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U.S. History, 1776-1934

Resources to support primary research in American History.

Finding Aids for Physical Collections

Primary Sources

A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Interviews, surveys, fieldwork, and Internet communications via email, blogs, listservs, and newsgroups are also primary sources. In the natural and social sciences, primary sources are often empirical studies—research where an experiment was performed or a direct observation was made. The results of empirical studies are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyze, evaluate, summarize, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else's original research.

Digital Collections

Digital Collections

Historic Newspapers – Washington State 

Centralia Massacre Collection:    A selection of items drawn from the Seattle office of the Industrial Workers of the World labor organization. Includes pamphlets, leaflets and correspondence documenting the I.W.W.'s involvement in the Centralia Massacre of 1919 and general publications from the national I.W.W. organization.  

CWU Student Newspaper:   Nearly all issues, 1917 to 2000, of Central's student-operated newspaper are now available online. Newspapers from the Student Opinion to the Observer can be searched by keyword and issue.  

Daily Record going back to early 20th century in digitized format:     There are also bound versions in the basement of the Ellensburg Public Library, but you have to make an appointment with the local history librarian to access them.  That is possible most weekdays except for Monday.  Local History Librarian:  Regina Tipton-Llamas –

Early Advertising in the West:  Print advertisements published in local magazines, city directories, and theater pamphlets from 1867 to 1918. Themed groupings include health care and hygiene products, liquor, tobacco, machinery, manufacturing, transportation, fashion, food and household goods and local tourism.  

Everett Massacre of 1916 Collection:  This collection, documenting labor's perspective of the 1916 Everett Massacre and its aftermath, currently holds 39 articles from the Seattle Union Record as well as 49 other items including pamphlets, fliers, hand- and typewritten works, postcards and a photograph.

Grand Coulee Dam Collection 1933-42:  Documentation using photographs and pamphlets of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, built during 1933 to 1942 as part of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project for the development of the Columbia River for waterpower, irrigation, and flood control. Includes a look at the recommendations for and against building the dam, images of land clearing activities by the Public Works Administration, and the dam construction itself.  

Japanese Internment Collection Summaries in the Pacific Northwest Historical Documents Database:  Personal and family papers, as well as some Japanese-American Citizens League (Seattle Branch) Records to do with Japanese Internment during WWII. 

Pacific Fisherman Journal, 1903-1911:  Pacific Fisherman is a fishing industry journal published from 1903 to 1966. It is one of the most important publications for information about West Coast fisheries in the 20th century.  The first half of the twentieth century saw critical events in the fishing industry. Questions of natural resource utilization and conservation, relationships with the Federal government, Indian tribes and other countries, marine engineering, and marketing are all discussed in Pacific Fisherman.  

Pacific Northwest Sheet Music Collection:  How has WA state been depicted in music???  The Pacific Northwest Sheet Music Collection contains music from and about Washington State, the Pacific Northwest and the University of WA. This collection represents a fraction of the Ashford Sheet Music Collection which was built from a core collection donated by Paul Ashford to the University of Washington in 1959.  

Salmon in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, 1890-1961:  Several hundred photographs and 23 documents describing the place of salmon in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the roots of the salmon crisis.  

Washington Digital Newspapers:   

Suncadia Collection

Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Ronald Oral History Interviews

This collection contains items and interviews gathered in Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Ronald, Washington, to document the region's history--in particular, the local history of coal mining in the 20th century.

These oral histories were collected by local social studies teacher Frederick Krueger, his students and colleagues between the 1970s and 2000s. In each interview, a resident of upper Kittitas County speaks about the ethnic, racial, cultural, and industrial history of Kittitas County and in particular the history of coal mining at Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Ronald, Washington.

Please note: To access the following audio and video recordings, click on "Link to Audio/Video File" after opening each record. If you have trouble playing the videos, you may have better success using a different Internet browser such as Safari or Chrome. If problems persist, please contact the site administrator at with a note about the title of the video you were attempting to access, the URL, and the browser you were using. Thanks!

Primary Source Selection List at Washington Central State Archives

Central Washington Regional Archives  

Archivist:  Brigid Clift  -


WA Fruit industry from 1940s to present - excellent source is The Goodfruit Grower published from 1946-2007 by the WA State Fruit Commission.   It contains fruit industry news, marketing information, fruit packing and production information, and editorial features to assist the grower.  This publication can be accessed across the street from CWU at the Central Regional Branch of the WA State Archives.  One of my 302 students won an award winning paper using this source and others about the WA apple industry.

Marketing of Beef in WA Sate - excellent sources in the graphics and visual resources collection that is part of the larger WA State Beef Commission collection at the Central Regional Branch of the WA State Archives–across the street from CWU.  Many sources deal with promotion of beef and the beef industry from 1958-2003, and would provide insights on how the industry grappled with the increasingly negative view of red meat during the period.

