Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Hist 186 - California History (Gudgeirsson): Primary Sources

What Are Primary Sources?

What Are Primary Sources:

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research."
(American Library Association, Reference and User Services, History Section)


From the Library of Congress Archives (    San Francisco earthquake 1906; Map of San Jose 1901;   Watts Riot in Los Angeles 1965.

Finding Primary Sources in OSCAR

Primary Sources are  often collected  and published as a book(collection of letters for example). A book can also include primary sources in appendices.  To locate primary sources on your topic, an easy way is to search OSCAR, the library catalog and to add to your search some keywords describing primary sources such as :  letters or diaires, or documents, or sources.   For example a search on Gold Rush and Letters  would retrieve the following book:  "Off for California; the Letters, log and sketches of William Hl. Dougal, gold rush artist". Below are some other examples of collections of primary sources on California available in the library



Historical Newspapers

Los Angeles times Archives: Full text of the Los Angeles Times newspaper from 1881 to 1987.

San Francisco Chronicle Archive : Full-text of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper from 1869 to 1984.

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers
Collection of U.S. newspapers from around the country.

California Newspapers Digital Collection
The California Digital Newspaper Collection contains over 600,000 pages of significant historical California newspapers published from 1846-1922, including the first California newspaper, the Californian, and the first daily California newspaper, the Daily Alta California.

Chronicling America: Historical American Newspapers (Library of Congress)Limit your search to California and specific time period (drop-down menus) when searching America's historic newspaper pages from 1836-1922 or using the "U.S. Newspaper Directory 1690-present".

Historical Newspapers Online (from Penn State)
Links to digitized collections of historical local newspapers from around the country.

Hispanic American Newspapers
A database of hundreds of Hispanic American newspapers published between 1808-1980 from 22 states, many of which are from California, Texas, New Mexico, and New York. Many newspapers are bilingual.

Featured Primary Source

Encarnación's Kitchen: Mexican Recipes from Nineteenth-Century California. 

"A landmark of American cuisine first published in 1898 as "El Cocinero Espanol" (The Spanish Cook), Encarnacion's Kitchen is the first cookbook written by a Hispanic in the United States, as well as the first recording of Californio food - Mexican cuisine prepared by the Spanish-speaking peoples born in California.  Whether describing how to prepare cod or ham and eggs (a typical Anglo dish labeled "huevos hipocritas", Encarnacion Pinedo was imparting invaluable lessons in culinary history and Latino culture along with her piquant directions.  In addition to his lively, clear translation, Dan Strehl offers a remarkable view of Pinedos's family history and of the material and literary culture of early California cooking. 


Digital Collections of Primary Sources

Calisphere is the University of California's free public gateway to a world of primary sources. More than 200,000 digitized items — including photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and other unique cultural artifacts — reveal the diverse history and culture of California and its role in national and world history

California Heritage Collection (Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley)
California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849–1900
The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (The Bancroft Library Presents)