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American Studies

This guide highlights article databases, primary source databases, encyclopedias, and other resources useful for research in American Studies.

Primary Sources on American Studies at Gelman Library

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

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.

Political cartoons. Clifford Berryman was employed as a cartoonist by the Washington Post from 1891-1970 and by the Washington Star from 1907-49 and George Coffin original political cartoons from Washington newspapers; lithographic reproductions of other political cartoons; original pen and ink illustrations of civil war stories; scrapbooks containing original political cartoons, lithographic reproductions of cartoons, original sketches, and newspaper clippings; diaries; and loose sketches and photographs. These materials date from 1858-1896.

Online searching for primary sources

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

Click here to search ArchiveGrid now!

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!
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