This page has information and links to information related to history. See Biographical Research for history of individual people. For specific time periods, places/areas, and/or topics see left-hand side for topics.

American West Introduction

This page provides links to materials that can be used for doing research on the American West (North America, United States) to 1900.  It is not comprehensive. Much useful material for history is found in books. Additional resources (articles, etc.) are identified in the bibliographies of these books. Track these resources down for thorough research. See "identifying books" for subject terms used in library catalogs for the history of the American West. That said, there is a growing amount of useful research material, including primary resources, on the Web and through proprietary (a library purchases them) databases; a number of these are linked to here.

Reference Books on the American West Web Material (May Include Primary Sources) Personal Accounts
Summaries, Artifacts & Documents (Primary Sources) Identifying Books Indexes and Abstracts


Reference Books

Use reference materials to do background research. The non-reference items listed in this section may be checked out.

  • The Cowboy Encyclopedia. E20 .S56 1994 Reference also CEonline to CSU affiliates
  • The Encyclopedia of Colorado. F 776 .E53 1999 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws, and Gunfighters. F 596 .M48 2003 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of the American West. 4 vols. F591 .E485 1996 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of the Central West. F 351 .C325 1990 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of the Far West. F 591 .C362 1991 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. F 591 .E4856 2004 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century. 3 vols. E169.1 .E626 2001 Reference
  • Encyclopedia of Women in the American West. HQ1438.W45 E53 2003 Reference
  • The Frontier and the American West [bibliography]. Z1251.W5 P38 1977 Movable Shelves
  • The Great Plains. F 591 .G75 2004 Reference
  • Handbook of the American Frontier: Four Centuries of Indian-White Relationships. 5 vols. E76.2 .H43 1987 Morgan
  • Handbook of North American Indians. 6 vols. (varies by location) E 77 .H25 Reference; SI1. 20/2: Documents
  • A Literary History of the American West. The Western Literature Association. Texas Christian University Press. Fort Worth. 1987. PS271 .L58 1987 Morgan
    Chronology of literary West of interest--authors and titles included. Essays explore the American West via literature. Some chapters have selected bibliographies with both primary and secondary sources listed.
  • The Midwest. F 351 .M59 2004 Reference
  • The New Encyclopedia of the American West. F591 .R38 1998 Reference
  • The Pacific Region. F 851 .P1955 2004 Reference
  • The Plains & the Rockies: A Critical Bibliography of Exploration, Adventure, and Travel in the American West, 1800-1865. Z1251.W5 W2 1982 Movable Shelves
  • The Rocky Mountains. F 721 .R74 2004 Reference
  • The Southwest. F 786 .S747 2004 Reference

Reference Books that Include the American West

  • American Eras. 6 vols. E 169.1 .A471979 1997 Reference
  • Dictionary of American History. 10 vols. E 174 .D52 2003 also DAH online to CSU affiliates
  • Milestone Documents in American History. 4 vols. E 173 .M62 2008 Reference
  • Native Americans. E 93 .N32 2002 Reference
  • Native North American Chronology. E 77 .N359 1995 Reference

Summaries, Artifacts & Documents (Primary Sources)

See section on United States of America (History) page.

Of particular interest to the American West (most of these links are not found on the United States of America (History) page):

The American West, 1865-1900. Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900. Library of Congress. 

Overview. Link to documents on architecture, beef and beans, frontier justice, etc.

Archives Unbound. Gale. 

Browse collections to see collections of interest: American Indian Correspondence: Presbyterian HIstorical Society Collection of Missionaries' Letters, 1833-1893; Overland Journeys: Travels in the West, 1800-1880; The Civil War in Words and Deeds; and The Southern Literary Messenger: Literature of the Old South.

Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Gary E. Moulton. University of Nebraska. 

Annotated text of the journals of Lewis and Clark. Includes related materials and links to other sites that have information about the expedition.

New Perspectives on The West:

A Selection of the Memoirs, Journals, Letters, Reports and Images that went into the Making of The West. PBS.  Eight episodes, the first to 1806, the eighth 1887 to 1914. Links on left-hand side go to materials from the episodes. Dates of photographs and writings are provided when known. Images may be copyrighted.

General Maps. Library of Congress. 

Statistical atlases from 1870, 1880, and 1890. Read contemporary accounts and reports of the U.S. census.

David Rumsey Map Collection. Cartography Associates. 

Search specific areas, e.g. Colorado, California, or Nebraska. View in LUNA to see details. Click on images to enlarge them. Center using the "hand." See Historic Colorado Maps for details of what is in the collection and in others owned by CSU and on the Web.


Web material that may include primary sources

The American West: Virtual Library: History. WWW-VL. 

Categories of information about various aspects of the American West. Links go off to various Web sites, some of better quality than others, so be sure to evaluate what you find. There are links to some really good materials, so it is worth exploring this site.

