Nature and Scope
"The American West remains the most imagined region of the United States. Its history, for many, embodies the nation's. As this important and exciting resource reveals, there are many ways to access and enjoy American history. Using unparalleled resources for guidance, this superb and innovative technology provides many tools for learning.”
Professor Ned Blackhawk
The story of the American West has exerted a powerful influence over the psyche of the modern world, helping to fashion senses of national identity as well as permeating literary and cinematic culture.
Tales of frontier life, Native Americans and vigilantes and outlaws are of constant interest, and are matched by more recent interest in the growth of urban centres, the environmental impact of westward expansion and life in the borderlands.
The Graff Collection is a unique resource which enables scholars to explore all of these areas and more. Through a mixture of original manuscripts, maps, ephemeral material and rare printed sources, this resource is a dynamic teaching and research resource.
The main aim in choosing the material was to select a wide range of documents, ranging from manuscripts, rare books, pamphlets, periodicals, broadsides, ephemera to maps and illustrative material.
The majority of the material is unique. All of the rare printed material was screened against other collections such as Sabin to avoid unnecessary overlap. The physical condition of the original documents also always has to be assessed to see whether they are suitable for digitization. In the selection process we take as much advice as possible from our Editorial Board and from other scholars and librarians working in the field.
In addition to the thorough indexing process, some document information has been sourced from the Colton Storm catalogue and the Newberry Library catalogue. The Colton Storm catalogue is a catalogue of material from the Graff Collection compiled in 1968, which contains many observations (not necessarily written by Storm) on the items featured in this resource. The catalogue is fully searchable within the resource, and where pertinent these notes are recorded in document metadata.
American West is fully cross-searchable with the American Indian Histories and Cultures collection sourced from the Newberry Library’s prestigious Edward E. Ayer Collection. These collections complement each other brilliantly through related documents, valuable secondary resources and similar thematic content.
Please note: If your institution does not have access to the collection content will be restricted. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A diverse range of subjects can be explored through American West, including:
- Papers of early pioneers, explorers and hunters, including items such as the original manuscript journal and papers of James Audubon
- Accounts of the Gold Rush and of the landscape of Canada and the Pacific Northwest
- The evolution of Western towns through materials such as prospectuses and city directories
- The growth of railway and road networks through maps and through records of key railroad companies
- Emigrants guides, manuscript travel journals, store catalogues, illustrations and maps to enable a better understanding of the phenomenon of Westward expansion
- The agricultural transformation of the West, accounts of ranches and of the prairie lands
- Texas, Mexico and the South
- Literary and historical works – as well as contemporary newspapers and posters - for a better understanding of the real and mythic West, with first-hand accounts of the lives of vigilantes and outlaws
- Native American history and culture
- Original manuscripts
- Ephemera, including:
- trade cards
- wanted posters
- claim certificates
- Rare printed works
- Financial Records