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Primary Sources

Types of Primary Sources

There is a wide range of different types of primary sources. Primary sources are not just limited to printed text. Print is just one of the many different formats possible.

Examples of primary sources
First-hand accounts or original documents Data Creative Works Relics or Artifacts
diaries raw statistical data artwork pottery
speeches collected research data literature clothing and textiles
letters surveys musical score architecture
manuscripts   sculpture furniture
interviews   performance  
maps      
news film footage      
autobiographies      
official records      
photographs      
Newspaper Articles

News and newspaper articles are a unique type of source - sometimes they are primary sources and sometimes secondary sources. There are some important things to consider when deciding whether a newspaper article is a primary source or not:

When was it written?

News articles written during the events they describe are more likely to be considered primary sources versus news articles that recount events from the past - separated by a long interval of time.

What type of article is it?

Editorial or Opinion articles offer commentary and perspective on the news, but are not considered to be first-hand accounts of events.

Examples of Different Primary Sources

Original Document

Act to Establish the Treasury Department, September 2, 1789 from the National Archives

Act to Establish the Treasury Department

This document is also available from the Library of Congress, Statutes at Large: 1st Congress.

Citation: An Act to Establish the Treasury Department; 9/2/1789; Public Law, 1st Congress, 1st Session, Part 1: Treasury Department, Establishment of, September 2, 1789; Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789 - 2013; General Records of the United States Government, Record Group 11; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/an-act-to-establish-the-treasury-department, February 23, 2021]

Letter (Correspondence)

Letter from Horatio Greenough to John Forsyth, February 8, 1840

Letter from Horatio Greenough to John Forsyth

Citation: Letter from Horatio Greenough to John Forsyth; 2/8/1840; Records from the Department of State, Record Group 59. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/2-letter-from-horatio-greenough-to-john-forsyth, February 23, 2021]

Photograph

Abraham Lincoln's First Inauguration, 1861

Abraham Lincoln's First Inauguration

Citation: Abraham Lincoln's First Inauguration; ca. 1861; National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records: Washington, DC; National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 - 2017; Records of the National Park Service, Record Group 79; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/abraham-lincolns-first-inauguration-photo, February 23, 2021]

Newspaper Articles

New-York Gazette, and the Weekly Mercury, October 14, 1776

New-York Gazette, and the Weekly Mercury

Citation: (1776, October 14). New-York Gazette, and the Weekly Mercury (1303), p. [1]. Available from Readex: America's Historical Newspapers: https://infoweb-newsbank-com.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/apps/readex/doc?p=EANX&docref=image/v2%3A14DF7EE55A8D08F7%40EANX-10DF7BC2D05E8188%402370018-10DF7BC2E7820B50%400.

Manifest (Statistical Surveys and Data)

Passenger Arrival Manifest for the Ship Nevada, January 2, 1892

Passenger Arrival Manifest for the Ship Nevada

Citation: Passenger Arrival Manifest for the Ship Nevada; 1/2/1892; Passenger Arrivals for January 1892; Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1897; Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives at New York, New York, NY. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/manifest-nevada, February 23, 2021]

Maps

Survey Map of the Oklahoma and Indian Territory showing Distances, Municipal Towns and Post Offices, published by George Cram, March 16, 1905

Survey Map of the Oklahoma and Indian Territory

Citation: Survey Map of the Oklahoma and Indian Territory showing Distances, Municipal Towns and Post Offices, published by George Cram; 3/16/1905; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/survey-map-of-the-oklahoma-and-indian-territory-showing-distances-municipal-towns-and-post-offices-published-by-george-cram, February 23, 2021]

Creative Work

Fighting American - Comic Book, 1954

Fighting American

Citation: Fighting American; 6/1954-7/1954; Committee Papers, 1816 - 2011; Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46; Center for Legislative Archives. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/1-fighting-american, February 23, 2021]

Political Cartoons

Progressive Republicans for Neutrality, September 7, 1939

Progressive Republicans for Neutrality

Citation: Cartoon Y-034; Untitled; 9/7/1939; Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896-1949; Records of the U.S. Senate , Record Group 46 ; National Archives Building, Washington DC, 20408. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/progressive-republicans-neutrality, February 23, 2021]

Audio Visual

Twenty-sixth Amendment Certification Ceremony, July 5, 1971

Twenty-sixth Amendment Certification Ceremony

Citation: Twenty-sixth Amendment Certification Ceremony; 7/5/1971; White House Motion Film Unit Files, 1969 - 1974; Collection RN-NPC: Records of the Naval Photographic Center (Nixon Administration); Richard Nixon Library, Yorba Linda, CA. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/26-amendment-ceremony, February 23, 2021]