Guide to the Research Collections

- General Works in American History

General Works in American History

The subject classes of American history in the American History Division and in the Local History and Genealogy Division (Billings class marks H and I) contain large numbers of printed documents and archives, printed historical collections, general histories and special studies, books of description and travel, and similar materials. It is the policy of the library to secure any edition of a work containing material not in earlier editions in the collections.

Periodicals are an important feature of the holdings. The files of American historical periodicals are for the most part complete; many of the general periodicals in the library's holdings also have some historical content or reflect political and social conditions of the periods in which they were published. This applies to Hispanic-American as well as to North American periodicals; popular magazines in the South American countries may contain articles of historical value. The heading "Periodicals" in the Public Catalog includes national subdivisions which are a helpful guide to unindexed magazines. Many articles relating to American history are analyzed in the catalogs. The publications of historical societies and other learned institutions have been systematically indexed.

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Special types of serials which are of interest to students of American history include the publications of such learned societies and academies as the Carnegie Institution and others with historical sections, and of some museums which have interest in the archaeology and folklore of the American Indian. The historical series of college and university publications are held in extensive files.

The approximate number of pamphlets in each of the larger subject groups follows: American Indians, 3,500; Hispanic America (materials on the area in general or description and travel covering a number of countries), 4,200; Mexico, 1,400; Canada, 1,400; general materials relating to the United States, 7,600; United States local history, 5,000. The pamphlets classed under these headings represent only a portion of those available. Titles of specific subject interest are generally classified with the subject: for example, American essays if purely political would be placed in the American History Division, but those dealing with economic questions would be classified in the Economic and Public Affairs Division. The strong collection of public documents, including both original and reprinted materials, is an important asset for research.

The analysis of the library's American history holdings follows the sequence of the Billings classification. This is not the usual method of this Guide, as the Billings classification is in many instances superseded by fixed location class marks; class marks H and I, however, are still in active use.