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American History

This guide covers print and online resources useful for research in the field of American history.

Find primary materials in the Special Collections Reserach Center, Gelman Library

GW's Special Collections Research Center collects and preserves primary source materials related to many diverse topics in American History. Most of these collections tell part of the unique story that is Washington DC.  Here are some highlights.

American Veterans Committee. These records document the organization's 60-year history advocating for peace and social justice. Formed following World War II the AVC worked for more than half a century pressing for solutions to some of the most urgent issues of the day. These included reform of the Selective Service system; judicial review of VA benefits decisons; support for a minimum wage and universal health insurance; and enfranchisement of 18-year-olds.

Walter Fauntroy Papers. Walter Fauntroy served Washington DC and the larger community as a religious and political leader and particularly as a leader in the planning for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

PNC-Riggs Bank Records.  This amazing collection of banking materials documents the day-to-day operations of the bank and its influence on the economic life of Washington, D.C. and the greater financial services industry. The materials date from 1809-1998.  Also the small collection of Corcoran & Riggs Partnership Documents adds some important details to this impressive business story.

Primary Sources FAQ

How do I find resources in the Special Collections Research Center?

  • Check GW Libraries Search for your topic (if it's here the location will be Special Collections).
  • Check out our website with links to primary materials for various subjects.
  • Or better yet, make an appointment and speak with a librarian in Special Collections at (202) 994-7459 or

Why should I use primary sources?

  • Challenging: You become the scholar!
  • Rewarding: Original documents often evoke a sense of time and place.
  • Impressive: Professors will love you!

Search for primary materials beyond Gelman

ArchiveGrid is a database where thousands of museums, libraries, and archives have contributed information abou their collections, including catalog records and/or finding aids.

Click here to search ArchiveGrid now!

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