Tennessee and the records of Joseph McMinn, special agent for the removal of the Cherokees.
  • Records of the Commissioner of Claims (Southern Claims Commission), 1871-1880 [microform].
  • Records of the Freedmen's Hospital, 1872-1910 correspondence and memoranda [microfilm]. Reproduces Record Group 48, Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, Records of the Patents and Miscellaneous Division, Records Relating to Hospitals, Schools, and Charitable Institutions, in the custody of the National Archives. Online Guide.
  • Records of the U.S. Colored Troops, Pt. 1 [microfilm]. The Records of U.S. Colored Troops collection includes letters, reports, and papers relating principally to the recruiting of soldiers for Colored Troop service. There are materials related to organization and service of African American units and officers. The name of each soldier and his unit are listed. The documents are arranged chronologically by year, they're under by initial letter of surname of soldier and there under numerically by assigned register number. In addition, there are letters from Army officers, the U.S. Sanitary Commission, surgeons of U.S. Volunteers, and chiefs of bureaus of the War Department reporting on the recruitment, organization, and mustering of African American troops. Personal reports of officers and authorizations from the Adjutant General to raise African American units and correspondence relating to the proceedings of the various examining boards reviewing qualifications of applicants for appointment as commissioned officers are highlighted.
  • Records of the, Office of the Secretary of the Interior relating to the suppression of the African slave trade and Negro colonization 1854-1872 [microfilm]. The collection records relating to the suppression of the slave trade and the colonization of recaptured and free blacks. By Acts of 1807 and 1819, Congress prohibited the importation of slaves into the United States and the act of 1819 authorized the President to employ U.S. armed vessels to seize any ships or vessels of the United States engaged in slave trade, also to return the captured Africans to Africa and to appoint agents on the coast of Africa to receive the returned Africans. The records include communications relating to colonization in Liberia, British Honduras, the Danish West Indies, and Haiti; Letters regarding the capture of slave ships and the suppression of the slave trade; communications from the president, 1861-1865; and prosecutions for slave smuggling. Guide available.
  • Records Relating to the Slave Trade at Liverpool Record Office [microfilm]. Online guide.
  • Slavery and abolition of the slave trade, 1700-1890 : manuscript collection [microfilm] An assortment of letters, bills of sale, passes, certificates of registry, manumission papers, several wills, and speeches relating to slavery and its abolition, primarily in the Anglo-American colonies and the United States. Included are letters discussing the famous slave revolt aboard the Amistad; a two-page list of slaves, with names and ages, from an 1824 Virginia will; receipts for the schooling of black children; a broadside advertising an 1839 lecture by former slave Moses Roper; legal papers from various court cases concerning slaves; documents relating to Liberia and several colonization societies, and a variety of similar documents. Printed Guide 4258.
  • Slavery Tracts and Pamphlets from the West India Collection [microfilm]. Committee Printed guide 1358.
  • State Slavery Statutes [microfilm]. Printed guide 1568.
  • The Arthur A. Schomburg papers [microfilm]. The Arthur A. Schomburg Papers (1874-1938) reflect his activities as researcher, writer, collector, and curator. The collection consists of correspondence, published and unpublished writings, articles about Schomburg and the Negro Collection at the 135th Street Branch, subject and reference files, and material relating to his many speaking engagements and activities in the community and on behalf of the collection. The bulk of the papers date from 1932 to his death in 1938. The material from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries consists of transcriptions of historical documents and newspaper articles. Digital guide.
  • The Charles E. Feinberg collection of the papers of Walt Whitman (in part), 1834-1919
  • The Duff Green papers in the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina Library [microfilm]. Duff Green was a journalist, politician, and industrial promoter. His papers include letters, business papers, clippings, maps, and thirty-four manuscript volumes. The letters (1810-1902) largely concern his business activities. The manuscript volumes contain letters, notebooks, correspondence records, account books, survey data, and records of the various companies owned by Green. Guide available.
  • The Estlin Papers, 1840-1884 [microfilm]. Papers covering the activities of J. B. Estlin and his daughter Mary in supporting the British and American anti-slavery movements. Printed guide 319.
  • The Exploration and Colonization of Africa (1794-1844) [microfilm]. British government documents related to African colonization from the early 19th century. Printed Guide 3194.
