History of the American West

Web Sites for the History of the American West

“History is something that happens to other people”

The American West: Virtual Library
An interesting gateway site with links organized by topic, geographic region, and chronology. There are also links, photos, bibliographies, a wide variety of primary documents and a useful introduction to “doing research.”

Another good place to start your research. The site includes useful links to Western Journals, images, eZines, reading lists and more.

American West
This site includes rare and original documents from the early 1700s to the mid 1900s. You can find maps, journals, periodical, photographs etc…

The Newberry Library: American West
A cross-searchable site with American Indian Histories and Cultures. The Graff Collection is especially strong on the Fur Trade; California Gold Rush; overland travel; law enforcement and more. Also at the Newberry Library is a cross searchable site called the American West. You can find primary documents, maps, essays, chronologies and more.

American Experience: American West
The PBS program “American Experience” explores the fact, myth and legends of the west. The timeline begins with the French and Indian War in 1754 and ends with Hawaii’s annexation in 1898. You can watch the entire program episodes profiling Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark
This site allows viewers to search the Lewis and Clark journals edited by Gary E. Moulton. There are also special multimedia features and other essays.

The First American West: The Ohio River Valley 1750 – 1820
Part of the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, this site has more than 15,000 pages of historical materials including newspapers, pamphlets, letters, journals, books, maps and more. Specific links of interest include Aaron Burr, James Wilkinson, Native Americans and documents relating to traveling the region.

Mapping the Overland Trails
More than 2000 diary entrees from migrants on the California, Oregon, and Mormon Trails from 1840 – 1860

Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion, 1820-1890
Another site from the American Memory collection, this site contains paintings, photographs maps, charts, diaries, letters, and narratives of Americans who moved west to California, Alaska, Texas, Hawaii, and the Pacific Northwest. Emphasis is on the California Gold Rush, the roles of women, the immigrant experience, whaling life, life at sea, shipping, an native populations. To see diaries, maps, and photographs of pioneers who traveled overland to Utah, Montana, and the Pacific from 1847 to 1869 look at Trails to Utah and the Pacific. The diaries and letters contain “stories of persistence and pain, birth and death, God and gold, trail dust and debris, learning, love, and laughter, and even trail tedium …” Trails of Hope is another interesting site that includes overland trail diaries, maps and essays.

Spain, The United States, and The American Frontier: Historias Paralelas
Created by the Library of Congress in collaboration with The National Library of Spain, and The Biblioteca Columbina y Capitular of Seville, this collection of primary and secondary historical documents explore the “history of Spanish expansion into North America from Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and across most of what is now the modern-day American Southwest all the way north to Alaska.”

The Chinese in California, 1850 – 1925
About 8000 pages and images of primary sources documents Chinese immigration to California, their contributions, and the social conditions they experienced. There are photographs, letters, diaries, maps and more. This is part of the American Memory Collection.

Women’s History Matters
The Montana Historical Society created this site in 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Montana. There are at least 130 articles published in Montana The Magazine of Western History, plus oral histories, bibliographies, biographies and educator resources.

Library of Congress: Railroad Maps, 1828-1900
There are more than 600 primary sources at the site which can provide useful information about Westward Expansion, conflict with Natives, military campaigns, industrialization and more.