Photographs. Denver Public Library. 

"Over 30,000 photographs, drawn from the holdings of the Western History and Genealogy Department at Denver Public Library. . . . They illustrate Colorado towns and landscape, document the place of mining in the history of Colorado and the West, and show the lives of Native Americans from more than forty tribes living west of the Mississippi River." Search by keyword, browse by subject, or look up a name in the name index (alphabetical).

Forts Across the United States. Legends of America. 

Forts are listed state by state; some forts (those with links) have information about them. For example, Fort Collins in Colorado.

Kansas History Web Sites. © 2002-2010, George Laughead. Kansas Heritage Group. 

Arranged by: Misc.; Kansas Native Americans; Explorer History; Kansas Trails; Kansas Forts; Kansas Territorial History; Kansas Pioneers; Kansas Cattle Towns; Kansas Railroads; KS 20th Century History; Kansas History Books; and KS General History.

Water Resources Archive. CSU. 

The archive contains "collections from individuals and organizations that have been instrumental in the development of water resources in Colorado and the West." Only some of it is from the 19th century, so be careful if seeking only pre-1900 items. Some of the items are available digitally (online). Researchers interested in this topic might also want to visit the Archives for additional resources.

See additional sources on the Web on Colorado History. For information environmental history (may or may not be American West), see Environmental History.

Identifying Books

Do a Subject search for these terms in the library catalog (and Prospector). Note the divisions by years and major events. Social conditions are an important part of any historical research. After doing a search for the terms, also look at their subdivisions (i.e. United States History 1933-1945 Sources):

  • African Americans West (U.S.) History
  • Agriculture West (U.S.)
  • Art, American West (U.S.)
  • Cattle trade West (U.S.)
  • Cattle trade West (U.S.) History
  • Chicago Ill History
  • Cities and towns West (U.S.)
  • Cowboys West (U.S.)
  • Collective settlements United States History
  • Cowboys West (U.S.) Biography
  • Cowboys West (U.S.) History
  • Denver Colo History
  • [city state abbrev] History
  • Denver Colo History Pictorial Works
  • Denver Colo Maps
  • Denver Colo Social Life and Customs
  • Environmental Policy West (U.S.)
  • Explorers West (U.S.) Biography
  • Extinct cities West (U.S.)
  • Farm Life
  • Farm Life -- [state]
  • Farm Life -- United States
  • Families West (U.S) History 19th century
  • Frontier and Pioneer Life -- [state]
  • Frontier and Pioneer Life -- West (U.S.)
  • Geology West (U.S.)
  • Gold mines and mining West (U.S.)
  • Great Basin
  • Great Plains
  • Historic sites West (U.S.)
  • Hunting West (U.S.)
  • Immigrants West (U.S.) History 19th century
  • Indians of North America Government relations 1789-1869
  • Indians of North America Indian Territory
  • Indians of North America Wars 1815-1875
  • Indians of North America West (U.S.)
  • Indians of North America West (U.S.) Antiquities
  • Indians of North America West (U.S.) History
  • Indians of North America West (U.S.) History 19th century
  • Indians of North America West (U.S.) Wars
  • Land Use West (U.S)
  • Legends West (U.S.)
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804-1806
  • Medicine West (U.S.) History
  • Mexican-American Border Region History
  • Military bases West (U.S.)
  • Mines and mineral resources West (U.S.)
  • Mines and mineral resources West (U.S.) History
  • Miners West (U.S.) History
  • Minorities West (U.S.) History
  • Missions West (U.S.)
  • Natural history West (U.S.)
  • Nature Effect of human beings on history
  • Oral tradition West (U.S.)
  • Outlaws West (U.S.) Biography
  • Overland journeys to the Pacific Sources
  • Paleontology -- West (U.S.)
  • Pioneers West (U.S.) Biography
  • Pioneers West (U.S.) History 19th century
  • Railroads West (U.S.)
  • Railroads West (U.S.) History
  • Ranch Life West (U.S.)
  • Rangelands West (U.S)
  • Roads West (U.S.)
  • Scouts (Reconnaissance) West (U.S.) Biography
  • Soldiers West (U.S.) Biography
  • Trappers West (U.S.) Biography
  • [Tribe] Indians History
  • United States Description and travel
  • United States Economic Conditions
  • United States Economic Conditions 1865-1918
  • United States Social Conditions.
  • United States Social Conditions 1865-1918
  • United States History
  • United States History 1783-1815
  • United States History 1783-1865
  • United States History 1797-1801
  • Water rights West (U.S.) History
  • West (U.S.)
  • West (U.S.) Antiquities
  • West (U.S.) Bibliography
  • West (U.S.) Biography
  • West (U.S.) Description and travel
  • West (U.S.) Discovery and exploration
  • West (U.S.) Economic Conditions
  • West (U.S.) Economic Conditions 19th Century
  • West (U.S.) Environmental conditions
  • West (U.S.) Ethnic relations
  • West (U.S.) Historiography
  • West (U.S.) History
  • West (U.S.) History 1848-1860
  • West (U.S.) History 1860-1890
  • West (U.S.) History 1890-1945
  • West (U.S.) History 1945-
  • West (U.S.) History Bibliography
  • West (U.S.) History, Military 19th century
  • West (U.S.) History Sources
  • West (U.S.) History To 1848
  • West (U.S.) History To 1848 Sources
  • West (U.S.) History 1848-1860 Sources
  • West (U.S.) History 1848-1950 Sources
  • West (U.S.) In art
  • West (U.S.) Race relations
  • West (U.S.) Social conditions
  • West (U.S.) Social conditions 19th century
  • West (U.S.) Social Life and Customs
  • West (U.S.) Social life and customs Anecdotes
  • Women pioneers West (U.S.) Biography
  • Women pioneers West (U.S.) History 19th century
  • Women West (U.S.)
  • Women West (U.S.) Biography
  • Women West (U.S.) History