  • The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company: letters received by commissioners, 1870-1914 [microfilm]. Reproduces the records of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, a savings bank chartered by Congress in early 1865 for the benefit of ex-slaves. In an effort to protect the interests of depositors and their heirs in the event of a depositor's death, the bank collected a substantial amount of detailed information about each depositor and his or her family. While most of the surviving records relate to the bank and its collapse, they are still a useful source for genealogical data concerning African American families for the period following the Civil War. Guide available.
  • The Henry Clay Warmoth papers in the Southern Historical Collection of the University of North Carolina Library [microfilm]. Henry Clay Warmoth (1842-1931) was an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, Reconstruction Governor of Louisiana, owner of Magnolia Plantation, railroad investor, and Republican politician. The 82 volumes includes scrapbooks and diaries dated 1863-1867 and 1922-1931, plantation journals, slave records, and plantation account books. Guide available.
  • The Isaac McCoy papers, 1808-1874, Kansas, [microfilm].The papers are concerned almost entirely with Indian missions, Indian removal, and related matters. Missionary duties at the station on the Wabash, at Fort Wayne and the missions on the St. Joseph and Grand rivers are detailed. After McCoy established himself in Kansas the papers continue to illustrate the problems that early missions and missionaries were compelled to contend with. Online guide.
  • The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony [microfilm]. The collection includes manuscript holdings of more than two hundred libraries and private collectors, and printed matter from approximately 700 periodicals. After the Civil War, Stanton and Anthony sought federal protection of women's right to vote through a constitutional amendment. They entered the political arena, pressing Congress, state, legislatures, parties, and the president for action on their demands, and founded the movement for women's political equality in the 19th century. The collection covers the periods 1831 through 1906 and contains more than 14,000 documents such as legislative testimony, correspondence, diaries, speeches, accounts of meetings, calls to action, articles, legal papers and financial papers. Guide available.
  • The papers of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, 1782-1878 [microfilm].The collection documents Schoolcraft's career as glass manufacturer in Vermont and New Hampshire. Mineralogy, geology and ethnolgy are the subjects documented throughout the collection. Schoolcraft's writings include material on American Indians, his history, language, mythology, maxims, characteristics, and potential. He also documented the past and future roles of the federal government and the Indian, Indian hieroglyphics and picture writing, and religion as practiced by the Indians, and Christian missionary work among the tribes.
  • The Papers of Pierce Butler (1744-1822) and successors from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania [microfilm].This collection provides documentation concerning the running of the South Carolina and Georgia estates of the Butler family from 1786 to 1885. As a series of plantation records they provide a total overview of the business from the Revolutionary period, through the Civil War, to the 1880's. Digital guide.
  • The Peter Force collection [microfilm]. Force's major achievement was as an editor and collector of historical material. He published four volumes of rare pamphlets, Tracts and Other Papers, Relating Principally to the Origin, Settlement and Progress of the Colonies in North America (1834-1836). The remainder of his career he spent on his monumental work, the American Archives. Force projected a 20-volume series of primary sources of American history from the seventeenth century to 1789.
  • The Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Anti-slavery collection, 1795-1880 [microfilm] Includes correspondence of the secretaries of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (19th century) and the Aborigines Protection Society (19th century). Printed guide 3063.
  • The Thomas Penn papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1728-1832 [microfilm].The Papers are in two series: The first three rolls contain the letter books of Thomas Penn. The second series is chiefly letters to Penn originally collected in the Penn Papers or added from other collections in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Within each series, the letters are chronologically arranged, and each of the letter books also provides its own index of correspondents. Guide available.
  • George Bird Grinnell papers [microfilm]. This collection contains letterbooks, correspondence, and subject files, including photographs and writings, which document Grinnell's interest in Native Americans of the West; his role in the American conservation movement; his editorship of Forest and Stream magazine; and his participation in the National Audubon Society, Boone and Crockett Club, American Game Protective and Propagation Association, and National Parks Association.
  • History of Women [microfilm 1588]. The History of Women Collection is a comprehensive collection (1247 reels) of literature by and about American and European from the 1700s through 1920. The microfilm collection consists of books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts and photographs. Included in the collection are resources on such topics as birth control, education, the professions, women's rights, women's organizations, social reform, and the role of women in the settling of the American West. The History of Women collection is based primarily on works found in the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, located at Radcliffe College, and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. Digital guide.