Crime in Ellensburg - could use court records at the Central Regional Branch of the WA State Archives to explore how the nature of crime in Ellensburg has changed over time.

Farm Life History  -  In 1875, the pioneering Olmstead family homesteaded the land claim at the site of the current state park, east of Ellensburg. They originally raised grain and beef cattle. The family switched from beef to dairy in 1892, producing butter for the Seattle market. Three generations of the family continued the farm over many decades. Donated to State Parks in 1968, Olmstead Place reflects farming history,  with historic equipment, a 1908 hay barn and smaller barns, sheds and coops that date from the late 19th Century on into recent times.  The Archives has the Olmstead-Smith Collection that includes:  Annual journals kept on a daily basis by Clareta Smith dealing with events at the farm, weather, personal notes and feelings, and financial recordings, 1967-1981;   Scrapbooks on travel, poetry, obituaries, news clippings, recipes, antiques, and Kittitas Valley history.

Grand Coulee Dam Construction and Community: Columbian Newsletter from 1935-1941 would have great topics.  Newsletter/pamphlet published by the Grand Coulee Dam Consolidated Builders at Mason City, Washington. Gives information on dam construction, social activities of the workers and their families, and safety problems. Also gives information on local schools, hospitals, and a calendar of events of the Mason City community.


Liquor License Applications Before Prohibition:  Applications and petitions to the County Commissioners for licenses to sell retail liquor. Applications show date filed, names of applicants, type of license requested, and the actions of the Commissioners. Some applications show bonding information and include petitions supporting the license. Included with a few applications are petitions against the application. Applications for the years 1892 and 1894 are missing. 1885-1915 Kittitas County

Liquor Licensing for Clubs in Central WA After Prohibition:  Club files 1932-1957 Records in this series pertain to the regulation of private clubs which served alcohol and which required special licensing. The records pertain specifically to clubs in Central Washington cities and include Agent Inspector Reports for each year the club maintained a liquor license. Some records contain summary reports describing the activities of the club. Individual files may also include club rules, member lists, photographs, floor plans, correspondence, possible records of legal disputes, and newspaper clippings. Files are arranged alphabetically by city as follows: Brewster, Chelan, Cle Elum, Connell, Ellensburg, Ephrata, Goldendale, Grand Coulee, Grandview, Kennewick, Lakeside, Moses Lake, Okanogan, Omak, Oroville, Pasco, Prosser, Richland, Soap Lake, Sunnyside, Tieton, Toppenish, Twisp, Walla Walla, Wapato, Wenatchee, White Salmon, and Yakima. Types of clubs represented in the records include American Legions, country clubs, Eagles, Elks, Knights of Columbus, Moose, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and various other social or business clubs.

Immigration Records:  Naturalization Petitions and Declarations of Intent -   Include such things as: name, residence, occupation, date of birth, and place of birth of petitioner.     Also shows from where emigrated and date, vessel name, and date and place of declaration of intention to become a citizen.     Also country from which citizenship is renounced, and witnesses.    May also include certificate of arrival.        Certificate shows name, port of entry, and date of arrival and name of vessel.    May also include a declaration of intention to become a citizen, showing name, occupation, race, and physical characteristics.

Primary Sources at Brooks Library Archives and Special Colections

Brooks Library Collections you can find these collections at the following website by searching for them, but you will need to go to the Brooks Archives or possibly another place in the library to access the materials.  Archivist Marty Blackson can help you  - .  The website where you can search these collections is:    

Air Force ROTC Historic Records  -  The collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, and reports retained by the administrative offices of Central Washington College of Education (presently Central Washington University) related to Ellensburg campus aviation programs from 1939 to 2006, but of special interest is the period 1939-44 when pilots were trained here for the war.

Amanda Hebeler CWU Faculty Papers – her Indian Study manuscript - This collection includes research materials and project outlines for an elementary grade level book on American Indian customs.  Hebeler’s book on American Indian customs appears to never have been realized, though the collection contains correspondence between Hebeler and an interested publisher, as well as a manuscript.

Cle Elum Ski Club 1920s and 30s  -  This collections contains articles of incorporation , correspondence ,photographs, and records of the Cle ELum Ski Club

Frederick Krueger Collection – Roslyn Bank Robbery Papers  -  This collection consists of photocopied material and research notes related to the robbery of the Ben E. Snipes & Co. Bank in Roslyn, Washington, the ensuing trials and the prison escape of two suspects from the Kittitas County jail in Ellensburg, Washington.

University Archives, 1890s-1990s - CWU History:  This collection includes documents, correspondence, photographs, audiovisual materials, and ephemera relating to Central Washington University and its history.