To find items on a specific aspect of American West history, do a Keyword search for West US and that topic or West U S and history and that topic. For example:

  • West U S and history and agriculture
  • West U S and history and children

Items may be requested from other libraries in Prospector, the Colorado Union Catalog, by Colorado State University affiliates.

Personal Accounts

Personal accounts (primary sources) of events can be identified with the subdivision "Personal Narratives." Some of these are diaries or other forms of journals. Some are memoirs. For example:

  • [state] History Civil War, 1861-1865 Personal narratives
  • Little Bighorn, Battle of the, Mont., 1876 Personal narratives
  • Wounded Knee Massacre, S.D., 1890 Personal narratives.

Many diaries are found under the name of the individual diarist, but they can also be identified collectively by profession, religious group, or geographical area. For example:

  • Mormon women West (U.S.) Diaries
  • Pioneers West U S Diaries
  • Women pioneers West (U.S.) Diaries

Letters are found under correspondence. For example:

  • Pioneers West U S Correspondence
  • Women pioneers West (U.S.) Correspondence

Western/Frontier/Native American Primary Sources (Books)

See books Western/Frontier/Native American section on the Primary Sources for Historical Research page.

Western/Frontier/Native American Primary Sources (Microforms)

See microformat Western/Frontier/Native American section on the Primary Sources for Historical Research page.

Indexes & Abstracts

Identify articles by topic in these sources (these indexes are Step 1 of how to find articles).   Some indexes have citations only and others have full text materials.

America, History & Life. 1954- . AHLonline via "A-Z Databases." Only six CSU users at a time.
Z 1236 .A48 Reference (1954-1994).  America: History & Life is a useful index for identifying articles and books to do with U.S. history.

Congressional Publications . CIS. Legislative Histories (1969- ). CSU affiliates only. 

Has information on U.S. and state government laws, codes, and statues.  Find publications, bills, laws, regulations, members, committees, etc.  Links to all kinds of governmental information. Hearings 1824 to present. Written and oral statements of witnesses, transcripts question-and-answer session between the committee and witnesses, reports, exhibits, and other materials submitted for the record by witnesses and interested parties. For American West prior to 1900, restrict by date to before 1900 (or to between relevant years for your topic).

Historical Abstracts. 1954- . Only six CSU users at a time. Printed version D 299 .H5 Reference South (covers history in years 1775-1945). 

History of Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania after 1500. Subject term for United States is: USA.

Humanities Index. 1974-March 1999. AI 3 .I495 Reference South. 

Abstracting for core journals in the humanities, including many history titles.

JSTOR. Articles at least 3-5 years old. CSU affiliates only. 

Full text articles from broad range of subject areas, including history. Search for words in title, author, abstract, or full text. Be certain to select area(s) of journals to complete a search. (E.g. History, African-American Studies.)

New York Times Historical 1851- . CSU affiliates only. 

Full text newspaper articles. Use era-appropriate terms to find articles.

Nineteenth Century Masterfile.  Over 60 subject indexes in one location.

Covers the 19th century and early 20th century.

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers. 1800-1899. 

Material found is full text.

Project MUSE. Various starting dates. CSU affiliates only. 

Full text articles from the humanities and social sciences, including over forty history journals.

See also The History Cooperative. You must be on a CSU computer to access reviews (or via your own library's computer--if it has purchased access). CSU affiliates may validate remotely via one of the title's Sage record. Otherwise you will not be able to see the reviews.


These journals are recommended for intellectual and historiographical trends.


History of Colorado see Colorado History.

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